A waste picker’s day – Lewabeka not giving up yet

Asinate Lewabeka during the Waste Recyclers Fiji PTE Ltd 28th anniversary celebrations in Lautoka. Picture: SITERI SAUVAKACOLO

Her frail condition does not prevent her from doing the work she loves. Asinate Lewabeka is a waste picker.

For the past two decades, Ms Lewabeka has been one of those strong women who comb the Vunato Dumpsite in Lautoka daily to collect recyclable waste to sell.

The resilience shown by this Ra woman, who spends the entire day at the dumpsite searching for recyclables, speaks volumes of her dedication to her family.

For 22 years, Ms Lewabeka has done the hard yards on the tonnes of trash at Vunato to pick waste she can sell.

The soft-spoken woman is not embarrassed to talk about the trade she’s mastered for many years because her only concern is providing for her family daily.

She leaves home at 8am and returns at 5pm when she knows she has collected enough. “Not many people know that we do work like this,” Ms Lewabaeka said.

“Many a times we have been trampled on by people who see it as dirty work, but they do not realise that this work provides for our daily needs.

“There is nothing to be ashamed of when we are doing work that provides for our family because at the end of the day what matters is meeting our family’s needs.”

Under the scorching Lautoka sun and the unbearable stench of the dump, Ms Lewabeka and a few other women from Vunato settlement work tirelessly.

Once she knows she has picked enough recyclables, she washes and categorises them into different classes before they are packed for sale to the dealers.

Interestingly, though, she does not take food with her to the dumpsite, just bottles of water to last her the entire day.

A heavy breakfast though before she heads to the dump. Her only other meal of the day is dinner at home.

This is her daily chore. She rests on Sunday when she goes to church and at 62 she is not ready to give up yet.

Ms Lewabeka will continue her work as an informal waste picker because she just cannot bear to watch her family starve.

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