Gender & Waste Project

A collaborative project involving waste pickers in Latin America has shed light on the multiple levels of discrimination that women waste pickers face and their needs.

waste picker woman

A collaborative project involving waste pickers in Latin America has shed light on the multiple levels of discrimination that women waste pickers face and their needs.

WIEGO Waste Picking Sector Specialist Sonia Dias has been facilitating work in Brazil on gender and waste pickers. The Gender & Waste project—a partnership between WIEGO, the Women’s Research Center (NEPEM) at the Federal University of Minas Gerais (UFMG), the NGO Insea, the national waste picker movement MNCR, and the regional waste picker movement RedLacre—is addressing gender inequality in waste picking activities, extending to the inequality women waste pickers face at home, at work, and as leaders within their representative organizations.

Educational Workshops

The Gender & Waste Project, based on a research-action pilot project in Minas Gerais, Brazil, was initiated to bring gender consciousness to the forefront of the discussion among waste pickers. It sought to provide women waste pickers with a clearer understanding of the practical tools they need to challenge the deeply-entrenched gender hierarchies present in their homes, at work and in the movement.

As a result of the project, women waste pickers have started to mobilize more collectively and demand that gender be a key issue on the agenda of the national movement. The project also created stronger ties between the academy, through the Women’s Studies Research Center (NEPEM – Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais), and the waste pickers’ movements.


In this message for the Urban Thinkers Campus, WIEGO Waste Specialist Sonia Dias and the MNCR waste picker leader Madalena Duarte explain the relevance of the gender and waste project for the empowerment of both women and men waste pickers.


Two products were developed from the lessons learned and will serve as useful tools for further phases of the project:

Gender and Waste Toolkits


1. Women Waste Pickers Toolkit

- A popular toolkit  which introduces the key gender inequality themes that emerged in the workshops, to be disseminated and used among the waste pickers in their own cooperatives. The toolkit is currently available in EnglishSpanish and Portuguese.

2. From Theory to Action: Gender and Waste Recycling: A Toolkit for Teachers, Researchers and Practitioners

Gender and Waste Toolkit

This practitioner’s/academic toolkit  integrates a variety of information on gender and waste, learnings from the project, and links to resources (literature, videos etc.)

- Book 1: Theoretical Considerations on Gender, Empowerment and Waste
Summary: English | Español  | Português
PDF: English | Español  | Português

- Book 2: Project Design, Tools and Recommendations
Summary:  English  | Español  | Português
PDF: English | Español  | Português

- Book 3: Resources
Summary: English | Español  | Português
PDF: English | Español  | Português

- Exercise 1: Icebreaker
English | Español  | Português

- Exercise 2: Awareness of Gender Relations - Ping-pong Activity
English | Español | Português

- Exercise 3 - Autonomy Tree
English | Español | Português

- Exercise 4 - Discussing Gender Roles
English | Español | Português

- Exercise 5 - Workshop Evaluation
English | Español | Português


Women's Stories

Policy Platforms

WIEGO’s Waste Picking Sector Specialist Sonia Dias has contributed to various policy platforms such as the UN Advisory Committee of Local Authorities (UNACLA) which preceded the 2013 General Assembly of Partners.

She has also contributed to shaping debates in the solid waste field, for example by reviewing and contributing to various policy papers, such as UNEP´s Global Waste Management Outlook - GWMO and UNDP’s book Powerful Synergies – Gender Equality, Economic Development and Environmental Sustainability. Read “Wastepickers: A Gendered Perspective”.

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