Chinese fast fashion company pledges €14m to help waste workers in Ghana – The Irish Times

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Chinese fast fashion company Shein has pledged $15 million (€14.08 million) to help fashion waste workers in Ghana, as part of a $50 million pledge (47 million euros) announced at the World Fashion Summit in Copenhagen.

Tuesday, The Irish Times published a report on the backlash against second-hand clothes in West Africa, which included interviews with staff at the Or Foundation, the organization with which Shein has now committed to partner. Every week, around 15 million pieces of clothing arrive in Ghana’s capital, Accra, which has one of the region’s largest second-hand clothing markets, Kantamanto.

About 40% of what happens is clearly wasteful, campaigners say. In Ghana, second-hand clothes are known as “obroni wawu” – or “dead white man’s clothes”. Many were originally donated to charity shops or placed in clothing recycling bins in Europe or North America, before being shipped to Africa. Traders say the rapid fashion boom has drastically reduced the quality of clothing arriving on the continent.

In a statement posted to Instagram, the Gold Foundation said $50 million from Shein would go into an extended producer responsibility fund over five years. The foundation called it “a model of the industry…allowing financial offsets to flow in the same direction as clothing waste.”

“Through this agreement, Shein recognizes that their garments could end up here in Kantamanto, a simple fact that no other major fashion brand has yet been willing to state. This recognition is a first step towards our goal of making industry-wide awareness.

Although the Gold Foundation’s statement says that this money does not reflect the cost of fashion waste to communities around the world, it “is an essential tool to begin to make the tangible change that our community within the ecosystem of Kantamanto claims”.

In an interview with The Irish Times, Gold Foundation staff member Chloe Asaam previously said she would rather Westerners stop buying clothes altogether than donate money afterwards. “The problem is [people are] consume as much. We are advocating for people to stop for a while to accept their own part in the crisis,” she said.

This week, second-hand clothes also made headlines across the continent in Kenya after presidential candidate Raila Odinga advised against the importation of what is called “mitumba” there, saying the clothes used were “worn by the dead” and he would like to support local manufacturing instead. Mitumba means bundles or balls in Swahili.

It sparked a discussion online, with #Mitumba and #MadeInKenya trending on Twitter. Some Kenyans have started posting pictures of themselves wearing second-hand clothes they bought, with the hashtag #MyDeadPeopleClothingChallenge.

“With only 2,000 Kenyan shillings (15.93 euros), I can be this magnificent. Mitumba is our way of life”, job a woman, accompanied by a photo of herself wearing a pale pink minidress and a hot pink blazer.

“I wear mitumba, [I] am not dead, [I] am a voter in this country,” job a man who – in his photo – wore a bright blue hoodie and jeans.

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