Changing mindsets with waste

Posted June 29, 2016 from Nigeria
Co existence in nature
Wall decoration depicting co-existence in nature...made with tailors waste

This is Tosin Turn Trash to Treasure 5T (TTTTT). The full name is Turn trash to treasure; turn abused women to assets. Itis a project aimed at empowering women by using trash to make treasure in order to encourage abused women to add value to their lives, walk out of abuse, learn new skills, be economically empowered and jump back into the community to become mentor, community leader and voice for the oppressed.

It is a double edged solution that tackles both violence against women and environmental degradation. When we heal women we heal the earth, when we heal the earth we heal women, the earth and women nurture humanity. Stop violence against women, stop environmental degradation.

Although, this idea was born in 2011 but it did not take off until 2014, when the pilot project was done at Ibasa riverside community in Lagos, Nigeria.

Why the gap of three years- 2011 to 2014? Hmn, these years in between was used to research, study and test the idea.It is an idea borne out of my experience with domestic violence. When I became emancipated, I knew that the best way to appreciate the universe is to liberate other women with the method that empowers me.

The rent we pay for using the earth and its free resourcesis to live in it, and leave it better then we met it while carrying other community members alongside in the change process. TTTTT focuses on ending violence against women on Earth.

You will be wondering, what has ending violence against women got to do with waste? That’s what people ask too, you are not strange.

Trash to treasure was initiated to debunk the idea of the ‘feeling of apathy’ after being violated by a loved one in our community. We always hear victim and bystanders say -he/she treated me/her like trash” those are the women we want to work with, women who were treated as trash but want to regain their lives back. As a survival of domestic violence, that was how I felt too.

Now it is a cliché in my country, where we always say, he treated her like trash, but instead of celebrating the way he treated her, I decided to do something positive with the situation, to turn the table around for abused women who want to be transformed. If he treated me like trash, it is his lot, but what I do with trash is my lot, the way I react matters a lot, especially to the next generation of females who want to make a change happen. So I began to turn trash to treasure.

TTTTT is an idea that is initiated to change the society’s mindset about theirresponse to violence against women while using trash as an analogy.

For a long time, gender-based violence against women and girls was not even perceived as a problem, let alone as a human rights violation in Nigeria. The Criminal Code considers assault on a woman as a misdemeanor while assault on a man is a felony. Nigeria signed and ratified CEDAW on June 13, 1985 without any reservations. It also ratified the Optional Protocol to CEDAW on November 22, 2004. CEDAW provides the basis for ensuring equality between men and women. It urges state parties to condemn discrimination against women in all its forms and pursue without delay a policy of eliminating discrimination against women by embodying the principles of equality of men and women in the Constitutions.

Stephane Mikala of Amnesty International (2005): released a reportin Lagos that “Up to two-thirds of women in certain communities in Lagos State, Nigeria are believed to have experienced physical, sexual or psychological violence in the family, with neither the Lagos government nor the Federal government doing anything to stem the tide of violence – and in some cases even condoning it”, he went further in his revelation that "On a daily basis, Nigerian women are beaten, raped and even murdered by members of their family for supposed transgressions, which can range from not having meals ready on time to visitingfamily members without their husband’s permission… "Tragically, husbands, partners and fathers are responsible for most of the violence against these women”.

TTTTT creates beautiful asset from trash. We work with actual trash to create beautiful, usable and marketable products that can generate income for women.

So far, we have Turned various trash to treasure, such as :

A. Tailor’s waste

Note book cover Shoes Slippers Hair ruffle Alice band for hair Cloth clips for decorations Handbags Clutch purse and lady’s bag Bangles Earrings Re-washable pads Bubble quilts for office chairs Throw Pillows Bed sheets and pillows Wall decorations

B. Styrofoam to make the following:

14. laptop bag

15. Mobile phone pouch

16. cooking bags

C. Sawdust

17. Arm/Leg rest

18. Tray

19. Wall clock

20. Sole of slippers

D. Tie Dye

21. Old clothes to new designs

E. Old towels

22. Flower pots

We have tested the idea with few women in India- Bangalore 2013, Nigeria 2014, South Sudan in 2016 and we are yearning for more opportunities to involve more women in our comprehensive training module.

