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 www.strawbags.org.
Posted By Annika Allman
Posted Jun 28th, 2010