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Thursday, 10 October, 2002, 21:06 GMT 22:06 UK
Rubbish bags pay rural women's way
Baskets made from recycled plastic bags
Weaving magic to create baskets from plastic bags
Jenny Kirkland is a South African woman who uses discarded rubbish to make designer hats, handbags and other accessories which are sold all over the world.

Speaking to BBC World Service's Everywoman programme, she explained how she has recruited 132 women to help her from the Obanjeni community in Kwazulu-Natal and in the process has helped them to provide for their families.

"These women have just blossomed. The ones that work hard are now supporting themselves. They rely on the money to feed their families and put their children through school."

Morale

The So Afr-Eco Community Upliftment Project was established ten years ago as Ms Kirkland explained to "take the hate out of the Zulu hearts and put the hope in."

Drawing workers together from the impoverished community in Zululand, women create fashionable hats, handbags, amts and baskets from discarded plastic shopping bags.

Each hat is made up of approximately 30 plastic bags which are cut into strips and woven together using a crochet hook.

So popular have the products become that each month the women use approximately 30 000 plastic bags.


"The project makes women believe that they are worthy of taking part in the 21st century"

Jenny Kirkland
The project has not only helped to clean up the streets, but it has also helped to raise the women's morale.

Before these women "were barefoot and bleeding with dusty cheeks and tears and ragged clothes living on grass and roots," Jenny Kirkland explained.

"It has changed their lives. It has changed the way that they look at life, crime and Aids. I am getting these mothers to coach their children in the philosophies that I am teaching them."

International

Locally the hats and handbags are sold for between R20 and R40. Now the brightly coloured accessories are also being snapped up by overseas markets.

As orders arrive from as far a field as Canada and Poland, Jenny Kirkland explained how profits from the project go straight back into the women's pockets.

"They get every cent of the money from the sales. I don't take a salary - there is no salary on this planet that could buy for me the joy I feel from this project."

Apart from making a living the women have also chosen to invest in their future.

They currently contribute 10% from their overall income into an adult literacy programme which to date has benefited 41 women.

In Jenny Kirkland's view such training is crucial in raising the women's awareness.

"The African women do the training on the hillside or in a community hall."

"I weave in and out of them and make them believe in themselves; make them believe that they are worthy of taking part in the 21st century."

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Jenny Kirkland talks to Everywoman
"I weave in and out of them and make them believe in themselves"
See also:

04 Mar 02 | Europe
04 Mar 02 | Europe
03 Oct 01 | Asia-Pacific
14 May 01 | South Asia
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