By Perseverance Javangwe
Women in Kwekwe’s dumpsite area who are ﬁghting to reduce global warming in the country while evading the harsh economic conditions have struggled to make ends meet because they are getting little proﬁt which cannot sustain them and their families. Speaking at the dumpsite with this reporter, the Foundaon Group members said even though they work hard, their hard work is in vain because of the little proﬁts they get.
“Our group is called the Foundation Group. We are here to try and irk a living. We have to pay rentals and also school fees for our children. I work here at Kwekwe dump-site. Our problem is that our buyers who come from places like Harare, they come and purchase these plastics with very low amounts that are insuﬃcient to sustain our families. This makes life diﬃcult for us. The buyers take advantage of our tough situations and pay us low. We wish we could have someone to help us, we want to operate just like the people working at Pomona dump-site in Harare. Here in Amaveni, Kwekwe we have no one to help us. We are struggling to sustain our families with the little money that we get. We are appealing for any organisations, individuals, public or private companies to help uplift us in this recycling process,” said Amai Moyo.
The covid-19 lockdown initiated to curb the spread of the virus made life unbearable for them because they could not aﬀord to sell their PET boles and earn a living. Working at the dump-site was also a challenge since it was regarded as a dirty place.
“I started working here in 2013. I have eight children and have no one to help me support them so I felt this place could help me get something to help sustain my family. I don’t have a proper place to live. I joined the Foundation Group so that together we can try to achieve something in life but it is diﬃcult considering that we do not have anyone to uplift us. We appeal for help in terms of working equipment such as protective clothing.
“When covid-19 lockdown was implemented it made life diﬃcult for us. We could only sneak here just for a short period, because this place is regarded as a dirty place. According to the health guidelines it’s not permitted to be here during the pandemic so life was diﬃcult. Since the lockdown it has been diﬃcult to get buyers. When schools were opened we failed to pay our children’s fees and they are at home because we cannot have money at the moment,” said Amai Chiwara.
“I have been working here for quite some me now but have failed to do something tangible because I only work for hand to mouth. I cannot do any other projects because what I get here is very low. Our buyers pay us low amounts. During the lockdown it was tough because the garbage was not coming. Life was diﬃcult,” added Mai Moyo
“The major challenge is we are paid very low sums of money. Above all we are paid in RTGS which can only get us food at home but we cannot aﬀord to pay rentals. When our landlords raise their rentals it even becomes harder for us to pay. When we receive RTGS from our buyers it becomes diﬃcult for us to pay rentals because our landlords do not accept RTGS they only want the US Dollar which we do not have. So sometimes we are forced to leave our children at home while we sleep here to avoid our landlords. There is no way they can remove my children at home while I am here.
“During lockdown it was diﬃcult to navigate through life. If you check my skin. It is very bad because we cannot aﬀord to buy skin loon. Sometimes we used some cooking oil from the containers we pick here at the dump-site. We wish we could ﬁnd people who can intervene and support us in this recycling project,” said Amai Anna.
“The challenge here is we come across some objects that are not safe to handle without protective clothing, for example injections, cracked boles, dangerous chemicals, poison. We handle all of this without protective clothing and often times we get hurt. We wish we could ﬁnd well-wishers to help us acquire protective clothing. As a group our goal is to have a machine that we use to crush our pallets so that we can do our own things rather than selling to people who pay us sick money. We believe we can do our own work in the recycling process if only we can get support,” said a women who refused to be named.
“Often times we sleep here even though it is raining. During the just ended rain season we slept here several times trying to push hard in our work. Sometimes we don’t even get buyers, this makes life even more diﬃcult because we cannot sustain our lives,” said Amai Chigodora.
One women named amai Dube added that her children also wear clothes that they get from the dump-site but this does not ﬁt well with the community she lives.
“My children survive through the clothes that we get here at the dump-site. They have become a laughing stock to people in my area. Our neighbors have a tendency to mock me and my children for wearing clothes we get here. We wish we could ﬁnd help from well-wishers so that we can be able to do great through this Foundation group,” she said.
Environmentalist Elizabeth Gulugulu applauded the work being done by the Foundation Group while exploring how they can be helped since their progress is being aﬀected by the middlemen.
“We need to understand that waste contributes to 6% of our national greenhouse gas emissions and every time people are dumping waste which goes to landﬁlls and produces diﬀerent kinds of gases like methane which is not good for our planet. They accumulate in the atmosphere and cause global warming which will result in climate change. So by practicing waste separation and reusing and recycling we are reducing the amount of waste going to the dumpsite which is a positive thing that I will encourage everyone to do. People have been collecting PET boles that they recycle and because of innovation and how youth are keen to research some have gone to create rooﬁng les through these PET boles.
“I would want to applaud women in Kwekwe for doing something that is commendable and something that is in a way protecting the environment because they are also protecting their role in reducing our greenhouse gas emissions. “Normally we often have problems when it comes to value addition of the middleman, most of the times waste pickers do not get to have enough proﬁts because of the middleman between so it will be a situation of trying to link them with markets, this will help them beneﬁt from the iniatives they are doing. Then in terms of registering a company they might reach out to the city council or reach out to the Environmental Management Agency (EMA) or even delta beverages and come up with some sort of an agreement they can also reach out to corporates because corporates are mandated to assist community based iniatives through corporate social responsibility. So this could be another way to help upscale their iniatives and at least get proﬁts from the hard work they are doing in environmental conservation and protection through waste management iniatives,” she said.
She added that there is also need for youths in the foundation group and across the nation to play a leading role in reducing, reusing and recycling waste in order to create a circular economy.
“I would want to say that it is good that we have women leading in this but it will be good to have youths leading also. We are talking about Sustainable economies, we are talking about building back beer, building a greener economy, this is the only way we can build a greener economy. The circular economy we are talking about is an economy where we are saying nothing goes to the dumpsite and this only happen through managing our waste well. If there are PET boles we can establish youth organisations or companies that are into waste, if we can establish waste transfer suplier this will help in creating more jobs for young people. “Young people should also be capacitated in creating organic manure from food waste. This will help reduce greenhouse gas emissions from agricultural sector. Young people should be capacitated in managing electronic waste rather than shipping this waste to countries like South Africa and Dubai because the moment we do that we are actually shipping our jobs. So I also call upon the government to support youths that are trying to venture into waste sector so that they can identify the entry points and oﬀer certain skills to youths especially when it comes to e-waste which has been a problem. So there is need for new skill sets. We have youths willing to enter these sectors but we need to rebrand the whole waste sector, especially the picking waste sector because at times it appears as if only the poor can do this yet it is an opportunity for any person to get income,” said Gulugulu.
The empowerment and autonomy of women and the improvement of their social economic health status is a highly important end in itself. It is also essential for the sustainable achievement of the Development Goals. Let’s extend a hand to this group of women who are part of the global warming ﬁght through recycling. Providing them with protective clothing can put a smile on their faces