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How Donating Clothing Can Help Struggling Women in West Africa

“It’s not how much we give but how much love we put into giving.” – Mother Teresa.

Rather than throwing clothing items out and adding to the already damaging landfills, donating them can help people living in struggling communities.

Although paper products make up roughly 35% of all landfill waste, thrown out clothing piles up in landfills as well. Just in the U.S. alone, Americans throw out roughly 15 million tons of clothing and other textiles each year. Those clothes largely end up in landfills when there are people in need of these items elsewhere.

According to Mirror, clothing markets in West Africa are gaining popularity with the addition of second hand clothing, specifically bras, from the Marks and Spencer and other brands.

Ndeye Khady Soumare runs a market stall in Senegal where she sells donated clothing to women who might otherwise not be able to afford those brand names.

The bras are donated to the aid agency, Oxfam, and then sent to a Wastesaver warehouse in Batley. The Wastesaver warehouse is a program that makes sure clothes aren’t thrown out and eventually tossed into landfills. Employees of Wastesaver go through all the items of clothes and determine whether or not a garment is able to go to Senegal for second hand purchases.

The West African clothing initiative is called Frip Ethique, which means ethical second hand fashion.

These donations not only avoid the landfill, but provide high quality undergarments to women who wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford them. The donations also keep Frip Ethique, which employs 39 people, in business.

One woman, Mirelle Pichonnier, shared the story of her working conditions before she found Frip Ethique.

“I was working in [the] supermarket to provide for my children,” said Pichonnier, who has five kids. “But the work was unstable and erratic and so I couldn’t pay the rent… The landlord kicked us out on the street with my furniture. Now I can look at myself in the mirror and not be ashamed of the woman I see.”

Although living in Senegal can be difficult for people with even high quality jobs, working in a field that actually helps people is one of the most rewarding jobs around.

“It’s hard in Senegal,” Pichonnier added, “but if you have a job you are free.”

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