Umugandu: A Model
The thick layer of trash and pollution that haunts many third world countries is completely absent from the Rwandan landscape. Rwandans cherish their lush green lands – it is a place where plastic bags have been banned since 2008, and where much of the energy is naturally created.
At times it is hard to believe that this is the seventh poorest country on earth. Rwanda is one of the cleanest of all countries in Africa due in large part to President Paul Kagame’s national cleanup day which takes place on the last Saturday of every month. On this day, known as “umuganda,” Rwanda shuts down -motorists are not allowed on the street and every inhabitant, from children to officials, must participate in picking up any garbage that may be scattered around their neighborhood.
“There was not a soul on the street,” said Same Sky Founder Francine LeFrak who arrived in Rwanda the morning of Umugandu. “It was an absolute ghost town.”
Elizabeth Long, who accompanied Mrs. LeFrak on the trip to Rwanda, recalls that they were the only vehicle in all of Kigali, which is the capital of Rwanda and the most developed of cities.
Mrs. LeFrak and the Same Sky team were supposed to meet with the women they employ on the morning of Umugandu, but they were last minute informed that it would have to wait until the afternoon, due to the fact that it is illegal to not participate in Umugandu.
So let’s face it, in a time when Americans consume 1,500 plastic bottles per second and scientists continuously warn us of global warming, we can look to Rwanda to teach us a thing or two on the betterment of the environment.
Here at Same Sky we would like to take part in a downsized version of Umuganda. Although it may be quite impossible to clear the cars from the streets of New York City for the day, we will at the very least forego plastic for Umugandu, and do our part in maintaining health and cleanliness in the various neighborhoods that the Same Sky team inhabits. We hope you join the cause, and please send us letters of your Umugandu experiences.
-Erin NoonanFiled under TRUNK SHOWS | Comments: 0