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INSPIRATIONAL WOMEN OF THE MONTH EP. 9 MEET THE HEROINES OF THE SEA
When we launched our ‘Summer by the Sea’ campaign a few months ago, it was in full appreciation of the glorious Mediterranean Sea that surrounds our beautiful islands. But at the same time, we were aware of just how fragile our environment has become. Between climate change impacting our day-to-day lives, micro plastics in our land and waters and an era where rubbish has been dumped anywhere and everywhere – things must change.
Tackling that change is a group of courageous, intelligent and caring women who form part of the eNGO, Żibel. Today the organisation is made up of 5 females and one male, Andrew, who is one of the founding members. The purpose of Żibel is to clean-up our environment, educate our nation and influence our leaders to take the necessary steps to safeguard our children’s future.
We used Marsaxlokk as the stunning backdrop for our ‘Summer by the Sea’ campaign photos and video. In March 2019, just a few months earlier in the same location, Żibel helped to collect 23.98k of plastic, 2kg of recyclable plastic, 196.06kg of glass, 7.78kg of metal, 111.36kg of general rubbish, 204.66kg of tyres, 185.6kg of fishing gear, 36.16kg of batteries, 319kg of bulky waste and just under 1kg of bottle caps.
The numbers of collected waste were astounding. And this was just from one single location.
We caught up with lovely ladies behind the Żibel organisation to understand why the organisation exists, who they are, the impact they’ve had to date and what’s next for them to help keep our island clean. We also wanted to give them some very special Mvintage jewellery to thank them for all the amazing work they do.
Mvintage meets the the Heroines of the Sea
Manya is a Marine Conservation Biologist with a passion for the ocean. As a keen diver and water sports enthusiast, Manya has travelled extensively in her quest to learn more about protecting the seas.
Sohara is a Primary School Teacher with a passion for education and a thirst for knowledge. With her focus firmly set on the future, she feels an overwhelming responsibility to educate our youngest minds on the importance of respecting and taking care of our precious planet.
Bettina is a marketeer and keen environmentalist. Growing up with animals and a family who placed protecting the environment top of their priority list, Bettina focuses on education about eco issues to the nation and helping to undo the damage already done.
Eleanor is a budding law student, currently finishing off her Master of Advocacy at the University of Malta. This keen environmentalist will shortly be embarking on a journey to the Utrecht University in the Netherlands to read for a Master of Laws in Public International Law, specialising in Oceans, Sustainability and the Environment.
With a degree in banking and finance, Bettina M spends as much spare time as she can enjoying the outdoors. Following visits to Asia in recent years, she became increasingly aware of the damage caused by plastic waste and its adverse impact on marine life.
1) Where did your inspiration to start Żibel come from and how did it start?
Eleanor: Our founding members reached a point where they were fed up of seeing Malta’s natural environment being left in such a sorry state. Something had to be done. A lot of work and a little time later, and Żibel was born - An eNGO ready to have a direct impact on Malta’s environment.
2) What exactly was Żibel set up to do?
Eleanor: We’re committed to reducing waste and protecting the natural environment. We organise clean-up activities and initiatives aimed towards raising awareness. A lot of our energy is put into education campaigns. This is because we believe education is one of the best ways to tackle the current environmental problems that we are facing both as a nation and as a world. The scope of our work has expanded over recent years and now we also look at the multi-faceted waste issue as a whole.
3) Has it been more successful than you imagined?
Eleanor: Definitely, but that’s down to the amazing response we received from the public, and the team’s input and dedication. We’re growing by the minute and we couldn’t be more grateful. Still, there’s a lot more to be done.
4) Talk to us about the sea and the strangest things you’ve found during your clean-ups?
Bettina: I think we’ve found almost everything on the seabed. From whole boats, to tricycles, deck chairs to tyres – more tyres than you could ever imagine in fact. We’ve seen it all and done our best to remove what we found.
Eleanor: I think the strangest thing was probably a door. Why would anyone want to throw a door in the sea?
Bettina M: A microwave and an ironing board. Why in the sea?
Manya: A fully intact toilet! The truth is there is no one else to blame for the decline of our seas except for mankind, but we are also the ones who have the power to reverse it.
5) Is your passion for protecting the environment something you’ve had for a long time?
Eleanor: I think it’s something pretty much written in our DNA.