My dream is to transform the mindsets of victims of violence through storytelling, experience sharing and empower them with creativity and entrepreneurship skills to that they become more self-conscious and independent. That is why I have spent longer time for the planning and came up with a module for Trash to treasure.

How can you use TTTTT with women?

Imagine an open space near your green land, or your riverside area, where some abused women are gathered together, listening to the sound of water, or clattering of leaves, chatting and singing songs of freedom. This is in contrast with the usual scene of women weeping and consoling one another. This is a space that will be a quiet space, where women can come together under a communal shed, built by the women themselves, with local coconut wood, roofs of palm leaves and waste materials found on the riverside.

That is the exact space, where women will be become empowered through, listening, speaking, creativity and entrepreneurship training in order to live a more fulfilled life. That is not just all.

There are five phases in Turn trash to treasure training.

Phase 1. Healing: this is targeted towards healing the women. Traumatic experience needs three things; Time, speaking about the experience and a listening ear.

Phase 2. Creativity training: this training will expose the women to creative work, it will have double impacts; this opens their minds to create precious objects, for income generation and they can also concentrate as this will engage their mind with positive energy and helps in healing their heart.

Phase 3. Entrepreneurship training: Business creation.

Phase 4. Production of items for sale

Phase 5. Monitoring Mentoring and Evaluation

Some graduates of TTTT have started their own businesses, especially with thewith the support of other organisations, some of our women now own their own sewing machines. Breakforth women Nigeria donates the machines. Another success story is Mrs Rachael from Ibasa training programme, in Lagosshe is currently in South Sudan to train women survivors of war. Slowly buy steadily, we shall contribute our quota to recycling. You can partner with us too. Together we can.

I see a new world, where women can regain their lives by just using their creative talents and believing in themselves. My new life will be dedicated to turning trash into treasure. I want to build a City of creativity; a place where women who were once treated as trash, can reclaim their self esteem, can be confident enough toturn trash to treasure and to turn their passion into action for income generation and modeling other abused women into action. Where they can rise and shine, rise from oppression, from deprivation, from marginalization and become an asset so that we create a new egalitarian society that is built on equality, justice, and respect.


Comments 8

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Nusrat Ara
Jun 29, 2016
Jun 29, 2016

You are a hero Olutosin. Thanks for sharing your story and showing us how we can turn what we consider useless trash into beautiful utility items. Please share pictures of the items.

Jun 29, 2016
Jun 29, 2016

My sister, it took me 4 hours to post that article successfully. It was when I decided to call it a day that I was able to successfully post it. The network connection was a mess. I am now working from a cyber cafe.


Nusrat Ara
Jun 30, 2016
Jun 30, 2016

Thank you so much for taking the trouble. You are an inspiration.
Jun 29, 2016
Jun 29, 2016

This is amazing!! I'm always left astounded by how innovative individuals like yourself can find various methods to minimize the amount of waste in our world. Thank you for inspiring individuals all over the world, such as myself, to do the same. 

With kindest regards,

Helen Ng

Tamarack Verrall
Jul 05, 2016
Jul 05, 2016

Dear Tosin,

Your description of the rent we pay to live on this earth as finding ways to leave it better is so beautiful, and aligns with the ongoing teachings of Indigenous peoples here in my country, and in so many places. It moves my heart to read of all the ways that you continue to build and blend taking care of the earth, with empowering women, connecting this work with the transformation of "trash". Your work and vision of a new world are deeply inspirational.

With love in sisterhood,


Aug 21, 2016
Aug 21, 2016

Hello my sidter, you always support all of us. I love you so deeply. Thank you as always.❤

Aug 21, 2016
Aug 21, 2016

Hello Tosin

You are really amazing. It's quite interesting the way you harness your innovative ideas. Indeed, your work is inspiring.

I'm very sure this empowerment programme you have taken upon your self should in a long way positively impact not only abused women, but the less privileged women and girls.

May God bless your effort.

Aug 21, 2016
Aug 21, 2016

May God bless you wonderful sister. ❤