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June 20, 2018

Student chided as ‘backward witch’ becomes habitat envoy

Hilda Gacheri
Hilda Gacheri

The government’s ban on plastic bags went into effect on August 28, and every Kenyan has been doing their best to find alternatives. Hilda Gacheri, a form 3 student at Materi Girls’ School, Tharaka Nithi county, is one of those who’ve embraced the ban on plastic bags in a very positive way.

When her time to open school came, she had no alternative but to innovate, since she couldn’t use plastic paper bags to carry her school shopping.

At her home in Keria village, Nkubu, they use improvised bags to carry yams. Dried banana leaves put together to make an environment-friendly bag. In fact, she had spent her morning making one, after her mother left her to go to work.

By 3pm on opening day, she wasn’t ready yet. She was running late. She had no bag and getting one would cost her.

She came up with the simplest method ever that was environment friendly, and could not land her in trouble with the law.

Speaking to Word Is, Hilda said she had no idea who took her pictures, which have since gone viral.

Her maths teacher, Solomon Kiguru, positively identified his student and assisted us in reaching out to her.

When talking to her about it, she sounded happy and had no regrets on rocking her ‘bag’.

“I love my environment. I am happy that plastic bags were banned because they do not decompose. Ngombe zikikula hizo nylon papers zinagonjeka, so I’m happy that sahii hazitatumika tena,” Hilda said.

She added, “When you throw away the banana fritters makeshift bag, they can easily decompose and be used as manure.”

Hilda said her friends found it weird when they saw her carrying the bag.

“Waliniambia nitupe hiyo kitu, ati nakaa mshamba,” Hilda said. “Wengine pia waliniambia nakaa mchawi. But I took courage and defended the reason why I’m carrying it. I told them: ‘Don’t discourage me with my bag, let me carry it. It doesn’t matter! Ebu nikae mshamba but najua chenye nimebeba’.”

When asked whether she still has the bag, she said, “Yes, I still have it. I will rock it again when we close school.”

Asked about her teachers’ reaction, Hilda said,  “Teacher mwenye alikua kwa gate aliniuliza what I am carrying, nikamwambia my shopping with my bag. Akaniuliza, ‘Hiyo ni bag?’ Nikamwambia, yes. Akaniambia just get in if it’s your shopping. Then when I came here at school, they did not discourage me, they were like, you are so creative.”

After her pictures went viral on social media, Kenyans proposed that she be the next environment ambassador.

This was what everyone who saw the pictures wanted.

On September 5, she was visited by officials from Nema and appointed Environment Ambassador, despite her pals calling her a ‘backward witch’ for carrying a bag made from banana fritters.


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