Our world now is on the brink of chaos as we continue to pollute and neglect our environment. The largest rainforest burned and a glacier has melted, and people are now alarmed—and rightfully so. But what can we do aside from share articles and posts on social media? We can start small in our own little way by cleaning up our trash, segregating, avoiding single-use plastics, and recycling. It may seem meager compared to what’s happening in our environment now, but it is a huge help. Plus, there are organizations dedicated to helping us reduce the plastic waste all around us like the Invisible Sisters.
The Invisible Sisters is a social enterprise working with marginalized communities, specifically women, who are dedicated to creating something functional out of recycled plastic through crochet and knitting. It was founded in 2008 by Ann Wizer, an American artist who makes sculptures using found objects. She was dedicated to helping the urban poor so she decided to share her skills with the women and educate them about recycling to make functional items. Now it is under founder and CEO Aimee Gloria with Program Director Deseree Mangulabnan.
A Livelihood and a Movement
Not only do the Invisible Sisters help sustainability by recycling and upcycling plastic waste, but they also give the ladies of urban poor communities a livelihood. They uphold a three-fold advocacy, which is (1) to support local craftsmanship, (2) to see to it that there is a transformative change in women, and (3) to raise environmental awareness. It is truly an organization dedicated to making a change in different aspects that our country needs.
A Factory without Walls
The women working on the crafting for the Invisible Sisters are able to do it in the comfort of their community, where they create these crafts together in one of the women’s homes and in their own time as well. This is so that they are still able to still carry out their responsibilities at home and care for their families. The Invisible Sisters provide a livelihood for these women so that they are able to earn money and utilize their time and their skills effectively. They don’t tie down these women to their organization alone because they understand that they may have other sources of income they would like to do, like managing their small stores and other work they may have.
A Humbling Experience
Deseree Mangulabnan, the new program director for Invisible Sisters, shared her experience with managing the communities. “It is a humbling experience seeing the women—mothers and grandmothers crocheting recycled plastics as a means of income.” She shared the challenges she faces as a new addition to the organization, where she juggles both managing a business as well as providing for the communities. These hand-made items do not come cheap so she wishes to educate people regarding social enterprises and why hand-made products like these are pricier than factory-made items—simply because they have a community they need to provide for. Mangulabnan wants to build a strong platform online and utilize social media sites with the goal to educate people on what they do, who they work with, and what they’re working for—their three-fold advocacy.
According to Mangulabnan, Invisible refers to two things, (1) the women who are not able to participate in the formal economy and (2) the trash that is being ignored by many. “These two can be utilized to contribute into something positive.”
Although these two things may seem invisible to many, we believe that it is high time to change all that. Women in the urban poor are more capable than what others would choose to believe and they could even incorporate recycling with what they do for a living. Invisible Sisters, contrary to their name, should be more visible now more than ever because these are the small changes we need to turn around the damages we did to our environment.
Invisible Sisters is a brand that screams environmental awareness, Filipino ingenuity, and women empowerment. And it is time to make them visible so that we can make an impact and showcase what Filipinos can do.
If you want to help out, visit their social media sites @InvisibleSistersPH both on Facebook and on Instagram to buy their products or simply visit Kultura at SM Stores, where their products are sold under Crafts for a Cause.