Selected from an applicant pool of over 1000 projects, the finalists for Cartier Award 2014 come from 15 different countries. They all lead compagnies. UFFP met one of the finalist who became Laureate for Sub- Saharan Africa, at the press launch and lunch of the Cartier Women’s Initiative Award this past October 2014. UFFP met and interviewed the laureates for Subsaharan Africa for this 2014 edition of Cartier prize.
MitiMETH Nigeria. Achenyo IDACHABA
2014 laureate and Winner, for Subsaharan Africa
Aquatic weeds such as the water hyacinth, wich MitiMeth uses to transform it into functionnal articles, pose a major challenge to local communities in Nigeria. And this has been a target of government initiatives to stem the damage they cause, for some years. This also, depletes nutritional resources in the surroundings, leading to drop in the fish population. Achenyo decides then with the help of local artisans experienced in weaving doum palm, to develop products such as a table tidy and a waste basket from tangled weed. MitiMeth has trained so far, people in many different communities, to harvest water hyacinth and weave it into usable products.
By Fériel Berraies Guigny for UNITED FASHION FOR PEACE. Photo Courtesy of UFFP and Diane Cazelles
Interview with UFFP
Mitimeth tell us about the company ? I m Achenyo IDACHABA, founder of a non profit company, MitiMeth that helps tackle environmental problems as well as empowering communities to face up to local challenges. With water hyacinth we teach communities to transform natural waste and transform them into fonctional products and accessories.
Making handicrafts from water weaves? yes we teach communities to be ecofriendly and self sufficient, these two are combined together in what we do. We address an environmental problem, the water weeds that covers the water and deprive it from oxygen, increasing fish shields and actually limits the access to water to communities.We harvest the weeds and we convert them into products. We tackles the problems and in addition to that, we train the communities and we give them skilss so that they can contribute to gather income for themselves.
Who do you employ? currently in the staff we are seven, four women and and three men, and most of our trainings that we have carried out, to aid communities, are mostly women and youth.
Tell us about the products? we have mainly home deco and accessories. We have different patterns that we use, we take the harvested water hyacinth that we dry and we weave it into different patterns. for example, we have the table tidy where you can put your things, flower vases and baskets. We also combine the water hyacinth with other materials like, bamboo and no timber resource and we use that with some other designs. We take a combination of different items as well as non timber resources to come up with with our products.
The areas affected by water hyacinth? they are actually in the Niger Delta Area, there is a lot of pollution by water waste so it is crucial for the communities to find alternatives, for them to pursue their activities. The infestation of the weeds, so we tackles one aspect of it by engaging the communities to find solutions for them.
No need to be highly educated to do it? not at all, no technical skills required, only full labor formed and will power.
Women entrepreneurship in Nigeria? as a woman you tend to work har der to convince people and to show what you represent. It has become a hard sell to explain why, we should fund and empower women in general. Why should governements and institutions contribute to invest in a woman, why empower them within the community. So it does have challenges, i cannot deny that. Things tend to be slower in terms of obtaining goals, and you spend quit a bit of efforts.
What is your vision of what happened with the girls abducted by Boko Haram? even thought all of our work has focused on the private sector, i can only say that the security situation can aslo cause a problem to us. For women, as a business person, so for example, for some other places where we have the problem of infestation of water hyacinth, being a woman can cause of problem. It can slow the process unfortunately. Nevertheless, people have been very receptive, especially the recipient of what we are doing.
How many women empowered so far? We have empowered, 40 women on how to make our products and their objectiv at the end of the day , is that they have found a way to do something with themselves, on opportunity to make money from a resource that is abondant. They see things differently,after six weeks of the official trainings, the women have their own exhibition of products they have made. Past forward the period of july 2014, at the business and economic forum, women were invited to show case their products. At that stage, people never thought that anything good, could come out of these weeds. The women have been empowered. We train women for life, that is essentially what we are doing. And the good effects are here for the women and their family, at the end of the day.
Any thoughts for your north african sisters, fighting against religious oppression? One thing I would like to tell them, look up for opportunities in unexpected places, it is very easy to want, what everybody else is doing. And if you take a step back; someone may put you in a tease, where it will be lifechanging. Taking a step back, looking up for new challenges and then also realise, it will take a lot of efforts, and a long time. So patience is a vertu but ultimately, it will weed, the harvest of all this hard work they put in, in establishing their businesses.
What would you like to say ultimately to UNITED FASHION FOR PEACE readers in the world? I would say, the women have a very strong voice today, and we need to support them. The key message is that, they should keep on the struggle and the strength and at the end of the day, economically empowered women will drive to the PEACE we are looking for.
Thank you Achenyo !