Early morning in Kampala, Uganda.
Many are rushing for work, walking by train tracks in the not so fortunate areas of the city.
There is one lady, in her uniform collecting plastic bottles. She wakes up early each morning to collect nearly 15 kg of bottles and brings them back to the plastic collection center established by Coca-Cola.
Her name is Owimana Oliver, she is a mother of 8 and a grandmother of one child.
She started collecting plastic bottles after her business in children’s clothing went sideways and her husband at the time did not permit her or her 8 kids to come back home. She has been collecting bottles for recycling in Kampala for a living.
Owimana says “ There is nothing that will stop me from collecting. I am going to collect plastic bottles all my life”.
With her income she has been able to build a house for herself and family with 9 doors for some of which she has tenants. She is a fine example of one of the 30 5by20 women working in collaboration with plastic collection centers in Uganda.
It was not easy ride for Owimana. It required her determination and commitment.
Additionally, there was a lot of envy and jealousy in her community. But she is a hard-worker and a fine example for other women in her community whom often come knocking at her door for advice on how they can follow her route. She tells them “You can also become like me, because you don’t need capital to start collecting. All you need is to be determined, wake up early in the morning, collect those plastics and take them to the Plastic Collection Center and you will be paid cash. People have said we are not mad like you- those same people are now my tenants”.
“Initially I was collecting haphazardly without thinking about health and safety. But when Coca-Cola set up the collection center they insisted on health and safety of the people that are collecting, so they gave them boots, overalls and gloves. So since that time we are collecting in a safe way and we are assured there is a ready market for our collected bottles” stated Owimana. The plastic collection center in Uganda set up by Century Bottling Company our local bottling partners of The Coca-Cola Company assures a security of demand for the collectors and helps us as to collect the plastic bottles off the street. They are then sold to be recycled again and again, giving back to nature and society.
I am a mother of one and can feel the drive she has to support her children. Yet I really took my hat off and was stunned by how she brought this determination to life every sunrise. Even more energizing was her outlook for a better future for her children as they finish university and the life she envisions building new homes for them.
More on Journey
- Building Stronger Businesses, Families and Communities One Woman at a Time: A 5by20 Infographic
- Opinion: At Davos, Investing in Women Emerges as a Business Strategy
- Every Drop Matters, Especially to Women and Girls
- The “Passion” for Sustainable Agriculture in Uganda
- A STRYDE Forward for Youth: Creating Opportunities in Rural East Africa