On the 5th of June 2023, Women Unlimited Eswatini hosted the Eswatini waste Conference which was a build- up event from the first of it’s kind Waste Indaba held in 2022. This event was in partnership with the Eswatini Environment Authority (EEA) with financial support from the UNDP GEF Small Grants Programme and other partners at Mavuso Trade Centre. The theme for this year was “Solutions to Plastic Waste” under the campaign #BeatPlasticPollution.
The widespread use of single-use plastics and improper waste management practices have resulted in the contamination of water bodies and the destruction of natural habitants (livestock and human health). The purpose of the Conference was to bring about an inclusive platform for stakeholders and the public in deliberating on solutions to waste in the country, specifically plastic waste, and provide an exhibition opportunity for products and services across the waste value chain.
The event was graced by the Honourable Minister of Tourism and Environmental Affairs, Moses Vilakati, who presented the keynote address and the Honourable Minister of Agriculture, Jabulani Mabuza who was represented by the Under Secretary Ministry of Agriculture who was then the acting PS , Gugu Shabangu. Reclaiming and recycling companies, waste management companies, informal waste pickers, government ministries and parastatals, academic institutions, non-governmental organizations, development partners and civil society participated in discussing issues related to the theme of the event.
Eswatini, like many countries, has been struggling with the adverse impacts of improper waste management due to Insufficient infrastructure, lack of public awareness, and limited resources which have contributed to an increasing waste problem that threatens the environment and public health. Recognizing the urgency of this issue, Women Unlimited Eswatini, took the lead in organizing the Waste Conference to catalyze positive change on the environment whilst improving the livelihoods of different vulnerable groups in communities.
Women Unlimited Eswatini Executive Director, Vimbai Kapurura, said that World Environment Day is a reminder that people’s actions on plastic pollution and waste in general, matters and that interventions taken to manage waste surely need to be accelerated. She announced Women Unlimited Eswatini taking a stand to host an annual knowledge sharing and exchange conference that will add value to the country’s efforts.The Director added that Women Unlimited continues to see the need to integrate gender mainstreaming, seeing there is a critical need for the country to centre women’s issues in the climate agenda and collaborate efforts to advance this as a key to the conference of parties 28.
“Acknowledging the links between gender inequality and waste management will be key to creating a more sustainable and equitable waste sector, women are found working under the lowest levels of any given-value chain, while recognition for women’s contributions is growing in some places, women often face repressive treatment, sexual violence and unsafe working conditions” Kapurura said.
The Conference brought focus on topics such; The Plastic Challenge-In Agriculture, Environment and Health sector, Future of Waste Management: trends and opportunities, Waste Management Lessons from Uganda and Business Investment in Waste Management. It provided a platform for stakeholders to share their experiences, best practices, and ideas of moving Eswatini to a circular economy and facilitated a dialogue and collaboration between stakeholders to develop practical solutions to the plastic waste management challenges in the country.
The Waste Conference featured keynote speakers, discussions and interactive exhibitions. These keynote speakers included local experts in the field of waste management and experts from other countries, who provided insights on the latest technologies and best practices in waste management. The exhibitions provided participants with an opportunity to engage with people on the ground in waste management and learn about practical solutions to waste management challenges that can improve livelihoods and save the environment.
The Eswatini Waste Conference 2023 contributed to developing the waste management sector in the country by providing solutions and transforming policy around waste management. Waste Management is an essential aspect of sustainable development and the Conference has created opportunities for collaboration and partnerships between stakeholders.