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How Angwan Gwuragwu, FCT women are earning while keeping community clean



By Emiene Erameh

Hadiza Aliyu a mother of 6 children living in Angwan Gwuragwu, a community in Karon-Majigi, close to Lugbe, a suburb of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), earns her living by picking recyclable wastes.

She is the women leader in the community and said she is actively involved in recycling plastic bottles as it enables her to meet her family’s needs.

“If one is able to pick and sell up to 20,000-naira worth of plastics, the profit margin is up to 7, 000. 10,000-naira worth of plastics is 5,000 naira.” She explained.

The money earned is used to augment feeding, the cost of educational items for her children and the day-to-day running of the home.

According to Mrs Aliyu, “this is very helpful considering the poor state of the economy; every kobo counts now”.

PHOTO: Emiene Erameh

Nigeria has seen her inflation rise to 20.52 per cent in August 2022, the highest in 17 years.

She said the revenue she derives from the venture has helped boost the petty trading she was engaged in before she started this new venture of recycling waste under the Women Recyclers Empowerment Initiative.

While the Angwan Gwuragwu community is close to the FCT City centre, it is, however, lacking in many basic amenities such as good roads and proper waste disposal system among others.

Many roads in the community are untarred, and driving through is a tough job, especially during the rainy season.

Another major problem in the community is waste disposal.

In an attempt to address the issue of waste disposal, the community was chosen as one of the locations for the Women Recyclers Empowerment Initiative (WREI).

WREI is a collaboration between the Initiative for the Advancement of Waste Management in Africa (WASTE Africa) and Chanja Datti Ltd.

The organizations have been empowering women in local communities since 2019 and finally launched the Women Recyclers Empowerment Initiative in March 2022.

The Initiative, aside from tackling the menace of plastic pollution, was also developed out of the need to provide women with a sustained means of livelihood, and beyond that, increase their earning capacity and personal development.

Juliet Odhikori, the Programs Manager for WASTE Africa, said the Initiative works with the FCT Waste Management Boards, such as the Abuja Environmental Protection Board (AEPB) and the Satellite Towns Development Department (STDD) to identify areas which have waste issues and need intervention and then situate recycling hubs there. There are currently about 11 recycling hubs managed by Chanja Datti in different areas in the FCT.

“We go into the communities where we have our recycling hubs, we do a needs assessment, we find out if the women are working, is the environment clean?

“What kind of intervention do they need, and then based on our findings, we try to empower these women to help them make money out of waste in their environment”.

Women under the programme are tasked with the collection of plastic bottles from the environment, and then they are sorted, weighed, and sold.

Mr Femi Ige is Chief Growth Officer for Chanja Datti, and he explained that the locations chosen are often times some of the areas where the cash for trash hubs are already operational, noting that the attention is on semi-self-contained communities where the population does not have as much access to economic opportunities and basic amenities.

“We’re mindful of the SDG goals and the importance of women in society. Especially in a society like ours with peculiar economic challenges, which makes earning a living for the women on the fringes of our society double difficult.

“Statistics have shown that women have a higher unemployment rate than men. In the northern-Nigeria region where we are based, there is a high unemployment rate for women in low-income communities due to a lack of education, skills and opportunities to access gainful employment”.

Mr Ige further added that considering the fact that the recycling industry is a fast-thriving Industry, affording these women the opportunity to be a part of this favourable trajectory makes it worthwhile for Chanja Datti.

How does it work?

So far, 40 women have been empowered through the programme. The women who were employed were mostly engaged in the very informal sector prior to joining and some of them were even unemployed and so the initiative has increased their income.

A report by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) notes that the “uneven playing field between women and men comes at a significant economic cost as it hampers productivity and weighs on growth.

The women collect plastic waste in their locality and outside, and when they fall short of the target they have set for themselves, they then buy from large establishments such as hotels, offices and shopping malls which have a high turnover of plastic waste.

PHOTO: Emiene Erameh

This is then stored until WREI officials come around for pick up. It is weighted, and they are paid through designated banks.

The earnings are paid through bank accounts, and so the women were assisted to open bank accounts which they did not have.

This was made possible through a partnership with Jaiz Bank. The partnership allows the women to open accounts with as little as 1 kilogram of waste.

“We now have bank accounts where our money is paid, so this allows us to save as well.”

Ownership of bank accounts and mobile phones, according to the Nigeria Demographic and Health Survey are reflections of autonomy, social functioning.

Apart from Hadiza Aliyu, Hadiza Yahaya, a woman with nine children is another person involved in the initiative, and she credits the initiative with providing her money to become financially independent.

She said the money she makes from the Initiative has enabled her to become financially independent as she no longer has to depend on her husband for all her needs.

“I am able to handle some financial responsibilities in the family, unlike before, and I no longer ask my husband for money to solve every need,” Mrs Yahaya said.

Hauwa Mohammed is credited with collecting the most plastics, she explained that she gathers the bottles by having her children pick them and by buying from large establishments like offices and hotels, and she said she makes a decent turnover from the plastics she collects.

She said this goes into the upkeep of her children, some of whom are still in school.

“I make sure that I do my best because this business is my mainstay”.

Ms Odhikori says waste disposal is not the only channel used to empower women under the Initiative as they explore other channels to help women increase their income streams.

“We go into local communities and do a needs assessment to see if the women are working; if the environment is clean; and what kind of intervention do they need.

“And then, based on our findings, we try to empower these women to help them make money out of waste in their environment and then, beyond that, look at other opportunities that can help them increase their income streams as well. So that is something we are doing with WREI”.

One of such opportunity is a partnership with Coca Cola which supported the Initiative with 3 PET packs of soft drinks, which the women sell to make some profit and then order more drinks to increase their earning power further.

Hadiza Aliyu said that participation in the project has grown as over five women have indicated an interest in joining.

“As we speak, I have the firm commitment of more women in the community who are interested in joining us”.

Challenges with the initiative

Ms Odhikori said the major problem is getting the community to own the Initiative and driving a behavioural change in the community so that the work is not left to the women alone, but everybody plays their part.

“We have difficulty in trying to get the people to change their mindset about keeping the environment clean.

“Yes, people look at their environment, and they are not happy about the fact that it is dirty and all, but they are not ready to do the work to keep their environment clean, so it is the process of driving a behavioural change that is proving to be an uphill task.”

As for Mr Ige, another problem is the level of education and language barrier, which could sometimes be a challenge when it comes to communicating the opportunities that are available.

He also listed logistics and accessibility when picking up the recyclables.

The women who are part of the initiative in the community said some of the challenges they face include a lack of adequate storage space for the waste they collect and a lack of protective equipment such as gloves.

While applauding the Initiative, Mrs Aliyu, the women leader said the women would appreciate it if the organisers of the Initiative fulfilled their promise of giving them a grant as that would help boost the capital base needed to expand the businesses they are currently engaged in.

“The failure to provide this grant has led to many women dropping out of the scheme,” she said.

This story was supported by Nigeria Health Watch through the Solutions Journalism Network, a nonprofit organization dedicated to rigorous and compelling reporting about responses to social problems.

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