Women and girls engaged in waste picking within the City of Bulawayo have lamented high rates of physical, emotional and economic abuse faced by female waste pickers and perpetrated by male waste pickers, waste buyers and council workers.
Speaking during a Matabeleland Institute for Human Rights (MIHR) digital skills empowerment workshop in Bulawayo on 16 and 17 December 2021, the female waste pickers noted that:
- When waste picking at Ngozi Mine landfill site, there are male waste pickers (especially male youths) who push and insult them as they scramble for the valuable and precious waste. Some even narrated incidences where some of of the boys snatched their pickings;
- Waste buyers are buying the waste at very low prices which are tantamount to slave labour for the waste pickers. The female waste pickers also complained that there are syndicates controlling the waste buying market to the extent that it is difficult for a picker to by-pass the middlemen buyers to go and sell directly to the waste recyclers;
- Having collected the little earnings from the waste buyers, the female waste pickers lamented economic abuse from their spouses and partners. Some of the women (especially those resident at the Ngozi Mine slum settlement) said their male spouses are nolonger picking waste but spend the day squandering all the little resources women waste pickers make in drinking beer;
- Some of the female waste pickers even bemoaned ill-treatment from Bulawayo City Council refuse collectors whom they accused of literally wrestling for the waste in order to get better pickings for resale also.
Matabeleland Institute for Human Rights (MIHR) is empowering the female waste pickers with human rights, gender and economic empowerment in order to enhance the waste picking enterprise in Zimbabwe to be human rights based, gender inclusive and safe for women and girls.