Sonia Dias

Waste Sector Specialist

"The participatory approach has seldom been so praised. Still, donors, international agencies and researchers seldom allow “pedagogical” time for women to get involved at the outset of projects, i.e. in the design phases.  We often forget that poor women are overloaded and need time to be active participants. Empowered participation goes beyond consultation or information sharing to ensure active involvement of communities and MBOs (as much as possible from the very beginning of the project – its drafting). How much are we committed to change the project driven patterns of our organizations to allow real, empowered participation?" (From presentation at the IIED Gender & Environmental Change Conference.)


solid waste management, gender and the informal sector, integration of social inclusion into waste collection and recycling, participatory approaches

A sociologist by training, Sonia refers to herself as a “garbologist” and specializes in solid waste management. Sonia has been active in the field in Brazil since 1985 with a focus on promoting the integration of social inclusion aspects into the technical planning of waste collection and recycling. Through graduate and master’s studies, she has delved deeply into the role of participation in solid waste management in Brazil and the role of the local governments in strengthening waste pickers' organizations in Belo Horizonte City. Her on-the-ground experience includes work as a public officer at the Municipal Cleansing Agency in Belo Horizonte, voluntary work for the NGO INSEA supporting the organization of waste pickers, and social activism for the Waste and Citizenship Fora.

From the Federal University of Minas Gerais, Sonia has attained a Master’s of Human Geography on the role of local governments in strengthening waster pickers’ organizations in Belo Horizonte and a PhD in Political Science on the role of participation in solid waste management in Brazil. She is currently linked probono as an associate researcher with the Women’s Centre for Research and Studies with NEPEM/UFMG.

In the News

2014. Video: Gender and Environmental Change Workshop. With IIED.

2014. The Scorned but Valuable Work of Waste Pickers. In Bloomberg Business Week.

2014. The Professionals: What we can learn from Brazil’s wastepickers. In Good Magazine.

2014. Shrinking Inequalities in Latin America — A Response to the Economist’s “Securing Livelihoods” Edition.

2013. Money from Rubbish.  The Economist.

2012. Debate on the People’s Summit radio with waste pickers, street vendors, & allies.


2013. Waste & Gender: Rethinking Relations for Empowerment. With Deia de Brito.