WOMEN AND THEIR RECYCLED LIFE IN THE CAPITAL- COSTLY VENTURE

EK. Chemorion
Posted June 21, 2012 from Kenya

Life around the Dandora 30 acre dump site is just a picture of what happens around other dump sites in the cities and major towns in Kenya. Dawn brings a lot of hope to the pickers whose survival solely depends on whatever they collect day in, day out.the meal of the day is also assured with the visit and sight of any edible thing at the site.

The work of pickers starts as early as 5.00am till sundown. Scrambling for food together with the pigs is a common phenomena. Women together with other pickers use makeshift collection bags, rakes to sort the solid waste into the most desired commodities by the recycling companies. Metal, rubber, milk bags, plastics, bones and electronics tend to be among the most sought-after material. while sorting and putting in the large collection bags, women and other pickers are exposed to bad smell, sharp objects, acids, and other chemicals every day as they go about collecting the most valuable items. As this goes on year in year out, it is sad to note that Women are among the pickers who exist at the periphery of the economy, acting as an informal chain of middle persons working in horrific conditions doing the dirty work for the recycling companies. Once collected, community buyers then purchase poor women’s day’s work at a nearby weigh station, eventually selling more material to truck drivers who are pad upon delivery by recycling companies. The pickers among them women do this in order to survive in the city. Helpless as they may seem, poverty pushes them to go to this site and many other dump sites to earn a living. This exposes them to many other risks like skin and chest infections.

to the poor women, the dump site is their only hope since it assures them of food-which they can pick and eat, food for their children, and more that $ 2.5 per day. what is two and half dollars a day in the present Kenya with high inflation? you will agree with me that this can't put a day's meal on the table(breakfast, lunch, supper).

As i critically look at this scenario, i am left with two things; one is the short-term remedy for the needs of the poor women (not a better option), and secondly, the high risks women and their families are exposed to every day in the city. There is need to re-look at the poverty situation in the slum areas especially among the women at the dump sites. it is also important to consider the package recycling companies give to this women so that they can get their fair share without exploitation. at the same time, this is an environmental issue and the city of Nairobi administration needs to re-look at how solid waste should be disposed off and if at all they allow recycle companies through the poor people among them women, to go about collection of what they need in the factories . Better still, if the economy of the Kenyan government is growing, measures have to be put in place to ensure that it trickles down to the poor women who scavenge for food and other valuables at the dump site. it is costly venture for women to have this life that depends on materials needed for recycle companies. the lives of those who resided around the dump site is at risk of skin infections, chest infections and mind you, long term complications that will be seen many years to come,.

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EK. Chemorion
Jun 22, 2012
Jun 22, 2012

Imagining the women pickers staying at the dump site from as early as 5.00 am , only to leave the site by 6.00pm or sometimes 7.00pm reminds me of the security risk. violence at the site may only mean two things...survival for the fittest, or the destruction of the weak. it also reminds me of exposure to sexual violence on their way to and from the site and before they cash the day's wage. This also reminds me of the security risk it poses to the roads passersby, and the adjacent estates. This therefore calls for the country, and especially city or town governments to deal with waste disposal, lighting of the city streets, economic empowerment of the women and increase security for all citizens.

Breese McIlvaine
Jun 22, 2012
Jun 22, 2012

Thank you for this great window into the lives of the women pickers, and your ideas for solutions to the health and economic issues that play such a key role in this topic. Have you seen the BBC's video series called "Welcome to Lagos"? The first episode shows the life of trash pickers in Lagos: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sHKLIpz9F5c

This is happening in cities around the world, and is a demonstration of both the poverty and economic inequality as well as the creativity and entrepreneurship of people, making something out of others' trash.