African Activists for Climate Justice

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Women Warriors of Waste Management

Mojo is one of Ethiopia’s famous road-side town located in the eastern parts of Oromia regional state. Though there are various economic incentives of being a city where may interstate roads meet, this exacted a heavy toll on the cleanliness of the town. It used to be that littering, improper dump of pollutants and a general decline in the town’s hygiene caused great headache to the town’s inhabitants. Town hall discussions and deliberations with local administration used to be characterized with constant exasperation with the towns cleanliness.

This was the daily reality faced by many who resided in this town. It was not until a group of women decided to form a cooperative to take care of the town’s cleanliness that a change in this intractable issue finally occurred thanks to the the training provided by Femnet under the African Activists for Climate Justice (AACJ) project

Nekti, 46, and Kaweeda , 48, are among the many women who have seen these benefits as they attend training and community dialogues organized by AACJ project Through Femnet. The 2020-2025 project is expected to directly benefit about 4,000 people in oromia, the northern part of Ethiopia. These training aimed to orient Mojo habitants to be hygienic and to encourage the community to participate in setting up mitigating measures against environmental pollution through interface consultations using focused Group Discussions and In-depth interviews.

Marida, 29, is equally proud of the impact she’s had. She heads an association of 45 women that advocates for better waste management in their community. Dozens of women in the association make and sell products from collected plastic waste. Others have recently been trained in making compost from organic waste.

“When I first came to live in this community 21 years ago, the surroundings were polluted with waste and everyone in Mojo criticized our community for being extremely filthy,” she says.

“Today, we clean our surroundings twice a week, segregate our own waste, collect plastic bottles from all the homes to sell to scrap dealers, and recycle. You will see that our community is one of the cleanest residential communities in Oromia. I have also become very passionate about advocating for proper waste management. I always call out people who litter in the streets, whether they like it or not!”

Government support Mojo's women initiative

These women have embarked on the journey of involving all in the care of the town. They had noted that if the responsibility of being a caretaker lay with a few of them, many would return to their old ways. Hence, they proposed that the town administration institute a town-wide directive by approval of the local town municipal council. This directive would fine any person who littered and was witnessed doing so on the town’s streets will be punished with 400 Ethiopian Birr. The effect of such a directive was near instantaneous. Fueled by a sense of urgency, the habitants of Mojo were made more responsible towards the state of their town. Even though directives and legislations were not ideal, they were more than able to cure this town of its ills. This is the case when a directive has a broad base of support. All are invested in the future of this town’s appearance. It was one of the most memorable collaborations between members of women’s groups, society, and administration to change the face of Mojo for the better.

Empowering communities through trainings

Poorer communities are often the ones that are the most vulnerable to climate change. This is due to a number of factors: as urban centers develop waste increases but without proper waste management systems; developed countries often export their waste to developing countries that cannot properly manage it; lack of education leads to improper waste practices, like burning or burying trash; the location of these communities along rivers and shores leads to a buildup of ocean bound litter. 

However, this vulnerability also provides an inherent incentive. Those who live in these communities see an immediate benefit to clean-up efforts. When a project like AACJ provides additional benefits – like training, safe working conditions, and monetary incentives – it further empowers communities to actively participate in sustainability efforts. By empowering communities in this area and educating them about the dangers of plastic pollution, we simultaneously clean the global environment while creating a better quality of life for those within these communities.

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