In keeping with the International Coastal Clean-Up Month, 20 women waste workers from the cities of Manila, Pasig, Quezon, Caloocan, and San Juan were given grants to jumpstart their livelihood in waste management business.
Gloria Mitra, a grantee and door-to-door waste collector from Malabon City, said she was grateful to those who helped and taught her how to segregate waste and care for the environment “so we can reduce the waste flowing into the ocean.”
The waste workers — a mix of collectors, aggregators, street sweepers and junk shop owners — received their new equipment last September 6, at the Cristy Hernandez Activity Center in UP Diliman, Quezon City. They received push carts, first aid kits, banners, and clothes, among others.
The equipment and grants are part of the Women in Waste Economic Empowerment (WWEE) program of the Clean Cities, Blue Ocean (CCBO) initiative of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) in partnership with WWF-Philippines and the Coca-Cola Foundation Philippines, Inc. (CCFPI), the Associated Resources for Management and Development, Inc. (ARMDEV) and the EcoWaste Coalition’s Basic Business Empowerment Skills Training (BBEST) also funded by CCBO.
Ma. Cecilia Alcantara, CCFPI president, lauded the women “for growing the support we provided them for their families. Let us continue to work together towards the good of the environment.”
Before the equipment turnover, the grantees underwent a series of capacity-building sessions under BBEST, where they learned the importance of waste management and how to manage a waste management business. They were chosen for the grants based on the business ideas they presented.
Among the grantees was Nanette Ruiz, a junk shop owner from Manila who shared that after attending the training, she was invited to conduct seminars and share best practices on waste collecting to teach other waste workers. "I became a speaker for waste collecting, and everything I learned I was able to share to others, she shared."
Out of gratitude for the partners of the WWEE Program, Ruiz even named her business “BW & Nethz Junkshop” — BW stands for BBEST and WWF.
The training also emphasized the importance of looking after one’s health and well-being which was an eye-opening experience for some of the women.
Maricel Castro, a grantee from Caloocan, said the most important lesson she learned was “to take care of myself as a woman. Because as women, we tend to put other people first and forget to care for ourselves… If we are not around, our loved ones will suffer.”
After the training, Castro and three other women formed a group for their door-to-door waste collecting business. They named it “D4 Strong Women.”
The WWEE project is part of WWF-Philippines’ No Plastics in Nature (NPIN) initiative which aims to stop the flow of plastics into the environment by 2030.
This initiative includes lobbying for waste management policies to have gender-inclusive provisions and that would integrate the informal waste sector into the waste management system.
Czarina Constantino-Panopio, NPIN Program Manager, said “Our fight against plastic pollution will not be enough without our partner waste workers. They are an important part of our solid waste management system and they should be supported, not disregarded.”
These policies include the Extended Producer Responsibility law which requires big businesses to recover a percentage of their plastic waste at certain years.
The WWEE Consortium hopes that the law will be able to ensure support for the informal waste sector in the form of continuing what the WWEE project has done, such as providing them with equipment and training, and integrating them into the solid waste management system.
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