The Mozambican Association of Recycling (AMOR) is one of the initiatives aimed at providing socioeconomic empowerment opportunities for Mozambican women. Founded in 2010, AMOR is a nationwide network of recycling centers called Ecopontos. Each Ecoponto is run by disadvantaged women trying to enter the labor market, and many of them are HIV-positive.
“AMOR has a total of 10 recycling points, and six of them are run by HIV-positive women; the other four are managed by young people from other empowerment programs. In addition, three other HIV-positive women who have excelled at Ecopontos were hired to work in our headquarters,” explains Patricia Neves, AMOR’s general coordinator in Maputo, who also says that all HIV-positive women who are part of the project must go through HIV treatment. “They all have an obligation to take the medicine and attend monthly meetings,” she says.
Luisa Mula began working at an Ecoponto in 2012 and now works six days a week earning between $115 and $140 a month. “My life has improved a lot after I started working here. What I get is not much, but at least I can help with the household expenses; it’s a start,” Luisa says.
AMOR’s biggest success story is Celia Maria Nhabomga. She started working at an Ecoponto in March 2009, when there were only three centers in Maputo. “I found it interesting, the idea of working with recycling, and decided to try. I was gathering cardboard, plastic, bottles, magazines, glass, metal, and also electronic waste,” she says.
After working for just over a year as a collector, Nhabomga was promoted to the position of Ecopontos network coordinator at the AMOR headquarters. Her starting salary was 4,000 meticais and quickly increased to 7,000, along with meal allowances and transportation. “Also, I learned to make crafts with milk cartons, and today I produce wallets, cases, and bags, which are sold by AMOR as a way to promote the reusable materials. I teach other HIV-positive women, which is also another way to achieve our own money,” says Nhabomga.
In one year, AMOR recycles an average of 700 tons of solid waste, which the NGO then exports to countries such as South Africa. By the end of 2016, AMOR intends to create 10 more Ecopontos in Cidade da Beira, the second-largest city in Mozambique, recycling around 2,000 tons per year and creating new jobs for Mozambican women.
“In a traditionally sexist society like in the south of Mozambique, financial independence and the empowerment of women through work can create opportunities for them to have better choices about their social positions and their partners,” says Neves.