Garbage, blasted glass, and the women cleaning up political filth in Lebanon

Updated 0715 GMT (1515 HKT) May 14, 2022

Carmen Geha is Associate Professor of Public Administration and Leadership at the American University of Beirut, co-founder of the Center for Inclusive Business and Leadership (CIBL) for Women at the Olayan School of Business, and a Maria Zambrano Fellow, Pompeu Fabra University. Geha is the author of "Civil Society and Political Reform in Lebanon and Libya." The views expressed in this commentary are her own. View more opinion on CNN.

(CNN)In 2015, I spent the summer protesting and getting tear-gassed. I wasn't protesting for anything grand. I was one of hundreds of thousands of people who took to the streets to demand an end to the garbage crisis.

We are obsessed with cleaning our homes in Lebanon. I think it is inter-generational, inherited from decades of war and conflict, and exacerbated by the fact that our country is so dirty. We live in one of the most polluted places in the region, with virtually zero public services.
Not that our protests against the government's failure to effectively provide garbage collection changed much -- trash has been piling up ever since. Just this week the United Nations Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights published a report essentially stating that Lebanon's current misery was avoidable.
Lebanon is in the grip of one of the worst economic collapses of the century and is still reeling from the 2020 Beirut explosion, the world's largest non-nuclear blast. And this man-made disaster we find ourselves in, said the UN report, has "deep roots in a venal political system plagued with conflicts of interest."