Gambian recycling queens fight the patriarchy with peanuts and plastic | Global Ideas | DW | 03.03.2020
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Global Ideas

Gambian recycling queens fight the patriarchy with peanuts and plastic

Gambian women are tackling the country's growing waste problem by turning old plastic bags into purses and jewelry thanks to the Women's Initiative — The Gambia. And they're breaking with gender norms in the process.

Watch video 07:10

Gambia: The Queen of Recycling

Project goal: Empowering women and youths, environmental protection and recycling

Project budget: $50,000 (€44,700) from the United Nations Development Programme

Project partner: United Purpose

Project duration: 2012 - present

A number of African countries, including Kenya, have banned plastic bags. Still, their use persists across the continent and the world, largely because they're light, robust and easy to come by. The Gambia is no exception. As in many other countries, where they are not properly disposed of, the bags end up on the streets, in rivers and off the coast of Africa's smallest state.

Even small villages haven't escaped the deluge.

In the late 1990s, Isatou Ceesay decided she had to do something to clean up her home village Njau near the border to Senegal. So she set up a small recycling center with four other women and developed a technique to cut plastic bags into long strips that can be repurposed into new bags, purses, toys and jewelry.

Her women's initiative now also produces and sells briquettes made from leaves and the shells of nuts.

Now Ceesay works with thousands of women across the country through the Women's Initiative — The Gambia. Income earned from their sale funds reading and writing courses for the women, and affords them some independence in a deeply patriarchal country.

A film by Wiebke Feuersenger

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