Alleviating Poverty Through Fashion

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Some of the many products created through up-cycling plastic bag waste

Last month I visited a new partner of ours in Delhi, which works to up-cycle waste products into high quality fashion accessories, such as bags, wallets, shoes and belts. These items are then sold to European fashion outlets, with the profits being spent on the organisation’s education and welfare programmes. The materials that the organisation works with are incredibly varied. Though they started with plastic bags, they have since expanded to include bicycle and car tyres, tea sacks, fire hoses and various bits of scrap materials provided by neighbouring factory units.

Factory shop floor

Factory shop floor

Plastic bags remain the main material used though, and the supply chain that they have implemented has brought benefits to all the labourers involved. Hundreds of people from Delhi’s most disadvantaged communities are employed and trained to clear their streets of plastic bag waste. An average rag picker earns around $25 per month, while a rag picker employed by the project will earn on average $70 per month.

Training courses are also provided for local people, enabling them to gain experience working in factory settings. They are first provided with training in footwear and bag making, along with quality control and other skills. This is followed by an internship in the factory, normally lasting for around 3 months, for which they are paid a stipend. Once the course has been completed, trainees are assisted in applying for jobs in other factories in the area. Soft skills training is also provided on subjects such as writing names, opening bank accounts, government services, and basic English and maths.

Waste collection within the slum.

Waste collection within the slum

Finally, the organisation provides vital facilities to the slum communities in which many of their labourers live. A small school was opened in 2011, providing the only chance to receive an education for many of the children in this slum community. The school is now providing a basic education to approximately 70 girls and boys aged 3-12. Classes are quickly expanding and subjects currently include reading, writing, arithmetic and English. Regular healthcare camps are held, providing basic healthcare and education to community members.

Volunteer opportunities are available in both fashion design and business development, providing a fantastic opportunity for those looking to utilise their previous experience in the development sector. Volunteers would split their time between the Central Delhi office and the factory on the outskirts of the city. We hope to have volunteers supporting this work very soon.

School classroom

School classroom

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