About a week ago, on the eve of Women’s Day, an exceptional lady proposed the topic of this article for me to tackle in the monthly blog. Accordingly, I agreed to address this topic in order to shed light on it and would like to dedicate this article to the female members of ISWA Lebanon for their contributions to the organization, and to all the women involved in waste management especially in Lebanon.
Women and Waste Management
Despite solid waste management being historically a men dominated field primarily due to social acceptance factors, recent years have shown increase in the number of women involved in this field. Although there are no precise figures on international level showing the ratio of women to men working in the solid waste sector, interesting figures about the involvement of women in the waste sector have been published by ISWA’s Women of Waste (WoW) in a 2018 paper entitled “Mapping the status of women in the global waste management sector”. This study provides detailed figures per region and per country’s income. Hence for in depth insight on the issue it is recommended to refer to that paper. However, the following figures from the above mentioned paper are highlighted:
|Women working in reduction, reuse, recycling, refurbishment out of the total women in Waste Management||51.6%|
|Women working in sorting and recovery out of the total women in Waste Management||23.1%|
|Women working in collection out of the total women in Waste Management||12.8%|
|Women working in Landfilling out of the total women in Waste Management||12.5%|
Interestingly the data of Table 1 reflect that women are more involved in upper part of the solid waste management hierarchy keeping in mind that the majority (30.2%) work at local governments, 14.4% at private waste management companies, and 13.3% work at engineering/consulting companies.
On a different note it was highlighted in an USAID study entitled “Women’s economic empowerment and equality in solid waste management and recycling” that only 17 percent of solid waste management and recycling include gender in a substantive way. Furthermore, this study also highlights social barriers as key obstructions facing women in solid waste management. Additionally, it highlights that gender balance has proven to contribute positively in increasing investment in renewable energy, low-carbon products and energy efficiency.
Accordingly, this indicates that women are involved in the international waste management sector on various levels despite the various challenges they are facing especially on the social level. Their involvement has been proven to be constructive on environmental level. Hence, the upcoming years should lead to increasing gender equality within the waste management sector, especially, with the UN’s fifth Sustainable Development Goal (SDG 5), “Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls” and to the increase of awareness of the positive impact women have made upon their involvement in the solid waste management sector.
Women part of the solid waste labor force in Lebanon
In Lebanon there are no statistics related to women working in the solid waste sector; however, it has been evident that the number of women working in Solid Waste has been increasing. This increase is notable despite of the social barriers and obstacles that face them in various work field especially in solid waste management which has been dominated mainly by men. Nevertheless, women in Lebanon are playing key roles in solid waste management at government, corporate, and NGO levels. Furthermore, several women have been involved in design, planning levels of various solid waste management systems. Additionally, over recent years women have been involved in management and operation of various solid waste infrastructure and facilities.
It should also be noted that women in Lebanon have played pioneer roles in the solid waste informal sector as well through various individual initiatives. The most renown solid waste initiative launched by a women in Lebanon was by Mrs Zeinab Moukalled, who started a sorting at source initiative in her hometown Arab Salim in the second half of the 1990s, then gathered other women around the initiative and thus establishing a sorting at source initiative in their hometown that has been ongoing for more than 20 years.
Enhancing the role of Women in solid waste management in Lebanon
One should accept that societies are continuously developing and what may be socially not acceptable today may become socially acceptable in the future. Thus instead of avoiding certain activities due to social acceptance factors, it is better to become pioneers and work towards changing social perceptions and contribute to developing the social standards.
Hence, to enhance the role of women in solid waste management in Lebanon, one should focus on the following:
a) Establish an implementation plan to achieve the SDG 5 and enforce it.
b) Promote waste management as a gender neutral field at school and university levels to encourage both female and male students to get involved in it.
c) Understand social acceptance criteria and work towards changing and developing them
d) Recruit based on qualifications and not based on gender
e) Create equal opportunities to various genders for various positions
f) Establish incentives that are equally appealing for various genders to get enrolled within the field of waste management
Tribute to female members of ISWA Lebanon
Women members of ISWA Lebanon have been playing so far key roles within the organization. Currently 58% of the members, 50% of the scientific committee and 80% of the board are women. If one looks at these figures, he/she will easily understand the level of involvement of women in the organization and the extent of interest of women in the field waste management. In acknowledgment to their contributions to waste management, an extremely brief profiling of seven female members of ISWA Lebanon will be quickly highlighted.
- Nisrine Houjeiri: The vice president of ISWA Lebanon and one of the pioneer women in Lebanon to get involved in the field of solid waste management, thus paving the way for younger ladies. She has been involved in numerous Solid waste projects including master planning, design, supervision, and management of operation of facilities. She is recognized by various stakeholders within the field and is renowned for her professionalism.
- Sophia Ghanimeh: The head of the scientific committee, a member of ISWA’s landfill working group, and a member of the Minister of Environment’s Solid Waste Committee. She has a PhD and teaches young generation courses related to Solid Waste Management. She is well recognized within the academic sector and is renowned for her solid waste research.
- Jihan Seoud: Member of ISWA Lebanon’s General Assembly. She has been involved in numerous solid waste projects including, municipal, hazardous, special streams, construction and Demolition waste, and others. She has been the behind the scenes architect (and sometimes co-architect), of several solid waste projects implemented in Lebanon, including the closure and rehabilitation of Saida’s dumpsite. She is well recognized by various stakeholders including funding agencies is renowned for being solution oriented.
- Nour Kanso: The secretary of ISWA Lebanon, and a member of ISWA’s Young Professionals working group. She has been involved in the operation of several solid waste facilities in Lebanon and the region. She was awarded ISWA’s young professional of the Month in June 2018 for her waste around the world initiative. She is well recognized by young professionals worldwide and is renowned for her positivity.
- Amira El Halabi: The treasurer of ISWA Lebanon, and a member of ISWA’s Young Professionals working group. She has been involved in the implementation of several solid waste projects with several organizations, in Lebanon and internationally. She is well recognized by young professionals worldwide and is renowned for her dedication.
- Patil Mardigian: Member of ISWA Lebanon’s General Assembly. She has been involved in the management of the operation of several solid waste facilities and in the management of the construction and upgrade of some of the existing solid waste facilities within Lebanon. She is well recognized in Lebanon by various stakeholders and is renowned for her commitment.
- Basma El Arab: Member of ISWA Lebanon’s General Assembly. She has been involved in the management of several solid waste projects and tasks, including development of strategies, construction of sanitary landfills and of small facilities. She is well recognized in Lebanon by various stakeholders and is renowned for her enthusiasm.