Empowerment through participation: assessing the voices of leaders from recycling cooperatives in São Paulo, Brazil
Community Development Journal Advance Access published October 19, 2010
This paper describes the findings of a project assessment on empowerment and leadership development of recyclers (catadores),
recorded after the third year of the Participatory Sustainable Waste Management project (PSWM), a University Partnership initiative implemented in the metropolitan region of São Paulo, Brazil. In March 2008, video-taped, structured, open-ended interviews were conducted with leaders from recycling cooperatives and associations in the region, who had participated in the project’s capacity-building activities, initiated in 2005. Throughout in-depth interviews, individuals were also asked to
produce a timeline diagram highlighting the events that have contributed or hindered their personal development and empowerment within the context of inclusive waste management (coleta seletiva solidaria). The interviews revealed the significance of: (i) the organization and mobilization of the recyclers movement (Movimento dos Catadores de Materiais Reciclaveis), (ii) specific events that have empowered or disempowered the recyclers, and (iii) inclusive public policies in waste management as well as community outreach strategies to overcome stigma and marginalization. The personal histories focused on the successions of events and processes supported by the PSWM project until March 2008, which include the development of a collective commercialization network, a pilot experience with a micro-credit scheme for working capital of the coops, participation in meetings,seminars, and conferences, among others. The analysis contributes to the development of a greater understanding of capacity-building processes and helps identify ‘target indicators’ of personal empowerment, civic
engagement, and citizenship building.