Skip to content

Why Senegalese Women Are Protesting a Ban on Plastic

Restrictions on single-use bags are expected to disproportionately impact women-owned businesses that sell sachets of clean water on city streets. 

Pollution on one of Senegal’s beaches. 

Pollution on one of Senegal’s beaches. 

Photographer: philipimage/iStockphoto via Getty Images

Discarded plastic is hard to ignore in Senegal. The litter can’t go unnoticed on a boat ride to the Unesco world heritage site Goree Island or on the shoreline of la Baie de Hann in the capital of Dakar. 

The Senegalese government has responded by becoming one of the latest African countries to expand a ban on single-use plastics starting Dec. 31. But the new rule has drawn attention to another problem: access to clean drinking water and the women who make a living filtering, packaging and re-selling tap water in plastic bags across Senegal’s biggest cities. An estimated 30,000 jobs are at risk, according to the Collective of Filtered Water Actors (CAES), a union that represents the industry's manufacturers and sellers.