Annika Allman

Annika Allman (Vital Voices Uganda): A Jamaican-Canadian, Annika earned her Bachelor’s degree in Social Development Studies from the University of Waterloo. As an undergraduate student, she acted as Administrator for the Guyana Red Cross Society's Children's Convalescent Home. She has also worked as a policy analyst for the Canadian International Development Agency. At the time of her fellowship, Annika was pursuing a Master of International Affairs in economic and political development, and interning at the Women's Refugee Commission. After her fellowship, Annika wrote: "I will be more sensitive about the way I think and speak about Africa and Africans. Second, I will be more connected to the world. This has boosted my confidence tremendously. The openness and appreciation (of my hosts) helped me change the way I see myself, my value and my capabilities."

The Kinawataka Women’s Initiative: Breathing New Life Into Drinking Straws

28 Jun

From her home in one of Kampala’s poorest neighbourhoods, Benedicta Nangoya has adapted an ancient Buganda custom and turned it into a livelihood, a public service, and a niche. By weaving discarded plastic straws into mats, bags, belts, jewellry and countless other items, this retired mother of five has turned waste into opportunity for herself, for the environment, and for women.

Benedicta and her team collect straws from the local Coca Cola plant and other sites around the city. This in itself is an achievement — Kampala has a serious waste management problem. The straws are brought to Benedicta’s modest home-cum-workshop, then sorted, cleaned, pressed, woven and sewn in a meticulous ten-stage process. Quite deliberately, 80% of her employees and trainees are women. Her aim is to give these women the skills and financial independence to shed the inequalities of their households and societies, and build a sustainable business that can thrive in her absence.

Her five year plan? A three story building: separate rooms for the each stage of the process below ground, a showroom and office on the main floor, and living quarters for her and her 15 foster children on top. She’ll achieve it, with support. On June 26, 2010, Benedicta received a straw pressing machine engineered specifically for her businesses and subsidized by a grant from Vital Voices. This will triple her productivity, and help her meet the rapidly growing demand for her products.

Next time you discard your straw, let’s hope Benedicta finds it.


To see some finished products and to support Benedicta, visit

Posted By Annika Allman

Posted Jun 28th, 2010


  • Ava

    June 28, 2010


    Hi Annika,
    I really enjoyed watching your video profile – I continue to be amazed daily by the resourcefulness of others (both Benidicta and you – I didn’t know you had such a talent for film production 🙂 ). I’m looking forward to reading more…

    • Annika

      June 29, 2010


      Thanks Ava! I’m really excited about visiting other businesses run by members of UWEAL (Uganda Women Entrepreneurs Association). They might not all be this innovative, but they’re all really enterprising.

  • Dara Lipton

    June 29, 2010



    The video was great–so informative and inspirational. You’ve inspired me to start making profiles in Nairobi ASAP.

    Keep up the great work!


  • Erin

    June 29, 2010


    Amazing video Annika! Great storytelling

  • Christy Gillmore

    July 1, 2010


    I adore hearing stories about women entrepreneurs using items that we discard without thinking twice to make beautiful products. It’s amazing how successful her business has become!

  • Mat Heating

    August 20, 2010


    Your stories present some very powerful women that wouldn’t otherwise get the credit they deserve. kudos to you and especially to the entrepreneurs out there making a difference in the world

  • […] KWI, I have had the opportunity to learn more about Benedicta and the organization by watching a video profile created by Annika Allman, a 2010 Peace Fellow, during her time working with Vital Voices in […]

Enter your Comment


Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *