Turning a Burden into Opportunity
Pius Sawa Murefu
Kampala, Uganda – Nov 2007
Turning a burden into opportunity is the motto of the Kinawataka Women Initiative, an NGO in Kampala.
Initiated in 2003, a group of around one hundred women came together to turn used drinking straws into useful consumer products. The products include footwear, mats, belts, bags, earrings and robes amongst others.
Through the African Medical Research Foundation (AMREF), the Kinawataka Women Initiative has been able to train different groups of women in Kampala to turn the menace of polythene into a resource and keep the environment clean. They have also trained students of Kololo High School in Kampala to produce products.
Benedicta Nanyoga the director of the initiative said their aim is to preserve the environment and to fight poverty through income generation; “people cry of lacking capital to start up a business, but your capital is your head.”
Used drinking straws are all over the place and have affected the soil making it difficult for crops to grow well. Our next step is to reach people living in Internally Displaced People’s Camps in Northern Uganda. These people have lived in camps for over twenty years. We feel introducing this initiative can help to enhance their living conditions. A pair of earrings is priced at two thousand Uganda shillings, slightly above $1.00. A pair of shoes costs $8.80, while a shopping bag costs $14.70 and a double mat $30.00.
Through the initiative the women have been able to meet their domestic needs and pay school fees for their children. Some of the children also help by collecting used drinking straws from soda depots during their free time. Nanyonga says the innovation has impressed many people including tourists and nationals alike. But like any other business there are always challenges. Aside from lacking ideal machines to process raw materials, the initiative also lacks suitable transport for finished goods and a show room for finished products.
With the majority of Ugandan women being unemployed and playing the role of housewives, this initiative is seen as a step in the right direction as it requires little or no investment of funds for training or to acquire and clean discarded straws. Furthermore, the business is easy to embark on and can be attended to on a flexible basis.