Yamuna’s Story – How One Woman is Improving Recycling in Sri Lanka
Two years ago, Yamuna Hemanthi – a housewife with interests in giving back to her community – attended a “training of trainers” event hosted by the Municipal Waste Recycling Program grantee Sri Lanka Centre for Development Facilitation-Galle (SLCDF). The goal of the event was to equip local leaders with the necessary skills and knowledge to promote the 3Rs – reduce, reuse, recycle – in southern Sri Lanka. From the beginning, Yamuna demonstrated an enthusiasm for the training content and quickly found creative ways to adapt the knowledge she gained to train her community.
Since then, Yamuna has used that enthusiasm to not only train her family and neighbors, but to also reach several villages along the banks of the Gin Ganga River; to date, she has successfully conducted 63 awareness programs on the 3Rs for 1,150 families. In the communities that she has trained, residents and the Ministry of Health alike have noted improvements in cleanliness and waste management.
Due to her successful engagement with these communities, the Ministry of Health asked Yamuna to help them raise awareness of the 3Rs at other events, connecting her with changemakers in Sri Lanka such as public health inspectors and staff from the Marine Environment Protection Authority.
Recognizing her skills, SLCDF engaged Yamuna in another round of upcycling training where she again applied her creative thinking and conceptualized innovative ways to transform plastic bags into products. She trained 42 women in how to make these upcycled items – including handbags, mats, wall decorations, slippers, baskets, and pencil cases – for household use or to generate income.
Although the SLCDF project has ended, Yamuna remains a champion for the 3Rs: she now employs three women part-time, each earning the average for rural part-time workers of about $60 per month, to make upcycled products in bulk that are sold to villagers and to small boutiques. She also continues to raise awareness of effective waste management among her neighbors.