“I don’t want to just create livelihoods and income. I want to create sustainable, eco-ethical products. It can be a win-win situation for everybody.”
At Manila’s Payatas waste dump, which is home to 12,000 families, women developed a means to earn a living by recycling scrap material to make rugs. When middlemen got involved, they took the bulk of the profits, leaving the women earnings of US$0.02 per rug. In 2007, Reese Fernandez cofounded Rags2Riches, a social enterprise company that revolutionized the women’s business practices by arranging for them to sell their products direct to retailers. Fernandez and her team of young professionals sought advice from designers, who demonstrated how the rugs could be transformed into fashion handbags, eyeglass cases and wine bottle holders, all for sale in top-end shops. About 300 women now work for Rags2Riches.