Eco-friendly bags: Deaf women in Ethiopia fighting plastics pollution

The United Nations says 34 out of 54 countries in Africa have already put in place legislation against single-use plastic bags. However, it says implementation of the laws remains weak in many of them. In Ethiopia, where different types of plastic bags are still in use, a group of deaf women is striving to make a change. They’ve been making paper bags for sale and are also using sign language to urge more people to use less damaging packaging.

But as CGTN’s Colletta Wanjohi reports orders for paper bags are increasing as more companies and individuals are convinced by these women that ” no plastics” is the way to go.

They are all deaf but they have a loud message for all.

“We want to be role models for other deaf communities. We want to show our work and sustainability to the world, ” Tigist Alemayehu, Project Manager, TEKI Paper

The change is slow but gradual.

So far, mainly corporate companies have become clients.

“Teki Paper” has become popular on social media as the women record short sign language lessons to create awareness. Teki is an Amharic word loosely meaning “replacing”.

The company is advocating for the government of Ethiopia to allocate the whole paper bag industry to people with disabilities to enable many more to get employment.”

Tigist says they want to attract more focus on people with hearing disabilities who lack opportunities:

Tigist Alemayehu – Project Manager, TEKI Paper: “We are the voice of the deaf community as well. People don’t believe that deaf people can, but we are showing them that sign language has power. If we have communication problems solved, the barriers are removed. So people should know and understand and know that. And we shout for this. we give our voice for deaf communities.”

For now, about 30 women are employed here.

But with a grant of 550,000 dollars provided by the U.S. government over the next three years, they can accommodate more deaf women.

Ambassador Tracy Jacobson, U.S. Charge d’Affaires, Ethiopia submits: “With our financial support, this wonderful company will grow to include 200 additional workplaces for young deaf women. It is contributing to sustainable economic environmental growth.”

The United Nations warns that 11 million tonnes of plastic waste flow each year into the ocean and this could triple by 2040.

And these women say they will continue proving that with support, people with disabilities can help rid the continent of plastics.