Back in October, I wrote about the impact watching the film The True Cost had on me and how it completely changed my attitude towards my wardrobe and the way I purchase my clothes (you can read the post here). The True Cost film (available to watch on Netflix) showed how our desire for fast fashion affects the lives of people all over the world. It showed how difficult life is for those who make our clothes and the environmental damage the fashion industry does (did you know fashion is the second most polluting industry in the world). After watching it can be easy to view fashion in a negative way, but it’s important to look at the positive impact fashion can have as well. For us fashion is about having style, expressing yourself and being creative, it may even be your job. But for others, their livelihood is dependent on it.
Oxfam recently got in touch to ask me to become part of their Bloggers Against Poverty campaign and to share case studies of how fashion is changing people’s lives in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The DRC is a war-torn country which is slowly recovering from the effects of years and years of conflict. Many people have fled the violence in search of safety for their family, leaving everything behind, many of whom end up living in Kibati camp. These case studies demonstrate that fashion can have a positive impact on people’s lives and with a little training and support they can change their lives for the better.
Hubert (26 years old), along with his family fled is home in Kimbumba. He was scared about what might happen to his family, they had to leave in a hurry as the violence moved closer to them. Hubert was concerned about how he would earn enough to feed his family and decided to take his heavy Singer sewing machine with him. The sewing machine was a burden to him on the journey (on foot) and he had to drag it along behind him on a chukado (traditional wooden transporter of goods). However, he knew he had to take the sewing machine with him as it was his only way of earning money to support his family. Hubert says “I knew I had to take it with me, how else would I put food on the table?”
Hubert mends clothes with pieces of material he has managed to salvage in the Kibati camp. “Business is not good here because people have nothing. I charge very little, 100 Congolese Francs [around 8p] for my services but it is at least enough to make sure my wife, my two children and my mum all eat once a day.
Marceline is a tailor by trade and like Hubert fled the violence with her sewing machine. She carried the machine on her head, while her husband carried the table with the foot pedal. Tailored
clothes made out of very bright wax printed cloth are very popular and Marceline charges around 1,500 Congolese Francs (around £1.50) for a dress. Although the people living in the camp with Marceline cannot afford her clothes she is able to sell them to women living in the local town who bring their cloth to her. There are many tailors like Marceline in the Kibati camp.
How Oxfam Helps
Oxfam helps people who have fled their homes by providing safe water, sanitation equipment and other essential items.
Oxfam trucks water into the Kibati camp which has around 55,000 people living there. All of whom have fled violence in their communities
Oxfam also runs training sessions to teach new skills such as sewing, tailoring and basket making so more people like Hubert and Marceline can support their families.
Last year Oxfam helped over 11.8 million people like Hubert and Marceline, with the help of donations from people like us.
By giving £2.50 a month you can help provide 25 water treatment sachets to a family in an emergency. This is enough to make around 500 litres of water safe – that’s enough to last a family of four for a month.
£5 can provide 20 award winning ‘Oxfam buckets’ which allow people to access clean water without risk of contamination by dirt and disease, as is has a closable lid and a tap.