Why Gender Equality is the Missing Piece in the Recycling Puzzle

Why Gender Equality is the Missing Piece in the Recycling Puzzle

BY JOY NWAIWU 11/03/2023 - 4 MINS READ

On March 8th, the world celebrates International Women's Day, a day to recognize the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women. It's also a day to reflect on the progress that still needs to be made to achieve gender equality. This year's theme, "DigitALL: Innovation and technology for gender equality," highlights the importance of gender equality in the digital age. 

One area where gender equality is particularly important but often overlooked is the recycling industry. Recycling is crucial to reducing waste and conserving natural resources, but gender inequality remains pervasive. Despite playing a critical role in recycling efforts, women are often underrepresented and undervalued in the waste management workforce.

In honour of International Women's Day, we're exploring why gender equality is the missing piece in the recycling puzzle. We’ll highlight the importance of recycling, gender inequality in the recycling industry, and the benefits of having more women participate in recycling. 

Let's talk about the recycling industry in Nigeria and Sub-Saharan Africa. 

The untapped potential of Sub-Saharan Africa's recycling industry

Sub-Saharan Africa is home to a growing recycling industry that has the potential to contribute significantly to sustainable development goals. Nigeria, in particular, is one of the largest contributors to this industry, and you might be surprised to know that many women are involved in the collection and sorting of recyclable materials. These women play a critical role in the recycling industry, and their contribution is often overlooked.

In Nigeria's recycling industry, women are primarily involved in the informal sector, covering over 90% of recycling activities. Still, women face various challenges, such as limited access to finance, lack of training, exposure to health hazards, etc. Furthermore, the informal sector remains largely unregulated, which makes it difficult for women to access social security benefits and earn a decent income.

Similarly, in many other African countries within the Sub-Saharan region, recycling remains an underdeveloped and overlooked industry. Governments are slow to invest in recycling infrastructure, and there's a lack of awareness about the benefits of recycling among the general public. However, there's no denying that the recycling industry in Nigeria has tremendous potential for growth and job creation.

Now that we know about the recycling industry in Nigeria and Sub-Saharan Africa let's dive into a critical aspect that is often overlooked. 

If you’re still wondering why you should recycle, hope this clears your doubt: 5 Key reasons you should start recycling today.

Importance of gender equality in the recycling industry

When we think of recycling, we might not immediately think of gender inequality, but it's a significant issue that deserves attention. Gender inequality in the recycling industry can have negative impacts on the environment, the economy, and society as a whole. Let's dive into why gender equality is crucial in the recycling industry.

  • More opportunities for women: The recycling industry provides employment and income generation opportunities, especially in developing countries. Gender inequality can prevent women from accessing these opportunities and limit their economic empowerment. Therefore, achieving gender equality in the recycling industry can help create more job opportunities for women and improve their economic status.

  • Enhancing sustainable development: Women's industry participation, especially in decision-making processes, can help challenge gender stereotypes and promote more equitable social norms, leading to more inclusive policies and practices.

  • Promoting innovation and creativity: Encouraging gender equality in the recycling industry can lead to more diverse perspectives and approaches to problem-solving. Women bring different skills, experiences, and ideas to the table, which can help to foster innovation and creativity in the industry.

  • Reducing poverty: Women and girls are largely affected by poverty and inequality. Providing women equal opportunities to participate in the industry can help reduce poverty and promote economic growth and development.

  • Building resilience and adaptability: Gender equality in the recycling industry can help to build resilience and adaptability in the face of social and environmental changes. This would ensure the industry is better equipped to respond to changing market conditions, emerging technologies, and other challenges.

We can go on and on about how having more women participate in recycling brings numerous benefits. However, despite these benefits, the participation rate of women in the recycling industry remains disappointingly low. So why is this the case? Are there any hindrances or challenges these women face that prevent them from fully engaging in the industry?

Our next blog post will delve deeper into this issue and provide more insights into women's challenges in the recycling industry. We'll also explore possible solutions and discuss how we can work together to promote gender equality and empower women in the recycling industry. 

So stay tuned for our next post, where we'll continue this important conversation and feel free to share your ideas in the comments.

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