The Happy Nests initiative is a global Dawoodi Bohra programme to reduce, reuse and upcycle plastic. Alefiyah Zaini, head of the Leicester Dawoodi Bohra women’s association, has championed many Happy Nests projects, encouraging the community to play its part in reducing plastic usage and turning the tide against plastic pollution. We had the pleasure of sitting down with Alefiyah to chat about what motivates her to continue championing the Happy Nests ‘Reduce Reuse Recycle’ initiative.
Let’s start off with a bit about you. How would you describe your role within the community?
I manage several women’s organizations within the Dawoodi Bohra community of Leicester. We work together to strengthen community bonds, empower women, and enable socio-cultural and economic enrichment. Within this role, it is also my responsibility to be aware of – and reduce – our community’s impact on the environment. That means making sure our internal operations are being carried out sustainably and in ways that do not harm the environment.
What do you enjoy most about this important role?
The most fulfilling aspect of my work is connecting with all the wonderful Dawoodi Bohra families in Leicester, taking care of them like they are my own family, motivating them, and generally being there for them.
Our community here is like a garden of eclectic flowers, full of fragrances of different talents, and I am blessed to have the opportunity to help bring them together. It is rewarding to see everyone working hard to make a positive difference.
What inspired your interest in the damaging impact of single-use plastic in the community?
I was moved by a conference I attended that brought to light the impact that plastic is having on our planet and our beautiful sea life. And I realized that, during the month of Ramadan, when we break our fast, we give out small plastic water bottles to everyone. That amounts to a lot of plastic bottles being used and wasted. So I wanted to make a difference. I gave community members reusable water bottles before the start of this holy month, thus eliminating the wastage of single-use plastic bottles. It seemed an easy but very important thing to do.
I also learned during a Happy Nests seminar that 91% of plastic isn’t recycled. At this rate, by 2050, the oceans could be carrying more plastic than sea life. It got me thinking that we must do something about it. In fact, we should have been doing something a long time ago, but it’s never too late to start. It’s just a matter of reconditioning our minds and taking action to save our planet.
When was Happy Nests launched in Leicester and what goal did you set out to achieve?
Under the umbrella of Happy Threads by Supermoms, Happy Nests endeavours to build a global network of Dawoodi Bohra women from all walks of life and with varied skills to come together with a shared vision to work for a healthier and safer environment. The Leicester chapter was launched in March 2021 with the same vision to upcycle plastic waste and reduce its overall use. We need to take responsibility for our own plastic waste and upcycle it with passion. So awakening this passion was the first goal. We needed to find innovative ways to upcycle plastic to create useful products while motivating each individual to take on this responsibility.
What other projects have you launched under the Happy Nests umbrella that you are proud of?
There have been a number of projects that members of all ages have got involved in, such as our community elders making birdfeeders from used plastic, younger women turning milk bottles into decorative boxes, and even our little ones making pencil pots from plastic bottles.
My personal favourite project was when communities across the globe came together to upcycle large drinks bottles into beautiful planters that, in our case, were used to decorate the gardens of Leicester’s Masjid in the lead up to its inauguration.
All these projects have created more awareness of our environment, as well as knowledge of how to reduce our plastic usage, and a sense of happiness and contentment with all the completed creations.
What would your advice be to our future generation on being mindful?
We are guided by the head of our global Dawoodi Bohra community to always be mindful of our surroundings and lead practical efforts to protect and improve the environment as this directly impacts our societies. Care about your and your community’s responsibility to be more sustainable and know what’s going on at a local level. Prioritize community service as that is the foundation on which one will continue to grow personally and professionally. And stay dedicated and focused, while staying calm under pressure.