For more livable communities, more women leaders are needed in waste management in Sri Lanka
Date: Tuesday, September 28, 2021
Authors: Marlon Ariyasinghe, Boost Metrics*
Illustrations: UN Women Sri Lanka/Boost Metrics
Colombo, Sri Lanka — Improving waste management starts at home, but its benefits go well beyond -- to a cleaner environment, more peaceful communities, and greater social and political leadership by women, who are key to making it all happen.
Rajeshwari Diaz, 46, and Kaweeda Manohari, 48, are among the many women who have seen these benefits as they attend trainings and community dialogues organized by a project called Promoting Women’s Engagement in Effective Solid Waste Management. UN Women is running the project jointly with United Nations Office for Project Services and Chrysalis, a local non-governmental organization. The 2020-2021 project is expected to directly benefit about 4,000 people in Puttalam and Mannar, fishing and agricultural districts along Sri Lanka’s western coast.
Diaz, who lives in Mannar, draws inspiration from her 80-year-old mother-in-law, who takes the lead in collecting and separating the household waste. The family gives the food waste to neighbours, who feed it to their farm animals, and keep the other waste inside a compound for the municipality’s waste collectors. The family not only keeps the house and garden clean but also the public road in front.
As a Community Development Officer, Diaz has taken part in the Mannar Urban Council’s programmes to educate people about proper waste management. The council distributes dustbins and garbage bags of different colours for villagers to separate different types of waste.
Diaz firmly believes that parents must teach good waste management practices to their children from an early age. She has told her son that if he leaves garbage lying around, flies and disease may come.
“At home, when our son eats a toffee, we ask him to dispose of the wrapper in the dustbin,” she says. “If he eats a banana, we ask him to dispose of the peel in the dustbin that is used for food waste.”
One of the biggest problems, Diaz says, is that many youths don’t know or don’t care -- “Some youths in Mannar get together in public places and end up littering everywhere.”
She says children are injured by the broken bottles left around and cattle often die after ingesting the plastic and polythene.
Diaz sees youths getting involved in religious institutions and other projects and believes that same energy can be directed towards waste management.