By Saheed Alawode
Bilikiss Adebiyi-Abiola’ WeCyclers
Oshodi on a Monday morning is always awake; from the akara sellers to the puff pastry hawkers, the sachet water sellers to the Igbo trader selling ‘bend-down select’ or ‘okiririka’, every sale seems to be with the floor being littered with leather bags; newspapers and all sorts of waste materials. This, has perhaps, made some individuals to assume Lagos State – the commercial nerve of Nigeria – is gradually turning to one of the dirtiest States in the country.
While Lagos State is trying to solve the big equation, shuttling between LAWMA and Vision Scape, a group of Nigerian women have taken it upon themselves to try their best to rid the state of this avoidable mess. And one of the leading figures in this noble act is the MIT-trained software engineer, Bilikiss Adebiyi-Abiola.
To tackle this menace Adebiyi- Abiola established a waste management company called WeCyclers. The firm is committed to rid Lagos of its mammoth heaps of waste by introducing new initiatives to complement the old ways. WeCylers offers cash incentives to residents of low-income neighborhoods in Lagos and the staffs often trawl around on tricycles.
The waste management company also offers a recycling service using a fleet of low-cost cargo bikes. Sixty percent of the company’s employees are women, with taking on management roles. In 2015 the social venture received $55,000 in backing from the Steve Case Foundation and also recently emerged as the winner of the Brussels-based King Baudouin Foundation’s 200,000 euro Africa’s Development prize, thereby becoming the first environment-inclined organisation to win the prize since its inception in 1980.
Olamide Babajide-Ayeni’s Pearl Recycling
Another illustrious woman, who is also trying to make a difference in the waste management sector, is Olamide Babajide-Ayeni, who launched her up-cycling company called Pearl Recycling in 2014. The waste management firm makes eco-friendly products such as paneled mirrors and decorative furniture from items like wood, straw and other materials people throw away. Likewise, the company pays cleaners at parties to collect and sort waste and also offer discounts to customers who are willing to turn in rubbish.
Olabanke Subair’s Cyrus45
A creative amazon, 28-years-old Olabanke Subair is also one of the cornerstones in this small but emerging industry in Lagos. The energetic advertising executive realized her love for the waste business while walking by unused tyres and small refuse dumps.
Subair is the creative director of Cyrus45, which converts unused tyres into furniture. Like the other women in the industry, she has to navigate her ways around the challenges businesswomen face.
“One of the challenges of being in the manufacturing sector is being respected,’’ Subair said, adding that “It can be difficult working with artisans who are men 99.9 percent of the time because they struggle to take instructions from a woman… furniture/carpentry making has been deemed a man’s job.”
Although she feels things are changing because people, especially men, are now more open-minded and beginning to see the immense contributions that the women too can bring to the table with their amazing entrepreneurial abilities.
Partnership between Government and Private Sector is Key – UNILAG Don
Commenting on the role of women and the need for government to partner with the private sector on waste management, gender awareness expert and professor of sociology at the University of Lagos, Olufunmilayo Bammeke said:
“There should be public-private partnership in confronting waste disposal and management in Lagos State with the involvement of several entrepreneurs. Never should government restrict waste management to a single agency in Lagos State”.
With the decision of these bold and industrious women to go into waste management, and with adequate public-private partnership, Lagosians might just be a step away from achieving a dirt free Lagos; which would surely contribute to the overall well-being of the people and attract more local, national and foreign investors.