How Women Are Transforming Waste Into Wealth


WINIFRED OGBEBO writes on how vulnerable women are recycling products, in this case, plarn, to keep the environment clean and healthy, and also earn an income.

Out of the desolate places has risen hope for some of the internally displaced women in the north east zone of Nigeria.

Their lives, despite the seeming circumstances they found themselves through no fault of their own, is now beginning to yield promise; a grass to grace story.

These women are empowering themselves through the recycling of disposable bags, using them for bags, purses, mats and other things.

One of the women, Cecilia Yohana, said they were prepared through training to be economically self-reliant.

“Out of this work, I have been able to assist my family, pay my children’s school fees, even bought a laptop for myself. Before I started this programme, I didn’t have a job, I used to depend on my husband for everything, but now, I don’t have to wait for my husband to give me anything,” she said.

Another woman, Esther Emmanuel Sunday working with the internally displaced women, also added her voice, saying “we are into the leather recycling bags, the ones that are thrown away in the dustbin. We collect them for use to make bags, purse and whatever.

“We produce all sorts of things like travelling bags, table mats, door mats etc. We are not using new leather but the ones that have already been used. Right now, we are training about 300 IDPs. We are in the fifth week of the training. Most of them are already experts. We want to get them engaged before they go back to their various places.”

Credit should go to the American University of Nigeria (AUN) which in partnership with the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) has trained 300 internally displaced women in Adamawa State on skill acquisition for economic empowerment and self-reliance.

Many of the beneficiaries are vulnerable women drawn from affected insurgency affected local government areas of the state, who were selected by UNHCR with support from the Adamawa State Emergency Management Agency.

Speaking to LEADERSHIP in Yola recently, the coordinator of the training programme, Dr. Jennifer Che said “the main reason why this project was established was the volume of waste in Yola. In Europe we don’t see this amount of rubbish on the streets, so it’s quite shocking. Noting that the women were selected from various IDP camps in Adamawa, she said the United Nations provided about N13 million for the programme which kicked off in December 2015.

According to her, the training was aimed at reducing the psychological trauma suffered by the displaced women and it is a way of providing them with employment opportunities through self-reliance.

“We got a consultant in from the United States of America and we trained several women from various NGOs on how to transform waste nylon bags into objects of art, handbags and purses.

“United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) got in touch with us and also offered us money to train IDPs and we are now training 300 IDPs from Jimeta and Yola for 30 days (six weeks).

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She said the United Nations had promised to extend the programme to other IDP camps across the country.

“The United Nations said they would also like to expand the programme and we are working on the next round which might be about N20,000. The coordinator also said AUN would continue to promote women participation in peace building and entrepreneurship, especially for those displaced by the Boko Haram insurgency in the state.

According to her, to motivate the trainees, AUN provides a meal a day during the six weeks of training and the trainees also receive free training materials including crocheting needles, scissors, and nylon bags.

Che said UNHCR and AUN would organize a closing ceremony that would feature a bazaar sale for the items made by the crocheters.

“We now have improved facilities, like you will see at the Women Development Centre. They had no latrines and electricity, so we fixed all of that. We gave them tools they didn’t have, we bought crocheting needles with the money, and we got mats (they don’t sit on chairs because the ladies are used to sitting on the floor).

The skills training first ran from December 7 to 18 before the yuletide holidays and resumed on January 11. It will continue for another four weeks. It is being carried out in two locations in Yola, each having 150 registered IDPs with each location having a supervisor.

Speaking on the economic benefits of the programme to the women, she explained that some of the women now make over N40,000 monthly.

“I have one lady in particular, she couldn’t read or write very well, but she is now one of the main leaders in this programme. She can now stand in front of over 150 people to train in great confidence; she now makes a minimum of 40,000 a month. She has been able to improve herself, she bought a computer; she attends computer classes to learn how to use the computer. She has also been able to buy books for her children for school, she is probably the main income earner in her household,” she added.

One of the supervisors of the project, Esther Samdo who is also a staff of Yola South Local Government said the women had benefited a lot.

“The programme has transformed the lives of the women. When they produce their products, they sell them and make money from them to take care of their families,” she noted.

Quite a good number of Adamawa women have been trained to be financially independent. In October last year, the Office of Sustainability which handles that engaged about 130 women from the various communities in a similar training that lasted one week. Funding for that training came from a grant received from the ExxonMobil oil company.

The story of many Adamawa women today is one of great transformation that needs to go round. As the economic downturn takes its toll across the country, many more women need to be encouraged to economically assist their families.

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