Not standing for any rubbish

25 June 2019

A woman stands in front of some trees with a road in the background, along which a motorbike passes by

Rosmery at work cleaning Cobija’s streets. Photo credit: Tania Dalton

Rosmery works as a refuse collector for the local council in Cobija in northern Bolivia. Much of the waste left around the city is gathered by workers like her and brought to the municipal rubbish tip, which is a mountain of hospital waste, dead animals and other rotting waste.

"As cleaners we collect glass, syringes, all kinds of rubbish," says the mother of four. "We don't have boots or special gloves and we are at risk of contamination."

Standing up for workers' rights

Thanks to your donations, our local experts in Bolivia have supported Rosmery and her fellow refuse collectors to make sure their labour rights are respected.

"We want to make employers respect our rights so that our colleagues won't suffer in the same way."

Rosmery, refuse collector in Bolivia

With their help, Rosmery and her colleagues decided to form a union. Rosmery was elected as leader and last year a law was passed to protect refuse collectors’ right to health insurance, one day off a week and holiday leave.

There is now also a national day for refuse collectors on 15 March, which marks an important first step in recognising the value and dignity of workers like Rosmery in Bolivia.

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"As workers we didn't know our rights," Rosmery admits. "How could we stand up for ourselves? We were afraid, but all that fear has fallen away now.

"There is still much to learn. We want to make employers respect our rights so that our colleagues won't suffer in the same way."

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Through our global Catholic Church network, CAFOD works with local experts around the world to give people like Rosmery the knowledge they need to stand up for their rights and the rights of the planet.

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