The waste sector and chemical Exposure
Women Unlimited Eswatini conducted a training session in May 2023 educating women and the youth from Mpolonjeni and Kwaluseni on responsible chemical waste management. Women Unlimited has been making significant strides in empowering women and promoting sustainable waste management practices hence the need to educate beneficiaries on the critical intersection of chemicals and gender in the waste management sector including but not limited to proper ways of handling hazardous waste in their line of work.
The waste sector encompasses a wide range of activities, including waste management, recycling, and disposal which often involve the handling of hazardous materials, including chemicals that can pose significant health risks. From industrial waste to household hazardous substances, the potential exposure to harmful chemicals is prevalent.
While both men and women work in the waste sector, women face specific challenges that lead to higher exposure rates to hazardous chemicals. Several factors contribute to this gender disparity including occupational segregation where certain professions are dominated by one gender, women are more likely to be employed in roles such as waste sorting and handling of household waste, which can involve direct contact with chemicals. Also, women make up a substantial portion of the workforce in the Informal sector which often means inadequate safety measures, limited access to protective equipment and insufficient training heightening the exposure to harmful chemicals.
Prolonged exposure to hazardous substance can lead to various health problems, including skin disorders and an increased risk of certain cancers. To address the issue Women Unlimited Eswatini conducted these trainings, raising awareness about the risks associated with chemical exposure, educating communities about the potential hazards, safe handling techniques, and the importance of using Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).
“We recognize the unique challenges and opportunities that exist within the waste management sector concerning gender, and by shedding light on the gender dynamics within this industry we are hoping to foster inclusivity and equal participation by empowering women to actively engage in waste management activities traditionally dominated by men” said Women Unlimited Executive Director, Vimbai Kapurura.
The Director also said that this approach ensures that policies and practices are developed with a comprehensive understanding of gender issues, leading to more effective and sustainable waste management solutions.