International Womens Day

Ecowaste Coalition Calls for Greater Recognition of Women Waste Workers in Celebration of International Women’s Day

March 8, 2024. Quezon City— In time for the celebration of International Women’s Day, with the theme “Inspire Inclusion”, the environmental group Ecowaste Coalition releases a timely reminder for greater recognition of women waste workers in the solid waste management ecosystem.

In the face of a global waste problem, women waste workers continue to prove their significant contribution in properly managing waste. Waste workers in the Philippines—many of them women— contribute massively to the global waste management sector in different roles across the waste management hierarchy, even though most of the time, they are not ‘visible’ in society. Their work exposes them to serious risks, such as injuries, and toxic chemicals, yet they earn very little and remain at the bottom of the recycling chain. The waste sector is assumed to be gender-neutral despite gender inequalities and norms being ingrained in different aspects of waste management.

“Usually there is a disproportionate burden in waste management between men and women. Women’s participation is usually limited to jobs at the lower level of the chain including sweeping streets, collecting wastes, and supporting their male counterparts to carry, dispose, and sort waste from garbage. Men are the ones usually tapped for higher-income opportunities and decision-making in formal waste work which leads to unequal opportunities between men and women waste workers, with women having limited access to skills training, and capital,” said Aileen Lucero, National Coordinator, Ecowaste Coalition.

The plethora of challenges to women’s full participation in the formal waste ecosystem is broad: from lack of access to safety equipment to embedded culture and gender roles. Women face overlapping vulnerabilities, as being a waste worker and as a woman. Since waste work is usually invisible work, and waste workers even more so, women waste workers’ challenges are compounded.

“Despite the multiple burdens experienced by our women waste workers in our communities such as being undervalued and generally absent in solid waste management plans, they continue to serve and prove to us that they can thrive as women in the waste management ecosystem. In our work in Women in Waste’s Economic Empowerment (WWEE), we see these women take important roles in the waste value chain by managing their own junk shops and creating circular economies where waste is used and reused as a resource. This proves that women can uplift our nation when we spotlight their work and empower them. We hope that we further recognize the challenges faced by women in the waste sector and celebrate their important contributions in society, ” said Anj Aguilos, WWEE Project Lead and Partnerships and Memberships Officer, EcoWaste Coalition.

“It is therefore critical to integrate a gender perspective in the waste management sector. Waste management policies must be designed to address gender-specific needs in mind. Having gender inclusion into waste management can lead to more comprehensive solutions by including women’s unique knowledge and expertise. Interventions should incorporate creating opportunities for women in different levels of the waste management ecosystem as well as promoting their roles as leaders and waste entrepreneurs. Women waste workers should be recognized as the backbone of solid waste management in terms of the service they provide,” Aguilos added.

To further help the women waste workers, the Ecowaste Coalition suggests the following:

Households to segregate at source and label their hazardous wastes

Implement waste management laws on gender equality which provide waste workers access to health care, protective equipment, and alternative livelihood options

Inclusion of women waste workers participation in decision-making roles in the waste sector

Change attitudes about gender norms through awareness-raising campaigns

Join us in recognizing the women waste workers and their aspirations towards a zero-waste community. Together, let’s celebrate their invaluable contribution and unwavering strength!

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