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Girls & Women

Meet Kwaku Kyei of Recnowa Initiative

Meet Kwaku Kyei. He's one of 10 finalists for the 2016 Waislitz Global Citizen Award, which gives a total of $100,000 to three individuals who excel in their work to end extreme poverty. And he needs you to vote to make him one of the three winners! After Global Citizens around the world pick their three favorites, an expert panel of judges will rank them in first, second, and third place. Kwaku could win up to $50,000 with your help! Vote here


Name of Applicant: Kwaku Kyei
OrganizationRecnowa Initiative
Title / Position: President
Issue Area(s): Girls & Women | Education | Water & Sanitation | Environment    
Region of Work: Africa –– Ghana

Vote for Kwaku here!

About Recnowa Initiative

Established in 2008, the Recnowa Initiative is a for-impact social enterprise that trains and employs the physically challenged, children living in the street, and women from disadvantaged communities in Ghana to transform plastic and other material waste from the streets into well-designed fashion items and products for daily use. Through job skills and fair trade, Recnowa works to lift these people  out of poverty and create sustainable livelihoods. Recnowa has well-qualified overseers who are competent, committed, and dynamic. A good number of the staff have bachelor’s degrees and Higher National Diplomas, and have participated in professional-building workshops, conferences, and training sessions at home and abroad. They are ready to learn and build on their extensive experience working with these vulnerable groups. Recnowa is comprised of a governing body board of trustees, and a management team that oversees the day-to-day business of the organization.

It has won three international awards including the AGFUND International Prize, UNFCCC Light House Activity Award 2013, and SEED Initiative Award 2011.

Mission Statement

To innovate with everyday waste materials to produce high-quality fashion-driven goods that appeal to both the local and international fair trade markets, while improving the quality of life of youth in Ghana through job creation, poverty reduction, and sustainable development.

Why Kwaku Should Win This Award

Concerned with the plastic waste wreaking environmental havoc in Kumasi, and the increasing poverty and plight of street youth and people with disabilities begging on the streets of the city, I took a bold step in 2008.

My goal was to help protect and improve the lives of these people by restoring their dignity so they could find jobs and develop into respected citizens. This led to the birth of Recnowa Initiative, a for-impact non-profit social enterprise that trains street youth and people with disabilities to turn plastic and other material waste and into reusable products. We provide opportunities to lift people out of poverty through sustainable livelihoods and fair trade.

Recnowa is a platform for inspiration. We give the often-ignored a chance to engage in creativity while also contributing to the fight against plastic waste. By upcycling waste into high-fashion goods, the people we work with build self-esteem and business skills. Empowered, they can initiate community development projects, hold leadership roles within their communities, and participate in the financial management of their households.

The Recnowa Initiative has created employment opportunities for over 130 people. Their average household has five people, resulting in 650 people who have benefited directly. Over 20 million plastic bags have been removed from the waste stream and up-cycled into useful products. Seventeen micro-flush toilet facilities made from plastic bottles have been built to serve more 1,000 girls from deprived communities. This enables them to stay in school, successfully graduate, secure good jobs, and ultimately reduces poverty. Twelve-hundred school children have received backpacks made with plastic waste.

Winning the award would enable Recnowa Initiative to address the four problems of poverty, waste management, energy poverty, and sanitation for girls. The Global Citizen Waislitz Award of $50,000 from will help us remove 270,000 plastic water bags littering our streets to manufacture 2,000 solar-powered backpacks for school children without electricity. At home they rely on toxic and expensive fuel to study at night. These backpacks will reduce the use of kerosene, which causes accidents and illness.

The award will allow us to build 20 plastic-bottle micro-flush toilets in five deprived communities. These facilities provide proper sanitation and improve school attendance for 1,000 girls who can’t attend school during their menstruation. It will also allow us to train 10 unemployed young women as Plastic Bottle Micro-Flush Toilet Entrepreneurs (PBMTE). Building these toilets creates a sustainable livelihood for the women and helps bring this technology to scale.