Women Empowerment through Waste Recycling in Africa. Case of Douala, Cameroon.
Background: In the city of Douala, Cameroon, the activities like collecting, sorting, trading, and sometimes even processing waste materials, provide an income opportunity for large numbers of poor people, where women represent a great number. However, the informal sector is usually characterized by poor working and living conditions, uncertain incomes, low social status, and little or no support from local governments. Thus, it remains doubtful if they will achieve more power and freedom as well as economic empowerment through participation in the informal waste recycling sector. This study aims to analyze the relationship between women's roles, participation in the informal sector of recycling, positive and negative outcomes, and empowerment in the city of Douala.
Methodology: This study exploits both qualitative and quantitative methods using the survey as the data collection technique. The sampling was carried out by random sampling technique, and the criteria for sampling were women waste pickers in the Bonamousadi, Ndokoti, and Bonanjo dumpsites.
Results: The findings of this study indicates that female waste pickers, apart from being housewives, are active in collecting, upgrading, and selling valuable waste materials. They work as individual waste pickers and are exposed to many risks at the dumpsite as they work with no protective equipment and no legal protection. They face unstable incomes and social stigma, and most cannot make decisions in the household. Though their living conditions have improved and they have gained greater independence in purchasing, they have not achieved more power nor gained any empowerment as many indicated that they perceive themselves in the lowest rung of the ladder of power and freedom where there is almost no freedom to make decisions.
Conclusion: Empowering women waste pickers through creating waste organizations or groups and integration with the formal sector might have a significant correlation with achieving more power and freedom and changing the perception of the public on waste pickers. This is the basis for achieving more sustainable waste management and a better environment.
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