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Aaniyah Omardien is founder and director of The Beach Co-op (TBCO), a not-for-profit company that evolved from a simple desire to clean up SA’s beaches.

Let’s rewind a bit… TBCO began in 2015 when a group of volunteers started meeting every new moon to collect marine debris at their local surf break – the rocky shore at Surfers Corner in Muizenberg.

According to their website, they wanted to do something for the ocean that gives us so much. And this vision underlies the work they do today. Although they focus on single-use plastic, their driving motivation is to improve the health of our ocean.

TBCO works collaboratively and creatively within ocean communities and with government and business to protect, restore and regenerate the integrity of ocean ecosystems. It follows that their key focus is to nurture ocean communities that care for our marine environment.

Aaniyah tells Go Hustle about the journey…

 

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Community is key

Aaniyah is all about sharing the beauty and wonder of the ocean with her fellow human beings. “I love bringing people together and building a community that takes responsibility and cares for our ocean,” she says. “I understand that not everyone has had access to the ocean; therefore, creating opportunities for marginalised groups to have access, [giving them] the opportunity to explore and immerse themselves in the wonder and awe of the ocean’s beauty, is something that brings me so much joy.”

 

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Curious about marine environmentalism?

LinkedIn is a good platform to network. It’ll also give you an idea of the various stakeholders involved. Then there’s simply diving right in… “Starting a voluntary project or reaching out to ask if there’s help needed on existing projects could create opportunities for you to learn and grow,” says Aaniyah.

READ MORE: Interested In Environmental Education? Here’s What You Need To Know

Just know that the conservation sector is traditional

The conservation sector is traditional in its approach, explains Aaniyah. This stems from a legacy of colonialism and patriarchy, so it can be tough for a woman at the outset. But don’t lose heart…

“This year I’ve been part of a Women for the Environment in Africa leadership programme,” says Aaniyah, “and this has renewed my hope for females working in the conservation sector.”

There are also not many people of colour in the conservation sector. This was especially the case when Aaniyah started her career 18 years ago. “I’ve always tried to work at the intersection of people and nature and social justice issues that emerge from working at this intersection were initially not well received with the way that conservation has traditionally been practised. This is changing though,” she says optimistically.

 

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Overcoming challenges looks different for everyone…

“It’s taken me a long time to build the confidence to call out some of the flaws in traditional conservation approaches,” says Aaniyah. “Initially I was drawn to concepts of co-management. I feel that taking the plunge and registering The Beach Co-op as a non-profit company helped me understand and test concepts and ideas that challenged the traditional way of doing conservation. And, more recently, meeting and working with other people of colour who are also challenging the linear conservation approaches has helped encourage and foster hope for a new kind of conservation which prioritises social justice issues,” she says.

 

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A post shared by Aaniyah Omardien (@aani_crab)

Life and leadership lessons she’s learnt along the way

1/ “Never be ashamed of who you are and what you can offer. Be proud of being different. Show up and shake things up. Be authentic and proud of your heritage.”

2/ “Create time and space for joy and self-care as part of your self-preservation.”

Connect with Aaniya

Instagram @thebeachco_op and @aani_crab

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