Qaalli Jinow, 18, used to brave the horrified or amused looks of neighbours as she scoured through city rubbish dumps gathering plastic bags. But now she’s made her environmental business idea a reality, people are praising her for the initiative.
Qaalli and a group of around 50 other girls are turning some of used plastic bags that litter the city into ropes, combining a mission to clean up the streets with a way of making a living.
“We were motivated to start this project by the huge environmental damage caused by plastic bags,” said Qaalli. Plastic bags are everywhere, they are not biodegradable, and often cause the death of animals that swallow them.
The girls involved in the project are mostly students at different schools within the city. They collect the used plastic papers from the streets, markets and neighbourhoods whenever they have time. They clean them and shred them into strands, then twist or plait them to form colourful ropes of varying width and lengths.
It takes about 6 hours to make a 10-metre long rope.
“People were shocked at first,” said Qaalli. “Some of our friends would wonder why we turned to garbage collection, which is normally left to people who can’t get any other work, but when we started producing beautiful ropes that sell for around 4,000 Somali shillings, then they welcomed the idea!”
Among the customers are city dwellers and livestock keepers.
Fatuma Ahmed, a group member, says she was taught the rope making process by her mother.
“I normally make the ropes in the evenings after collecting enough plastic bags during the day. There are a few other girls from the neighbourhood who also embraced the idea and we now earn a living from the venture,” she said.
High school teacher, Barre Abdullahi, praised the girls’ initiative. “The most important thing was for these students to understand how they could to take care of the environment as well as creating a source of income for low income members of the society,” he said.