Chureca Chic; Recycling to Empower Women

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Chureca Chic; Recycling to Empower Women

Managua, NicaraguaLondon, United Kingdom
Organization type: 
nonprofit/ngo/citizen sector
Project Stage:
$10,000 - $50,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

We run a paper recycling workshop in the largest rubbish dump in Central America. We give women the opportunity to earn an income creating paper jewellery and stationary whilst attending a compulsory education programme. We sell the products and aim to be self funding by 2016.

About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

In Nicaragua we tackle: - waste - unemployment - barriers faced by girls to get an education Wherever there are people there is rubbish. In developing countries this leads to large unmonitored landfills and unsustainable waste management systems- La Chureca in Nicaragua is the largest in Central America. Social issues surrounding education (mainly girl's) prevents many from securing formal employment & so scavenging on the dump becomes a job

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

The solutions: - recycling - creation of income opportunities - empowering women to become agents of change in their communities regardless of their educational background. Our workshop combines all of these solutions. We set up a paper recycling chain with local businesses, schools and individuals where no system previously existed. We educate about environmental issues and limit the quantity of rubbish entering the dump. Through recycling scrap paper to create products under our label 'Chureca Chic' we provide an income opportunity for women. And we sell the products to fund our compulsory education programmes. These programmes focus on literacy and social skills to empower women and re-engage them with the labour market.
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

Virgina was illiterate aged 31. 3 years after joining our workshop she can read & write and has started her own community business. We recognise that income alone can't solve long-term problems. Our model is a unique way to address the systematic problem of lack of education leading to a lack of income and earning potential. Local schools & businesses recycle with us when previously there was no system in place. This paper is recycled by women enrolled in our programme who receive an income making the Chureca Chic paper products. They are also enrolled in our compulsory education programme which includes: Literacy, Computing, Child & Family Health, Nutrition and Social Skill Development. All funded by the product sales and donations.

Marketplace: Who else is addressing the problem outlined here? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

Recycling paper is not a new idea. Women’s cooperatives exist. What differentiates us is that we are moving beyond the status-quo cooperative labour practices with an integrated curriculum building women’s skills as business leaders. Our differentiating goal is to be sustainable in all areas of sourcing & product production based on the need for recycling and the abundance of waste material. We have created a pioneering model with impact beyond any market-based solution to poverty in Nicaragua. We aim to become a global example to women’s empowerment, recycling & global sourcing practices.
About You
Earth Education Project
About You
First Name


Last Name


About Your Project
Organization Name

Earth Education Project

Organization Country

, LND, London

Country where this project is creating social impact

, MN, Managua

How long has your organization been operating?

1‐5 years

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Your Solution
Founding Story: Share a story about the “Aha!” moment that led you to get started and/or to see the potential for this to succeed.

I organised a community art day for the families of the La Chureca community in 2009. We made paper maché bowls from recycled paper. I was asked if this technique was used to make paper. On my way home I thought, "if we can give this community the skills to turn rubbish into an object of value as income instead of scavenging for scrap,it can provide them with the tools to lift themselves out of poverty" It developed into a sustainable business model as an answer to unemployment and waste. 4 years later we're a social enterprise charity (registered in the UK & Nicaragua). Other communities have approached us to set up the project in their neighbourhoods. We've been recognised on a national level for our recycling and education programmes

Select Sector(s): To which of Unilever's categories of sustainability does your solution apply?

Waste, Supply Chain Micro-entrepreneurs.

Measurable Impact
Audience: Who have you identified as your customers/recipients and why? How will you get your solution to them or engage them in your initiative?

Our beneficiaries are women living in high risk areas who are socially excluded and lack the eduction to get a stable job. We have a waiting list of women waiting to get on our programme.
Our clients of the Chureca Chic label are eco-conscious consumers and those looking to make a statement through their fashion choices. We have built the current brand on our market research done in Europe. We sell on our website, at markets and aim to get the products into stores in 2014.

Impact: What is the impact of the work to date and expected impact in the future?

4 years since we started, with regular evaluations and developing the programmes to fit the needs, we've created a solution that works. Our participants are not aid beneficiaries; these women are empowered through recycling to address their challenges and that of their community and society as a whole. They are part of a solution to the global problems of waste management and girl's education.
As an organisation we are working towards our goal of becoming self-funding by 2016. We aim to do so through the sales of the recycled Chureca Chic products. In 2012 15% of EEP’s income came from these product sales, doubling 2011’s figure.
The long term goal is to replicate our workshop by training women to run their own cooperatives and connect them up to international markets, creating a self funding training programme and sustainable women-led entities.

Growth, Finance & Leadership
Scaling the Solution: How do you intend to scale your activities over the next two years (e.g., reach new markets, diversify solutions, etc.)? What will make this possible?

We have a budget of £40,000/yr. €200,000 would make a considerable difference allowing us to scale our impact as follows:
-Involve new communities in Nicaragua
-Strengthen our training programs
-Expand our working capital fund to set up the first women run recycling workshops & connect them up to international markets
-Change the sourcing pattern of the fashion industry
The publicity would assist our goal to build an industry-level design programme to offer designer-quality products to reach new markets.
Our recycling and education courses are currently undergoing certification by the Nicaraguan Ministry of Employment. Our team in Nicaragua is expanding CSR partnerships to secure both funding and new sources of raw materials

Financial Sustainability: What is your business model to ensure financial sustainability?

We are creating sustainable supply chains for retailers who may have never sourced from a cooperative vendor. We aim to expand our sales partnerships to satisfy the growing consumer demand for ethically-sourced products and connect to large-scale sales opportunities. We have based our sales plan in higher-end markets that can command fair wages and fuel a sustainable business model that can be scaled and replicated around the world.

Experience: Please provide examples of any previous entrepreneurial initiatives you have pioneered.

I have worked in Costa Rica, Venezuela and Nicaragua for NGOs on donor-funded, community-based programs, effectively administering projects to achieve the desired outcome. I set up this project in 2009 and have successfully fund-raised and built a good base market connecting Chureca Chic to consumers outside of Nicaragua. What we need now is the opportunity to scale up and increase our impact, which we will achieve with this funding.