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Entrepreneur turns plastic bags choking her community into wearable accessories: 'I saw a lot of plastic bags everywhere'

"Other people made fun of us but we never gave up, we just pressed on, knowing that we were doing it for a good cause."

"Other people made fun of us but we never gave up, we just pressed on, knowing that we were doing it for a good cause."

Photo Credit: iStock

Plastic waste is now being turned into cash thanks to the entrepreneurial vision of Isatou Ceesay, whose organization Women's Initiative Gambia is empowering women to improve their financial situations. 

As detailed by LifeGate, Isatou was inspired to do something about the litter in her village of N'Jau after seeing the negative impact it was having on her community. 

"One day, I stood at the edge of my village staring at the ugly heap of rubbish piled high on the red earth. Amongst the discarded tins, food and bike tyres, one thing stood in my sight. I saw a lot of plastic bags everywhere," Isatou told the outlet, explaining how the problem caused other issues as well.

"Mosquitoes swarmed above murky puddles of water that pooled among the bags on the ground. Some of my neighbour's goats scavenged on the dumpsites … A couple of years ago, butchers found plastic bags knotted in their stomachs," she added

Plastic pollution is a major problem worldwide that innovators are working to solve. To begin making a dent in the problem at home, Isatou and four of her friends began collecting plastic bags from the trash piles on the outskirts of her village, and they crocheted strips of the material into practical and vibrant new bags

"Other people made fun of us but we never gave up, we just pressed on, knowing that we were doing it for a good cause," Isatou told LifeGate. 

In 1997, thanks to Isatou and four other women, the Recycling Centre of N'Jau was born with a mission to educate people in the community about the benefits of repurposing plastic, most of which ends up in landfills

Because of Isatou's vision and hard work, the project has now grown into Women's Initiative Gambia, or WIG, which has an array of ongoing initiatives that are cleaning up the environment and helping poor women in Gambia improve the standard of living for their families.

Other projects supported by WIG include community gardening and food preservation to help prevent vegetables from rotting, a process that releases methane, a powerful, heat-trapping gas. Other recycling initiatives are on the slate as well. 

According to WIG's official website, women working with WIG have "a voice in their own development, as they are trained in income-generating, leadership, and decision-making skills."

"The lesson of my life that I would like to share is that being a school dropout is not the end of a girl's dream in life. While education propels one into achieving their dreams, it is one's will power and believing in one's self that makes all the difference," Isatou shared in a statement for WIG. 

Isatou, who co-authored the children's book "One Plastic Bag" to help raise awareness about plastic waste and recycling, was honored with the World of Difference Award from The International Alliance for Women in 2012.

She was also recognized by media company Green Matters for her pioneering efforts to protect our planet in 2016, while WIG was awarded the Energy Globe National Award that same year.

"Believe in yourself and believe in what you want in life, and go for it. Be prepared to persevere in the face of adversity and success will be yours," Isatou added in her statement on WIG's website.

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