Responsibility has become one of the key drivers of today’s society: we do our best to be responsible to each other, to ourselves, and to the planet where we live. For a long time, people paid no attention to their adverse impact on the environment. But today, responsible consumption and upcycling of obsolete things are important and useful trends. Thousands of influencers, bloggers, and activists across the world work hard to encourage as many people as possible to take care of the environment.
The contest “Özün Yarat” (“Do It Yourself”) is one such initiative. The competition was held by the United Nations Development Programme under the EU-funded EU4Climate project in May last year. All citizens of Azerbaijan who were interested in innovative solutions on household waste upcycling were invited to apply. This story highlights the experience of Fidan Manafova – one of participants of the competition.
Fidan used to promote business tourism in Azerbaijan. Working at the Azerbaijan Convention Bureau, she participated in international professional events, where she represented Azerbaijan. Moreover, Fidan taught Fundamentals of Marketing at the Azerbaijan Tourism and Management University.
Things changed when she became a mum. “The birth of my daughter Farah greatly changed my way of thinking. I grew morally and became more responsible. When I was on maternity leave, I was interested in household waste upcycling and started a blog on Instagram, where I posted photos and videos featuring my handicrafts,” Fidan Manafova recalls.
Fidan describes the DIY concept (“do it yourself”) as a storm of different feelings and emotions that you receive when you can see the outcomes of your efforts. The first hand-made item created by Fidan was a candy bar for monthly family events for her daughter. “I took photos of the production process, the outcome, and my daughter’s emotions. And I posted these photos on Instagram. And concrete pumpkins were the first items made based on the “recycle DIY” concept. I created them with my daughter at our country cottage. Later, we started sharing videos on the production of home decoration items using different types of household waste,” Fidan says.
Fidan underlines that the responses of her community – her family members, friends, and blog followers – stimulate her most of all. “I often receive feedback on my handicrafts on my blog. According to people’s comments and messages, they really like my works and are happy to share their feedback. People are happy to use my DIY ideas and share their outcomes with me,” she says, stating that her handicrafts bring practical value to people in addition to information and aesthetics benefits. “I understood that women in Azerbaijan usually lack space while organising their home. They always need storage baskets, boxes, and home organisers. And when I post my works related to home organisation, the Instagram engagement statistics grow. People are interested in this topic and want to learn more. I always share the works of my followers and try to boost this trend and create a domino effect. I’m happy and proud when I receive messages from people stating that my works have motivated them to have the same hobby,” Fidan says.
Fidan says that shortly after she became interested in producing decoration items using reusable materials, she got an opportunity to show her handicrafts to professionals. She calls this “a great piece of luck”: “My relatives sent me a link to the EU4Climate project – to the contest “Özün Yarat” (“Do It Yourself”). They insisted I should take part in the contest since its key theme – creative ways of upcycling – was very relevant to my current interests,” she says.
Fidan submitted several works to the contest, and one of them received an award in the category “The best wood handicraft”. The professional jury selected her work out of 250 entries. Fidan adds that the award greatly inspired her: “I understood that I should develop my work.”
Fidan not only creates her works by herself but also trains people to upcycle obsolete items. “My story started from a fair in the park of Heydar Aliyev Centre, where I presented my works and ideas. As part of the exhibition, the United Nations Development Programme invited me to participate in the “Eurovillage” event organised by the Delegation of the European Union to Azerbaijan. And, of course, I agreed. At this event, I held a workshop on upcycling, and visitors of the EU4Climate exhibition stand liked it very much. In the framework of the exhibition, I could personally call on people to follow our initiative to be useful for the environment, creating beautiful things from discarded materials. Our stand was visited not only by adults but also by children, who were also interested in DIY. And this makes me really happy,” Manafova says.
Now, Fidan is making plans for holding her own workshop, where people could learn more about upcycling. She even came up with several ideas related to the topic. The young woman notes that her audience’s interest in the theme makes her consider it seriously. Some of the works made by Fidan gained resonance among her followers. “When it comes to a handicraft that became viral, this is a basket with a napkin. When I made this basket, I didn’t believe in it and thought that I had other better works. However, this video got about 700,000 views and was saved more than 8,000 times – this means that the idea inspired over 8,000 people. Moreover, table decoration items devoted to different holidays (New Year, Halloween) are also of great interest. My approach to decoration is based on the idea of beautiful and useful things made from materials at hand,” Fidan says.
Fidan added that household waste upcycling is important, not only in terms of environmental care, but also for the economic development and sustainability of countries.
“I’m really happy that Azerbaijan has also started to pay attention to this issue. Moreover, I do my best to encourage my daughter to consider environmental care as critically important. And my daughter, while washing her face, usually explains why water should be saved. I believe that my daughter will help me to promote this idea when she is of school age,” Manafova says.
Author: Kamran Gasimov
Article published in Azerbaijani and Russian by Milli.az and Day.az
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