Meet Gisele Ihirwe: Turning E-Waste into Wealth
E-waste refers to electronic products nearing the end of their "useful life". For example, computers, televisions, printers, solar products, and more. Many of these products can be reused, refurbished, or recycled.
A study conducted on e-waste in Rwanda showed that electronic and electrical equipment reaching the end of life contains hazardous substances with potential toxicity leading to negative environmental impacts (e.g., lead, mercury, cadmium, batteries, brominated flame retardants, chlorofluorocarbons). If not properly managed, these substances can cause damage to our blood, kidneys, as well as central and peripheral nervous systems - as well as our natural environment.
That’s why in 2014, the Rwanda Green Fund invested USD 1.5 million to develop a national e-waste management strategy as well as the laws, policies and facilities to bring an e-waste industry to life. Thanks to the fund’s investment, Rwanda has now established an e-waste recycling facility, with the capacity to employ more than 1,000 people. The facility is the second state-of-the-art e-waste dismantling and recycling facility in Africa.
Since the facility began operating with Enviroserve Rwanda, the private sector company in partnership with the government has invested to empower women through employment and training opportunities.
Gisele Ihirwe is one young woman who has benefitted from these opportunities. Today, Gisele is a Dismantling Technician at the Rwanda E-Waste Dismantling and Recycling Facility in Bugesera District. She is happy to not only have a job at the facility, but also to contribute to her country’s development using her skills.
‘’Because the Rwanda Green Fund invested in this e-waste recycling plant, I can use my technical skills to protect the environment. I’m proud to help to make the dream of young Rwandans by turning waste into wealth,’’ says Gisele.
Gisele says she expects the e-waste facility to be an opportunity for young Rwandans, especially young women to utilise their capacities to foster green growth.
‘’I hope that in the coming years, Rwanda will be green and young women and men will have great opportunities of getting green jobs. This will help them to earn a living and improve their livelihoods,’’ says Gisele.
‘’It is important to take actions on climate change and protect our environment, because first of all when we protect the environment, we are protecting ourselves. It is a matter of all of us,’’ she adds.
Gisele is one of many Rwandan young women who have benefited from green jobs through the Fund’s investments and are playing a part to mitigate Rwanda’s contribution to climate change.
Since it began operations, the e-waste recycling facility has achieved the following:
- 600 green jobs created
- 7,060 computers refurbished and re-used in schools
- 3,611 tons of e-waste collected
- 3,300 tons of e-waste dismantled
- 715 tons of solar e-waste collected
- 2,145 tons of co₂ emissions mitigated
In addition, 16 e-waste drop-off centres have been set up across the country making it easier for Rwandans to recycle their e-waste. This has also been an opportunity for Rwandans including women to gain meaningful employment, thus improving their lives.