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Thu Jun 8, 2017, 06:14 PM

The 81-year-old woman inspiring a nation to recycle

An 81-year-old who set up an all-woman rubbish collection team in her village in Lebanon now has a stream of visitors asking how she did it. For nine months in 2015 and 2016 rubbish piled up on the streets of the capital, Beirut, and even now a lack of landfill sites means some of the city's waste is being thrown in the sea.

Zeinab Mokalled has shown that when government fails, do-it-yourself local initiatives can work. "There used to be dirt everywhere and the kids were filthy," Mokalled says.

She is remembering the 1980s and '90s, when Israel occupied part of the south of the country for 15 years, and waste collection came to a halt in her village, Arabsalim. As the years went by, it piled up, and Mokalled went to the regional governor to ask for help.

Mokalled called on the women of the village to help, not the men - partly because she wanted to empower them, and partly because she thought they would do a better job.

They had no equipment, and no infrastructure. So how to begin?

Mokalled's friend Khadija Farhat bought a lorry out of her own pocket. Mokalled herself turned her back garden into a storage area for recyclable waste.

It didn't seem likely that the 10,000 villagers would pay to have their rubbish collected, so the volunteers paid for it themselves. Nineteen years later they still do, each of 46 members putting in about $40 each year.
"Household recycling was the best way forward," says Mokalled, who named the organisation Call of the Earth.

At: http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-40191270



Zeinab Mokalled

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