10/10/2009, 00.00
PHILIPPINES
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Against poverty, bags made of rags and waste

by Santosh Digal
Over 300 women of Payatas dump find jobs with the help of young Catholics graduates.

Manila (AsiaNews) – In the Payatas dump of (Manila) 300 women have found an alternative to poverty by making bags from recycled materials, including rags and plastic bottles. This is thanks to the ecological project "Rags to Riches bags” the brain child of some Catholic former students of the Ateneo de Manila University "We are trying to help these women, who are without work - says Reese Fernandez, a student of 25 involved in the project - they look after their home and children the whole day. This prevents them from earning any money".

Payatas is a huge landfill site in the outskirts of Manila. Here, the huts are mixed up with piles of garbage. The sole livelihood of the population is the sale and recycling of waste.

The project started in 2006 when five young graduates decided to create, according to an innovative design, handbags and other items made from recycled materials, involving a group of 20 women in the district. The revenue in the beginning was of only one pesos (0.01 euros) per bag. In just three years but the project has become a huge success. Today the bags are sold at a price of 500 pesos (7 euros) and 300 women are employed and are not even sufficient to meet increasing demands.

Jesuit Father Bienvenido F. Nebres, rector of the university, says that "many students and graduates of the University are involved in projects that aim for the development of poor neighbourhoods of the city”. The priest said these initiatives, in addition to their social role, are a great opportunity for work for young people, often forced to emigrate after graduation.

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