• Cordie Aziz


Esther Nyakor, age 60 has been picking waste for the past 9 years. Auntie Esther as she is known by other waste pickers immigrated to Tema Newtown from Takoradi in search of a job to support her 2 children and over the years her 12 grandchildren. She found work briefly with GAVGO in Tema and got laid off soon after. She started Picking waste, mainly the pure water sachets and working part time  as a street sweeper.

Auntie Esther works close to 12 hours in a day 6 days a week.

She starts off her day at 3am in the morning through a carefully planned route picking used water sachet, goes off to sweeping the streets and she is also the clearing lady at the chief’s palace.

When asked what challenges they face as waste picker, she had this to say:

“We often suffer from bruises and injuries from broken glass, sharp metals and other sharp objects that are dumped at all this illegal dumping sites (bola). We do not have protective clothing and shoes when working. I usually suffer from persistent coughs from the effects of dust that I inhale. We are ridiculed by the community and school children. They call us dust and poor for doing what we do. We are invisible. We only pick as much as we have storage for, and we are sometime force to sell the little we collect because we are pressed for cash. We sell to middlemen who decide what is fair. We have little bargaining power.

The Pick-it project is offering the opportunity for people like Auntie Esther to get organized in order to engage the various stakeholders that can address the numerous challenges mentioned. The project also provides organizational and technical support through capacity building workshops and a business model co-designed with the waste picker organised by Environment360, Fan Milk, MIT and WIEGO

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