It is September and you have probably received an email from Let’s Do It World or their country collaborators asking you to prepare to embark on what they bill as the biggest global civil action on waste. If you are new to the workings of Let’s Do It World, this is the Non-Governmental Organization based in Europe that is behind the annual World Cleanup Day. They have successfully organized this global annual event since 2018.
Let’s Do It World receives considerable funding from many legitimate organizations globally to pursue their mission. Some of these funders include Hyundai, Raddison Blu, Avis, Telia, Regio, Skype, Toyota, IBM, DHL and hundreds of other corporations. Unfortunately, some of these funders are also consumer brands such as Coca-Cola, which unapologetically produces billions of plastic bottles every year, contributing significantly to the problem of waste globally. Their plastics, most of which are never recycled, continue to kill marine life, pollute the air through open-air incineration in middle and low-income countries, and affect poor communities disproportionately.
Even with this considerable funding, Let’s Do It World does not work with communities and governments globally to help address the issue of waste. Instead, while sitting in some ivory towers in a developed country, they ask marginalised communities globally to organise and use own resources to do a cleanup on a single day in September with Let’s Do It World in-country ‘statisticians’ taking elaborate reports. Let’s Do It World together with their partners then joyride on these efforts from the communities to add to their greenwashing credentials without ever getting their hands dirty.
At Clean Up Kenya we are very concerned that some NGOs from the Global North including Let’s Do It World have no honest or actual involvement in communities in the Global South. These organizations have no actual projects on the ground that help improves waste management infrastructure, nevertheless, they continue to fundraise and use these resources to pursue their fraudulent and skewed environmental agendas.
This is no different to the ‘donor tourists’ who visit informal settlements in our troubled countries and take pictures of malnourished children which they use to fundraise in their countries so that they can get resources to enable their lifestyles while doing token projects in these communities.
Organizations like Let’s Do It World are also not involved in any advocacy work that put pressure on governments to invest more in recycling nor do they ever address the issues of #CorporateSlavery or #ChildLabor or the exploitation of poor women in recycling, which is largely perpetuated by consumer brands from the Global North. Naturally, they can not do that since Coca-Cola is one of their major funders.
In a research we have embarked on since early this year, we have established that 2 in every 3 material recovery workers at Kenyan dumpsites are either children or poor women and 90% of these workers grew up working on these dumps, where often they are under the mercy of cartels and sometimes are paid with garbage food. You will also never also hear these NGOs question the morality of their Coca-Cola collaborators who pay informal recycling workers a paltry 1 USD for every 1000 PET bottles they recover.
These NGOs also never talk about sanitation rights for the urban poor in the Global South. In Africa, including countries like Gambia, Nigeria, Tanzania, Senegal and Kenya, almost all dumpsites (landfills) are installed in poor communities, which poses tremendous risks to the health and livelihoods of real people, many of whom are children. NGOs like Let’s Do It World don’t talk about these things nor do they work with governments where they are based in the Global North to pressure multilateral agencies like the UN Environment who is also their key partners to address these problems. Instead, Kenya is just a statistic and Africa their playground, with little care for the people who wake up on the World Cleanup Day to do a civil service for the environment and the planet.
This year has been a very difficult one for the human race, particularly for Africa. This is especially with the happenings around Corvid 19 pandemic. This disease has had a very disruptive grasp on our lives like never before. Economies have been affected and livelihoods destroyed. Here in Kenya, institutions of learning have been closed for over six months. No one knows when this health crisis will end and whether we will ever be able to fully recover from the disruption this has had on our lives. While the country continues to slowly open up, public gatherings continue to provide a real public health safety risk for all Kenyans.
It is for these reasons that we are calling on all Kenyans, organizations, partners and local authorities to #Boycott this year’s World Cleanup Day to send a clear message to NGOs from the global North that we will not be a statistic. Kenya has real problems with waste and we would prefer honest partnerships in solving these problems. We will not be anyone’s clutch! And even when the pandemic is over, let’s remember every day is World Cleanup Day and let no one tell us to wait for September to do what we have always done in our usual circumstances.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
This article was written by Betterman Simidi Musasia a few days before he stepped down as Clean Up Kenya Chief Executive Officer on 1st September 2020. His new title at Clean Up Kenya is Founder and Patron. He has helped organise over 300 cleanups regionally in the last 10 years. He believes in honest and actual involvement in communities and not PR events. In this picture together with the new Clean Up Kenya Advisory Board Chairman, Martin Muriithi (right) they were in Kayole, Nairobi, doing a door to door community mobilising for the 2019 Clean Up Kenya Kayole Day
ABOUT CLEAN UP KENYA
Clean Up Kenya was established in 2015 to advocate for and promote sustainable public sanitation in Kenya. Since then we have become the defacto national public sanitation advocacy brand. We are also experts in community mobilising for cleanups. We have done numerous cleanups over the years, some of which have been attended by over 1000 volunteers on singular sites. At the core of our work is honest and actual engagement in communities – not PR events. We also run advocacy campaigns holding duty bodies, consumer brands, greenwashing NGOs and other stakeholders to account for unsustainable public sanitation in Kenya and the global South. We receive no funding for our work but collaborate with others on projects.