GENDER IN WASTE MANAGEMENT
The conversation surrounding the role of gender in waste management is hardly talked about in the developing worlds.
Maria Tsakona aims to change that through Women of Waste (WoW), an informal group created by women in the waste management industry to advocate women’s work and achievement in the sector.
According to Tsakona, women make a significant contribution to the sector, from policy making, activism, recycling and even garbage collection, yet their voices are not very visible.
Women are performing really well in some sectors like communications and social operations. There are many areas than men do better too, like managing landfill or waste-to-energy sites. So, the question is, we have to put the right talent in the right place
“I’m from Greece, which is part of the Global South. Based on my experience, I see that women are not raising their voices or their hands. I’ve seen this more among women of Global South. Women of the Global North are more participative," says Tsakona.
"We have seen through data and other sources that professional women are not being taken seriously enough when it comes to the management levels. I believe this has more to do with the culture and how women believe in themselves too."
"So, for (the sector) to be improved, we need women and men working together, and to recognise what are the challenges and opportunities for them to get involved," she adds.
The idea of WoW was conceived in 2016 by Tsakona and two other women founders, and is supported by the International Solid Waste Association (ISWA).
“The waste industry in Global North has reached a new level of maturity in the last decade and is capable to reflect the different way that gender is affecting waste management sector.”
“For example, women are performing really well in some sectors like communications and social operations. There are many areas than men do better too, like managing landfill or waste-to-energy sites. So, the question is, we have to put the right talent in the right place. This has to do with waste management and gender,” says Tsakona.
There are differences in the way women and men look at waste, Tsakona adds.
Thus taking gender issues into consideration enables better policymaking, focus and resource mobilisation and overall waste management.
“Women tend to be first in households to know the different types of waste. While in many cultures, men tend to be ones to collect waste from households. So, (understanding) gender roles are important. How can these roles be magnified in the community and municipality levels?.”
“Our goal is to showcase the work of women in the waste management sector, (understand) the different case studies and success stories of women, and also to find a way to support these women.”
“Actually when it comes to waste management, we see that women and children and disproportionately affected by poor waste management . They face problems like lack of health and safety standards, they are not supported in terms of welfare.”
“We are dedicated through our network and activities to lift up these areas for women,” says Tsakona.
Watch the full interview with Maria Tsakona below: