A 15-year-old girl based in Kisumu has called upon the government and peers to step up in conservation efforts and innovative ways to eradicate the hyacinth menace.
Rahmina Paulette spoke to KNA at the Women in Manufacturing Conference as she elaborated what her company has embarked on towards improving Lake Victoria by recycling hyacinth and creating baskets and bags to sell.
“I was inspired to research hyacinth when we got stuck in the lake in 2016 while on a boat ride. My research resulted me to start an enterprise that uses hyacinth as the raw materials to make baskets and bags,” said Rahmina
With the assistance and mentorship of her mother, the teen founded the Rahmina Foundation in 2017 to accelerate her conservation efforts.
“The idea of making papers from recycled waste paper and also water hyacinth came to me in 2016 and was to reduce the amount of deforestation here in Kenya, but it wasn’t until 2017 that it became official business,” she added
So far, the enterprise focuses on converting hyacinth into baskets, bags and even paper.
At a young age, Rahmina has achieved so much in being an environmental conservation activist and also being an entrepreneur that has so far employed 11 staff, three permanent and eight temporary staff, who are mainly women.
Back in Kisumu County, she has met with several leaders including Kisumu Governor Prof. Peter Anyang’ Nyong’o, who commended her work and efforts towards environmental conservation and innovation
She has also earned many awards since 2016 including Little Miss Kenya Kisumu County in 2016, Green Kids Award in 2018, Environmental Ambassador Kisumu County in 2018, Eco Warrior Tourism Change Maker Award in 2019 amid others.
Her enterprise not only serves as an economic empowerment opportunity, but also creates youth employment, promotes environmental sustainability, and protects aquatic life.
Remarkably, her enterprise is under the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) which are global goals that serve as a blueprint to achieve a more sustainable future. The enterprise falls under six SDGs, namely; Clean Water and Sanitation (SDG 6), Decent Work and Economic Growth (SDG 8), Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure (SDG 9), Sustainable Cities and Communities (SDG 11), Climate Action (SDG 13), Life Below Water (SDG 14), and Life on Land (SDG 15).
The year 11 student at Kisumu Senior Academy stated that her main target market is schools for the recycled paper from hyacinth and hotels for the hyacinth mats
Rahmina is attending the ongoing Women in Manufacturing conference in Eldoret, which aims at encouraging women to venture into the manufacturing sector through mentorship and networking.
“Our main challenge in this business at the moment is accessing financial empowerment, and a need for a workshop to scale up on our products and have a physical location. Currently, our market is mostly online and we only do deliveries,” she added
The Women in Manufacturing (WIM) Programme was established in 2017 by the Kenya Association of Manufacturers (KAM) with an aim to see a rise in the involvement of women within the manufacturing sector in Kenya.
The programme provides an opportunity for mentorship, skills-building, networking, marketing and market development support.
According to a report by KAM, women make up only 22 percent of the manufacturing labour force as compared to 55 percent of the global workforce.
She called upon her peers to not only focus on their studies, but also venture into beneficial activities as upcoming youth.
“If you’re doing something dealing with the environment or climate change, just know that it will affect negatively or positively the generation to come. Thus, it’s our duty to make a change in this world,” she added
To the government, she asked that it supports such initiatives through partnerships to help them expand more in terms of production.
“When we increase the production of hyacinth-based products, it means that the levels of hyacinth in Lake Victoria will also reduce,” she concluded.
She joined other entrepreneurs and women manufacturers in the WIM conference in Eldoret to learn, share and interact to scale up her enterprise.
At the conference, the CAS for Ministry of Industrialization, Trade and Enterprise Development David Osiany on Wednesday commended KAM for convening the WIM conference, citing women and girls as disadvantaged and often left behind in the manufacturing and industrialization sector.