University of São Paulo: Public invisibility and other pains: documentary brings reports of women sweeping streets

THEi public nvisibilidade that turns people into objects, is one of the problems faced by working women sweeping streets, sweepers. Known as “daisies”, they also need to deal with the lack of awareness of businessmen and the population, the inadequate disposal of waste, the lack of security on the outskirts, prejudice, street work under high temperatures and the difficulty in accessing bathrooms, among other issues.

Identifying the main problems faced by sweepers employed by a company in the interior of the State of São Paulo was one of the focuses of the master’s dissertation of psychologist and psychoanalyst Bianca Gafistão Bobadilha, held at USP’s School of Public Health (FSP). The work aimed to investigate the capacity of these employees to propose solutions to improve the work routine, making them the protagonists of these changes.

As a result, sweepers proposed ways to improve work and recognition by the population, such as going to talk personally with owners or managers of bars, cafeterias and restaurants to make them aware of the importance of correctly packaging waste and disposing of it. them safely.

As a final part of the work, Bianca produced a documentary (see below) with active participation of sweepers in the script and finalization of the audiovisual product.

To achieve the proposed results, Bianca analyzed sweeping speeches produced during formative intervention sessions – where the researcher acts as one of the actors of change and not only as an observer – and led by researchers from the FSP.

The material was collected between March 2017 and July 2018. The weekly meetings (15 in total, lasting 2 hours and averaging 15 participants each) took place during the sweepers’ rest time.

The demand for conducting the training intervention survey emerged in 2015, after the Reference Center for Occupational Health (CEREST) found a high rate of occupational accidents in the company’s garbage collection sector.


Bianca Gafistão Bobadilha
“Generally, these interventions are made with educated workers, empowered and with the ability to express themselves”, explains to the Jornal da USP Marco Pereira Querol, professor at FSP and Bianca’s advisor. “The innovative aspect of the research is precisely in listening to a group with no active voice in the company.”

The content and speech analyzes of the more than 12 hours of recordings showed that the daily challenges of sweepers are related to work on the street, the strong hierarchy in the company, the lack of awareness of the population about sweeping activity and the incorrect disposal of waste.

These obstacles led to another problem, according to Bianca: the phenomenon of public invisibility, here understood as the intersubjective disappearance of a man among other men.

“On a daily basis, we don’t notice that the street is clean, but if the service is stopped, we immediately observe it”, explains Bianca. “There is an association with the service itself, not with the subject who performs this action.”


The participants were of varying age, low education level (with the presence of illiterates in the group) and, at times, were the main responsible for supporting the family.


Public invisibility, which turns people into objects, is one of the problems faced by sweeping women

Linguistic clues
Bianca’s master’s dissertation is part of the thematic project “ Accident at work: from sociotechnical analysis to the social construction of changes ”, subsidized by the São Paulo State Research Support Foundation (Fapesp). In it, the researchers worked with a methodology called “Laboratory of Changes”, which helps the subjects to solve the adversities through a set of actions that transform the activity system.

Bianca literally transcribed 11 of the 15 sessions of the Change Laboratory and designed her method of analysis focusing on the linguistic interactions of these speeches. “She used some linguistic clues – such as the use of pronouns in the first and third person and sentences without a subject, for example – to understand how sweepers were facing the situation”, explains Querol. “It was a way of making the findings more palpable for society.”

The content found ranged from the lack of security to work in peripheral locations and difficulty in accessing restrooms to the concern with commuting to places with greater circulation of cars. Topics such as exposure to high temperatures and lack of awareness among the population were also present at the sessions.


Sweepers also reported being victims of social humiliation.

“Many residents ask them to sweep up garages, an activity that is not foreseen for their role,” says Bianca. “Sometimes, residents call them“ trash bins ”or“ trash girls ”.”

But what was seen during the meetings was an evolution on the part of women. “In the first session, when the researcher asks them who does the sweeping, they answer that they are the sweepers, that is, always in the third person”, explains the psychologist. “At the end, they appropriate the activity they perform, classifying it as a decent job.”

As the company that requested the service from the Faculty of Public Health did not continue the project, Bianca decided to seek alternatives to publicize the sweeping work to the residents. It was then that sweepers and researchers produced the documentary, reporting the routine of these workers. “They themselves made themselves available to give interviews”, celebrates Bianca. “We finished the script together and now the idea is to distribute the audiovisual product to schools and whoever is most interested,” he concludes.

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