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Oxfam Shops and Sustainability

Through our all-island network of shops, we are proud to offer solutions to ‘throwaway fashion’, encouraging people to donate pre-loved items and reduce the amount of clothes that end up in Irish landfills – as well as extending the lifecycle of clothes and raising awareness about fast fashion.

People have been reusing and reselling clothes with Oxfam Ireland since it opened its first shop in 1971, and since then we have always worked to maximise the value of everything we are given and minimise waste.

Although there is a growing sustainable fashion movement in Ireland, it is not usually the industry people think of when considering climate villains or big polluters.

Fast fashion clothes are produced in high volume which means a high cost to the planet: According to the UNFCCC, the textiles industry accounts for more carbon emissions than international aviation and shipping combined  – it is the world’s second most polluting industry after oil and accounts for approximately eight percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. In addition, clothes are produced cheaply which often means low wages and poor working conditions for garment workers.

Overproduction is part of the problem. Shared Cloth published a report that states 20 items per person are produced every year (150 billion garments), and 30 percent of them are never sold. On top of that, cheap production and plummeting prices means the items we buy often end up in landfill before they should.

According to Re-dress, 225,000 tonnes of textiles are dumped in Ireland each year – that’s the equivalent of over 5,000 44 tonne lorry loads. This is having a devastating impact on our planet and people. We know that the world’s poorest, who did the least to cause climate change, are most affected, through droughts, floods and extreme weather events.

In addition, clothes can take up to 200 years to decompose whereas recycling the 225,000 tonnes of textiles would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by over 300,000 tonnes per year – the equivalent of taking 50,000 cars off the roads.

Oxfam staff sort clothing into different grades depending on garment type, condition, style and fabric.  The clothing donated is then used in the most suitable market via several different routes, including:

  • Oxfam high street shop – most of the donated clothing is sold in the shop it was donated too as we believe in local economy.
  • Online platforms such as Thriftify
  • Designers who restyle garments and reuse fabrics in their collections – for example, we provide denim to a company that make them into really cool tote bags

The low-grade items not sold as clothing are sold in bulk to recycling reprocessing companies in Ireland where it’s used, for example, as mattress filler, carpet underlay, upholstery or car sound insulation. Unsaleable items which are too soiled or damaged to be recycled are incinerated by a textile recycler.

We also work with retailers and big brands, encouraging them to donate their end of line or excess stock instead of sending it to landfill – a more sustainable solution for people and planet.

So, as you can see, your donations hold a lot of value and power. Every garment or item donated to us raises money to fight inequality around the world and supports our mission to beat poverty globally.

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Climate Action and the New Irish Government

Assessments as to whether the climate commitments in the proposed Programme for Government will deliver faster and fairer climate action have been a major point of debate in government formation talks in Ireland. This is a welcome departure from previous government formation talks, when dealing with the climate crisis barely featured in negotiations. However, one aspect of climate action that has not gotten much attention is Ireland’s role in helping poorer countries respond to the challenges of climate change by providing them with adequate and appropriate climate finance.

Article 4.3 of the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) commits developed countries, like Ireland, to provide climate finance to developing countries to help them mitigate and adapt to climate change, due to their greater responsibility for emissions to date, and their greater financial capacity.  Such climate finance should be additional, adequate and predictable.

The devastating impacts of climate change are being felt everywhere and are having very real consequences on people’s lives, especially in the world’s poorest countries. It is affecting many of the communities Oxfam work with; undermining their livelihoods through gradual, insidious changes in temperature and rainfall patterns, and increasing the frequency and/or intensity of hazards such as floods and droughts. Vulnerability to disaster and climate change matters because it perpetuates and deepens poverty and suffering. It stands in the way of people – particularly women – being able to enjoy their basic rights and reduces their chances of ever being able to attain them.

