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Sharjah: Meet the ‘recycling queen’ who has been fighting plastic pollution for over 25 years – News

Currently, she spearheads over 117 women’s empowerment and recycling projects across The Gambia.

Published: Friday, September 15, 2023, 6:00 am

Last update: Friday, September 15, 2023, 10:20 p.m.

For Isatou Cissay, opportunities are like ripe mangoes. You grab them and never let go. When he saw the opportunity to rid his Gambian village of harmful plastic bags 25 years ago, he grabbed them with both hands. Currently, she spearheads over 117 women’s empowerment and recycling projects across The Gambia.

“The project not only made my village clean but also empowered the women financially,” she said. “And as Nobel Prize-winning activist Dr. Mohammed Younus has noted, when women control money, their families are more likely to benefit from it.”

Cissay, a Gambian activist and social entrepreneur popularly known as the ‘Queen of Recycling’, addressed the crowd on the second day of the 12th edition of the International Government Communication Forum (IGCF) which began in Sharjah on Wednesday. Organized under the theme ‘Today’s resources… tomorrow’s wealth’, the meeting discussed how to find solutions to the sustainability problems facing the world.

One plastic bag at a time

Despite being forced to leave school to work, Cissay had a lot of imagination and was excellent at working with the environment. It was a chance encounter with a Peace Corps member named Peggy that changed Cissay’s life. “She wanted to learn my language and I taught her,” she said. “At the same time, she talked to me about sustainability, plastic waste and other environmental issues.”

He began to notice the death of animals in his village of N’jau. “People said it was due to some strange illness,” he said. But with the knowledge Peggy passed on to her, Cissay knew that the animals did not die of any disease.

To prove that the animals were dying because of the plastic, he went to the town butchers and begged them to allow him to examine the intestines of the dead animals. “With that I convinced them that plastic was bad for animals. Additionally, people began burning plastic bags as fuel. “I was able to convince them to stop it.”

So Cissay came up with the idea of ​​recycling plastic bags. She started the movement called “One Plastic Bag” to teach women the skills of recycling waste and transforming it into products that generate income for families. “First we started turning them into purses,” she said. “Then we expanded into other products.”

Women Empowerment

When she started hiring women, Cissay noticed how their lives were changing. “These women used their income to buy pots, cook nutritious food, pay school fees, repair their houses and plan their lives,” she said.

His work began to impact the town as a whole. This motivated them to take their work from their village to other places in The Gambia. “In 2012, we registered as a community organization called the Gambia Women’s Initiative,” she said. “Since then, we have expanded our programs to include several other initiatives.”

He gave the example of briquette production. “Instead of traditional charcoal briquettes, we started using coconut shells and shells to make briquettes,” he said. “This reduced pollution and deforestation.”

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