Julienne Mangni is the president of an association of 366 women waste pickers in her city of Cotonou, Benin. She and the other women waste pickers sell the plastics, cans and cardboard they collect at a large market. They began the cooperative in 2008. It began with 30 members and has kept growing since.
Julienne is trying to improve the situation for the waste pickers. They lack basic equipment for waste picking. Another major issue is that the local government doesn’t acknowledge the waste pickers and provides no support.
Conditions are quite precarious for the waste pickers of Cotonou. They lack a workspace, access to water and electricity, and equipment such as gloves, boots, masks, shovels, pushcarts or baskets. They use pieces of cardboard to scoop up the materials.
Julienne says the municipal government makes things difficult and creates bureaucratic hassles. “They don’t work with waste pickers,” she said. “They are against us.”
Julienne’s goal is to help integrate the four waste pickers’ associations of Benin in order to have a stronger presence.
Julienne has found innovative ways to work with the recyclable materials she collects, such as making lanterns out of aluminum cans.
Julienne participated in Expocatadores, in São Paulo, Brazil in November of 2012. It was her first trip outside of Benin.