Apr 22 2024

Earth Day Feature: These Nigerian Girls Are Recycling for Girls’ Education


Worldwide, adolescent girls face significant barriers to completing their education. Often, these barriers are exacerbated by environmental factors that disproportionately harm girls. 

In Nigeria, as of 2022, a staggering 7.6 million adolescent girls were out of school — more than half of all girls in the country. Additionally, poor waste management exposes Nigerian girls to health risks, limiting their access to safe environments and perpetuating cycles of poverty and inequality. 

But GLOW club members in Nigeria have found a way to care for the environment and send girls to school – all at the same time. This Earth Day, we’re celebrating Isabella, Angela, Precious, and Toluwani: four girls in Abuja, Nigeria who are creating a better world for girls, one plastic bottle at a time.

A Clean Community for Girls

It all started with a plastic bottle. 

On her way back from school one day, 11-year-old Isabella noticed something that made her enraged: There was trash everywhere. Nigeria produces 32 million tons of waste annually, yet only 30% undergo proper disposal. In fact, Nigeria is in the bottom 30 countries in the world when it comes to waste management practices. The burden of waste collection disproportionately falls on women: women not unlike Isabella. 

“The trash is mostly plastic bottles,” Isabella says. “I knew that something needed to be done.”

She thought this was the perfect opportunity to put the advocacy skills she learned in GLOW Club into practice. She teamed up with three of her fellow club members, and together they started to collect bags and bags of plastic water bottles they found strewn across their neighborhoods.

Support girl-led advocacy at globalgirlsglow.org/donate.

Isabella noticed that her neighborhood was filled with trash – mostly plastic bottles.

In the absence of an efficient waste management system, Isabella and her friends had a difficult task at hand, but they were confident that their determination could create a cleaner community for girls. After school, they would bring their collection of water bottles to their local recycling plant, where they exchanged them for money.

It was then that they realized that they could address two issues simultaneously: the need for a clean environment and girls’ lack of access to educational opportunities. Knowing that many girls could not attend school due to their inability to pay school fees, they returned to the recycling center week after week in hopes that, eventually, they would save enough money to send girls in their community to school. 

“We were inspired to empower girls to go back to school and to create a safe space for everyone in our community.”

As the girls continued to recycle plastic bottles in exchange for money, they started to realize the sheer volume of bottles that needed to be collected to cover the tuition fees of just one girl. 

Toluwani didn’t let the huge number of plastic bottles discourage her from her goal.

“We were inspired to empower girls to go back to school and to create a safe space for everyone in our community,” says Toluwani. “But plastic bottles are light and they don’t cost much. 1kg [of recycled material is worth] around 19 Nigerian Nairas (the equivalent of less than 1 cent USD). That means we would need 200kg [of plastic bottles] to send one girl to school.”

But this obstacle only encouraged the four friends to work harder to reach their goal.

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Over six months, Angela, Isabella, Precious, and Toluwani collected 1,200kg of disposable water bottles — enough to support six girls in their community to attend primary school.

From Plastic Bottles to a Brighter Future 

These GLOW Club members are creating lasting, sustainable change in their community: change that they hope can one day transform Nigeria. 

Angela found a way to connect with her community by starting conversations on the importance of recycling.

In addition to their own recycling efforts, the girls identified various locations in their neighborhoods for proper disposal of trash and hosted meetings to start conversations with community members on how to properly dispose of waste and recycle plastic water bottles and other recyclable materials.

“A highlight of our project was getting to speak to people about how we can all create a clean and safe environment in our community,” Angela reflected. “Together, we are reducing the trash in our neighborhoods.”

The journey to a cleaner community began with Isabella’s walk to school. Now, as a result of her and her friends’ environmental advocacy, other girls in her community will be able to make that same walk through the classroom doors. Girls like Anita, who dreams of one day becoming a doctor. Thanks to Isabella, Angela, Precious, and Toluwani, that dream can now be made possible. 

Global G.L.O.W. mentors girls around the world to become powerful advocates and confident leaders. Since inception, our GLOW Clubs have ignited the power of over 91,000 girls to do 3 transformative things: increase their confidence, strengthen their voice, and build their power. 

This Earth Day, support the environmental advocacy of GLOW Club Members at globalgirlsglow.org/donate. This transformation story has been made possible through our collaboration with Nigeria Reads, who coordinate GLOW Clubs for girls across Nigeria. We would like to extend a special thanks to GLOW Club Coordinator Blessing Archibong for her mentorship to girls like Angela, Isabella, Precious, and Toluwani.

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