On April 9th, the organizations WIEGO, MNCR, NEPEM, INSEA hosted a meeting on gender and informal recycling in Belo Horizonte, Brazil.
The event marked the closure of an exploratory project and a moment to share experiences. The project evolved from the demands and interests of women waste pickers, who suffer specific forms of discrimination, also related to class and race.
The goal was to strengthen leadership and economic empowerment. Poignant and emotional accounts of overcoming gender violence were shared. Many of the women claimed this was an eye-opening experience that they took back to their workplaces, and one which helped them rethink their attitudes.
“What we want is democracy in our personal and work relationships,” one participant stated. The workshops gave the women a space to reflect on their value in society. Presenters shared the toolkit, the project’s final outcome, which aims to reproduce activities and questions that guided the workshops.
One participant discussed the problem of internalized sexism and reproducing sexist discourses. Another discussed the importance of sharing the responsibility of parenting, and a need to for women waste pickers to see themselves as businesspeople — not victims. The importance of solidarity among women as well as with men was discussed.
In conclusion, participants agreed on the need to dedicate more time to gender issues, to offer more women the opportunity to participate in this discussion, and to bring this knowledge to the cooperatives. Sonia Dias of WIEGO emphasized that working on gender issues is a long-term process that reaches beyond events. It is extremely important to have an action plan that includes short and long-term activities, and includes working with men.