WOMAN OF STEEL RECYCLES HER WAY OUT OF POVERTY
Phionah Ayebare, a joyful young mother of two daughters, is known by friends and family in Mbale as “Mayi Scrap.” Mayi Scrap, loosely translated as “Mother Scrap,” is a name she recently earned when she started a successful scrap plastic recycling business in her community.
Previously, Phionah helped her husband in his hardware shop when needed, but she did not have an income source of her own. Her husband gave her what money he could for household supplies and daily necessities, but it was often not enough to cover the bills, much less save for emergencies. The family struggled to afford what they needed and began to fall behind on medical bills.
Stopping by the hardware store one day, a friend of Phionah’s shared news of an upcoming Street Business School (SBS) training called Che Che. Swahili for “sparking,” Che Che is a pilot program started by Street Business School in October 2021 that trains local community leaders in areas further from the capital, Kampala, with a modified SBS curriculum. In keeping with SBS’s social franchise model which follows a train-the-trainer methodology, the leaders in turn shared the educational program with women in their districts. As SBS seeks to reach 1 million people, empowering them to change their circumstances and eradicate poverty, the organization is experimenting with ways to share entrepreneurial training with women beyond Kampala and surrounding areas. If successful, Che Che will bring microbusiness training to thousands more women and families. To date, the pilot program has reached over 700 women in the town of Mbale. With an average of five dependents each, that means 3,500 people have been impacted by the program which typically produces a 211% increase in income for participants.
Phionah was excited to join SBS, learn about microbusiness ownership, and put her new knowledge to work! She learned how to use resources already on hand, how to manage expenditures and profits, and the differences between types of savings — personal, business, and emergency. She also learned to identify microbusiness opportunities around her. Seeing a need for a plastics recycling program in her neighborhood, one sunny Sunday morning Phionahannounced to her church community that she would begin buying used and unneeded plastics. By collecting discarded bottles, jugs, and containers, she could provide a service to the community while making a profit selling the plastics to recycling centers in Kampala.
In the beginning, Phionah purchased a kilo of plastic per week from her neighbors and resold it for a 500 UGX / $0.15 US profit in Kampala. Today, she collects and recycles a whopping 400 kilos of plastic approximately every two weeks. She is happy to report that her business contributes 200,000 UGX or roughly $56 US every two weeks to her family’s finances. With an increasing body of research pointing to women as key change makers for alleviating the climate crisis, Phionah is just one example of the impressive effects women have on their families and communities when empowered with knowledge and resources. What an amazing way to make a difference for her family and her community!