Manya: Yes! I feel we should be custodians of the world we live in, because ultimately, if we take care of our planet, it takes care of us. As a child I was mesmerised by the beautiful images in nature documentaries. In fact, I tailored my studies and working life around this passion and can’t see myself stopping anytime soon!
6) What kind of movement do we need in Malta?
Eleanor: A positive movement that seeks real change and real solutions to the problems we face.
Manya: We need a movement driven by actions, and not just talk! One where the general public can rally behind decision makers who want to push Malta to be at the forefront of sustainability.
Bettina M: I feel like the issues we are facing are not being handled with the seriousness they deserve. We need a movement that focuses on teaching the younger generation about the real environmental issues and that addresses their fears and concerns.
7) How can members of the public help you make the change happen? What support do you really need?
Eleanor: Every little bit helps, whether it’s participating in clean ups, donating towards seabins, or properly sorting out waste at home. Every step we take towards becoming eco-friendlier is a move in the right direction. The idea is to keep moving and not stop after the first step.
Bettina M: We’re always looking for any type of support. Using social media to raise environmental awareness, contributing to our crowdfunding schemes or participating in clean-ups, whether it’s their own, or one organised by us! Every little bit of support helps.
8) Has there been any progress since 2017, when you first started Żibel?
Eleanor: Definitely. Our eNGO keeps growing, and with that growth we’ve been fortunate enough to collaborate with other organisations and individuals who bring new and creative ideas to the table. We’ve got plenty of projects in the pipeline that we can’t wait to share with the rest of the world!
Bettina M: Fortunately, through the power of social media and word of mouth, the Żibel community has grown and as we share our success stories, more people have started to show interest in what we do and look for their own ways to contribute.
9) When do you think Malta, as well as the rest of the world will really understand the wakeup call? What has to happen?
Eleanor: The wakeup call is there, it just needs to be heard- by our politicians, our businesspeople, our policy makers and ourselves. There’s no quick fix and it isn’t down to one singular group of people. It must be a joint effort.
Manya: Unfortunately, we already have enough warning signs, such as erratic weather patterns and the decline in the availability of certain seasonal foods. But still it doesn't seem to hit home with enough people. There needs to be a bigger push to educate and really get people to understand that business as usual is not enough. Secondly, mechanisms need to be put in place for people to make better choices, such as penalties for bad practices and subsidies for good ones. In a world where cost is always a consideration, I believe this could drive the change we want to see.
10) What’s been your biggest success as Żibel so far?
Bettina: I think bringing the Seabins to the island was a massive achievement that will keep on giving.
Manya: In my eyes, it has been bringing together not just Malta’s citizens, but also public authorities to join and support our clean ups. I think it’s a big milestone for any organisation when you get the decision makers and influencers to lead by example.
11) In numbers, how much waste have you collected?
Eleanor: During our last clean-up event at Sirens we collected 2194.86 kg of waste. Over the years we’ve collected over 65 tonnes! You can have a look at our new website to see our full facts and figures www.zibel.org
12) What worries you most about the future?
Eleanor: That we’ll become accustomed to environmental degradation then just sit idly by and watch it happen.
Manya: That clean air, fresh food and good quality of life become a thing of the past.
Bettina M: That our future children will have to suffer the adverse mental, physical and social health impacts associated with climate change.
13) Is there something you want to say that we haven’t asked you?
Manya: Supporting organisations like Żibel and other great causes doesn't only leave you with a warm fuzzy feeling inside, but it DOES make a difference! It’s a win-win! Don't leave our beautiful island waiting! We are the generation that needs to make a difference - so get involved NOW!
The women of Żibel would also like to give a massive shoutout to Andrew. Andrew was one of the founding members of Żibel and one of the most hard-working eco-warriors on the island. The organisation wouldn't be what it is without him.
At Mvintage we’re great believers in providing beautiful, meaningful jewellery that pulls inspiration from our local heritage.
Rather than simply hope that there will be a green, clean landscape and a plastic and rubbish free sea for our children to enjoy in the future – we invite you all to not just follow the many brilliant organisations like Żibel on social channels, but also to get involved, take action and inspire your friends and family to do the same.
Beyond jewellery – the biggest gem of them all is our country. Let’s keep it safe.
Żibel Facts and Stats
- > 56+ tonnes of rubbish collected to date
- > 11,000 Facebook followers
- > 2500 #TrashHeroes (Volunteers)
- > €3.2k donated by the public
- > 120 partner organisations
Want more stats? Check out Żibel’s website for more information. www.zibel.org or find them on Facebook.