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. Toolkits were developed in multiple languages for use around the globe.

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.

The Gender & Waste project is addressing gender inequality that women waste pickers face at home, at work, and as leaders within their representative organizations. Sonia Dias, WIEGO's waste picking specialist, facilitates the work. It is 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.

Educational Workshops

The 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.

A second phase is ongoing. In March 2020, nine women waste pickers leaders from different regions of the MNCR Minas Gerais Chapter were trained in facilitation skills, group dynamics, gender and feminism, and politics while drafting a gender workplan for a future women's committee.


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.


Developed from the lessons learned, these 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”.

Gender Action Plan 2021-2023

The Gender and Waste project carried out, from 2019-2020, workshops on communications and leadership skills, feminism, and public policies. This process was geared to drafting an strategic gender action plan 2021-2023.

Go to resource (PDF):

English     Português

Weaving Webs of Knowledge, Action & Affection: WIEGO and Waste Pickers in Brazil

To document and showcase WIEGO's work with waste pickers and local partners in Belo Horizonte and other Brazilian municipalities, we produced an e-book containing the impact, challenges, methodologies, stories and images collected since 2007. In short, the e-book helps retrace the key moments of Brazil's local work through the lens of methodological reflections. Below you can see the video of the launch event we held in 2022.

“As Bonitas” – Women Waste Pickers in Action

The "Gender and Waste Project" is a collaborative gender awareness and mainstreaming project developed by WIEGO and the National Movement of Waste Pickers – MNCR. This video, co-produced with women waste pickers from Brazil, traces the genesis of the project through the voices of the participants themselves. It explains the methodology, tools and various interventions of the project which are then linked to the present day with the launch of the "Gender and Waste Action Plan 2021-2023" drafted during the first wave of COVID-19.

Full video (18 minutes)

Excerpt (5 minutes)

Teaser (2 minutes)

Informal Economy Topic
Informal Economy Theme
Occupational group