“When We Abuse The Environment, We Are Really Abusing Ourselves” – Isatou Ceesay, Waste Management and Plastic Bag Grassroot Activist
Imagine accumulating a pile of trash without a recycling or waste management service, Messy right? Well Gambian Environmentalist “Isatou Ceesay” sees solutions where others see only problem and to solve the problem of waste management and pollution in Gambia, Isatou Ceesay runs a project in Gambia which recycles plastic waste, and has created work for many women across the country.
As a child who lived in the 70’s and a school dropout in a small village in Gambia, Isatou discovered that she could use plastic bags instead of woven baskets to carry goods because it was stronger and lighter. But as the knowledge evolved, people began to misuse these plastic bags and abandon them after use which constituted pollution of the environment making it harmful to the health. Isatou had an idea to cut the plastic bags into one long strip that could be woven and seeing that women in Gambia weren’t allowed to work but restricted to be caregiving roles, she worked in secret and slowly began sharing her work with other women who joined her.
Isatou started the organization, the Njau Recycling and Income Generation Group with four other women amidst much resistance and taunting in 1998 to educate their fellow villagers on the necessity of reclaiming waste rather than let them pile up behind their houses. Together with these women, they gather waste and bring it to a central location to be used by everyone. This led to the formation of Women’s Initiative Gambia (WIG)
WIG’s mission is to provide women with sound budget management principles through waste recycling which eventually leads to financial empowerment.
In 2012, Isatou was awarded a TIAW “Difference Maker” award in Washington, DC