Integrating Gender Equality & Women’s Leadership in Chemical & Waste Policies/Programs in Africa – Recap

We had the pleasure of hosting an event during the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions COP’s on chemicals and waste. Our event titled “Integrating Gender Equality & Women’s Leadership in Chemical and Waste Policies & Programs in Africa” presented good practices and lessons learned on integrating gender-equality into chemicals and waste policies and women’s leadership in the transition to a circular economy. Our partners Griffins Ochieng (CEJAD) and Semia Gharbi (AEEFG) showcased case studies from East Africa (Kenya) and North Africa (Tunisia) and gave a unique preview of excerpts from the documentary films being developed!

The scoping studies and the documentary films aim to understand 3 gender dimensions:

  • How are women and men differently impacted in their health by hazardous chemicals and waste?
  • How do women and men’s occupations and the roles at home and at work influence exposure to hazardous chemicals and waste?
  • What best practices with women and men’s leadership exist to substitute and eliminate hazardous chemicals and waste?

Words of Welcome

Welcoming all whom were present was moderator – and our Executive Director – Sascha Gabizon. We were then kindly joined by Mr. Carlos Martin-Novella, Deputy Executive Secretary of the BRS secretariat, who offered the opening words to introduce our joint work with the BRS Secretariat and explained the Secretariat’s efforts on the topic of gender – including the gender action plan.

“What a Waste” gender-just solutions for a toxic-free future

Attendees were then given a unique sneak preview into the documentary film in Kenya “What a Waste – the unseen link between gender, plastics and chemicals”, shot by filmmaker Laure Poinsot. Scenes included shocking images of the Dandora dumpsite and an impactful interview with a female waste picker, whose health is impacted from the persistant pollutants surrounding the site. Another clip that was shown was of our interview with Rolf Payet Executive Secretary of BRS, who touched upon the situation of workers in flower farms and efforts being taken to reduce exposure to harmful pesticides. Another main aim of the documentary is to show good practices, such as innovative companies producing alternatives for plastics for take-away food and harmful pesticides a.o for workers in flower farms, who in majority are women.

The Kenyan Study

After this engaging introduction into the topic, our partner Griffins Ochieng from CEJAD Kenya, offered insights into the first results of the scoping study done as part of our joint project. Topics touched upon were Unintentional Persistent Organic Pollutants, (plastic) waste management and good practices from the ground to empower women waste workers. For more details on the presentations, please visit the slides of the event here.

The Tunisian Study

Next up, the preliminary results of the scoping study in Tunisia, presented by Semi Gharbi of AEEFG. Energizing the crowd prior to the presentation was the trailer of the respective “What a Waste” documentary of Tunisia, made by Johanna Heather Anselmo. The film will have a particular focus of their work in the rural area of Tekelsa regarding the interlinkages between gender equality, waste and chemicals.

Semia continued to present the first results of the scoping study, talking about the differentiated health impacts of pesticides on women, men and children, including risk of cancer for women and low semen quality for men. She also noted that the country is currently unable to handle much of its hazardous waste, and that the little sorting and recycling is done by informal waste pickers, includign many women. She said that Tunisia certainly should not be receiving additional hazardous waste from abroad, explaining the scandal of Italian mixed (plastic) waste exports to Tunisia in 2019. Some of the key take-aways were the fact that there is a lack of disaggregated data on the gender dimensions of chemicals and waste, and that studies on the health impacts on women and men from exposure are few, outdated or unpublished. What is needed: a Gender Action Plan for Tunisia’s chemical and waste policy that is supported by international organisations

Find the full list of action points here.

Wrapping Up

Respondents were then offered a chance to respond and Miroslava Castellon from the Ministry of Environment of Bolivia first took the floor. We worked with Miroslava Castellon on a previous scoping study undertaken in Bolivia to the likes of the one currently done in Tunisia and Kenya, and she noted the aim to integrated gender-equality into all chemicals and waste projects and policies in the country. Dr.-Ing. Hans-Christian Stolzenberg from the German Environment Agency (Umweltbundesamt) was also amongst the respondents, and showcased the interesting example of the Gender and Chemicals Roadmap for a gender-responsive national chemicals policy by the MSP Institute, with the example of a tool for gender and chemicals in the construction sector.

We want to thank all speakers, respondents and attendees for their engagement and hope you will continue to keep an eye out for the scoping studies and the documentary films coming out in the near future!