I started Wecyclers because I wanted to help tackle the massive waste challenge faced by so many African countries. When I was studying in the US, I frequently came back to my home in Lagos, Nigeria, to visit family, and I saw the stark difference in the quality of life and local environment.
The natural world has taken a backseat to the more pressing problems currently being tackled by African governments. From Senegal to Somalia and Mali to Malawi, governments are busy laying the building blocks in preparation for the African economic revolution we have all been promised by the West. Focus is placed on developing infrastructure like roads and power, tackling corruption, and combating terrorism, while environmental issues seem to be considered superfluous and are pushed to the back burner.
The UN estimates that about 70 to 90 per cent of waste generated in Africa is uncollected. One of the major reasons for this is that there is no viable large-scale collection infrastructure, especially in poor communities. It is common to see uncollected waste clogging community sewage and drainage systems. Unfortunately, pollution has become commonplace and over the years, people have become habituated to it; they are used to living in communities with large garbage piles. People in these communities see waste management as secondary to their day-to-day survival – they simply see it as a price to pay for living in the city. They don’t realise how their dirty neighborhoods perpetuate their own poverty and degenerate their health. From missed work and loss of income when clogged drains flood during the rainy season, to the increase in incidences of malaria from mosquitoes in stagnant water, the environmental conditions in poverty-stricken areas have serious consequences for residents.
Wecyclers was started to tackle this problem by converting the nuisance caused by waste to a source of income. Our model connects the dots for people by showing them the value in waste and providing them with an easy and convenient way to clean up their communities.
Studies have shown that women tend to spend more on their families, compared to men. As an employer, I’ve come to appreciate the importance of women in the workplace. Our women are more reliable and committed. Don’t get me wrong, we have fantastic male employees, but our women are pretty special.
As a social entrepreneur, I see the leadership role women take in positive things happening in the community. It was a surprise to me when I found out that about 85 per cent of our subscribers are women. Of course, women traditionally are saddled with housekeeping but it is still significant that many of the people that sought us out were women.
This goes to show that women should be actively sought after in sustainable development, as facilitators, early adopters and eventual beneficiaries. I’m pleased that the narrative has shifted and I look forward to seeing more activity in this space. As a woman in sustainability, first and foremost, I’m really proud to be doing something I love, something that helps people and the planet. I hope more women will feel encouraged to step up and pursue their dreams in ways that make the world better for us all.
Sustainia is shining a spotlight on inspiring women in sustainability this week to mark International Women’s Day. Find out more on @Sustainia and by following #100solutions #GenderEquality or visit www.sustainia.me
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