As well as reducing carbon emissions at home, richer countries like Ireland should provide sufficient climate finance to ensure that nations most impacted by climate breakdown have adequate resources to implement necessary adaption and mitigation measures. After all, poor countries and people living in poverty are being hardest hit by a problem they have not caused and have the least resources to address. Philip Alston, the UN Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights, has pointed out the profound inequality behind climate breakdown. Projections estimate that developing countries will bear 75 percent of the cost of the climate crisis, despite the fact that the poorest half of the world’s population, mainly residing in these countries, are responsible for just 10 percent of historical carbon emissions. In a report last year on Climate Change and Poverty, Mr Aston stated: “We risk a ‘climate apartheid’ scenario where the wealthy pay to escape overheating, hunger and conflict, while the rest of the world is left to suffer.”

Ireland has done comparatively well in ensuring that it provides quality climate finance, with its focus to date on targeting poorer countries, adaptation and gender. Ireland’s new overseas development aid (ODA) strategy, A Better World, commits to continue this focus, along with the policy of 100 percent of untied, grant-based climate finance. Ireland’s continued commitment to grant aid is particularly welcome considering that the OECD has found that between 2013 and 2017, 60 percent of bilateral, and nearly 90 percent of multilateral climate finance was in the form of loans, further adding to the looming debt crisis.

While the quality of Irish climate finance is high, Ireland is falling short in terms of the quantity and predictability of these financial flows. In 2018, Ireland reported nearly €80 million in climate finance as its annual contribution to the $100 billion a year global climate finance target to be reached by 2020. However, based on estimates using the Eco-Equity Stockholm Environment Institute Responsibility Capacity Index, Ireland’s fair share of this annual figure should be around $500 million a year. Importantly, the global $100 billion a year commitment is a political target, rather than an amount based on detailed assessment of needs in developing countries, which by some estimations are up to 18 times greater.

The Irish Government committed to at least doubling the percentage of ODA spending on climate finance by 2030 in its Climate Action Plan published last year. To reach this target, Ireland needs to spend about 20 percent of its ODA budget on climate finance. However, as climate breakdown is happening now, it important that this commitment is reached as soon as possible – by 2025 at the latest. It is equally important that increased ODA spending on climate finance should receive an additional budgetary allocation rather than being diverted from the existing ODA budget.

And on this point, we return to proposed Programme for Government and its commitments related to climate finance. While the 2016 Programme for Government had an established target for climate finance supported by specific funds, the currently proposed Programme instead commits to increasing the percentage of Official Development Assistance being counted as climate finance, rather than committing to new or additional funding, as envisioned under the 2015 Paris Agreement. The commitment in the Programme for Government to double the percentage of development assistance that counts as climate finance, without allocating additional funds, is therefore disappointing as it risks simply re-labelling existing aid as climate finance rather than committing to providing new and additional finance to support climate action in the poorest countries. While there are many positives in the Programme for Government related to climate action, the next government needs to do a lot more if Ireland is to fulfil its obligations to provide much-needed finance to help poorer countries adapt to a changing climate.

Mary Robinson has starkly outlined what is at stake in relation to figures: “With every incremental increase in global temperature, the need to adapt increases. The adaptation burden is greatest in developing countries where capacity and resources are most constrained and where there will be losses, even at 1.5°C of warming. In order to reduce the risks of famine, conflict, migration and injustice, climate vulnerable countries will need to be supported through a cooperative, global response based on solidarity.” It must be remembered that even if we can limit global warming to just a 1.5°C increase, 122 million more people could experience extreme poverty, with substantial income losses for the poorest 20 percent in 92 countries, a recent IPCC Report has estimated. This report also highlighted that an increase of 450 million flood-prone people will be vulnerable to a doubling in flood frequency in a 1.5°C warmer world. Depending on development scenarios, between 62 and 457 million additional people will be exposed to climate risks and vulnerability to poverty with a 2°C increase compared to 1.5°C.  And these are the best-case scenarios. 

To read more about Oxfam Ireland’s recommendations to the new Irish Government, read our briefing Responding to New Global Realities: An Agenda for the New Irish Government and Oireachtas.

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This Father’s Day, we celebrate dads who put family first – no matter what

On Father's Day, we celebrate and remember dads around the world. And on this Father's Day, we wanted to share the stories of Ali and Tawab – two dads who battled conflict and climate change to take care of their families.

Ali and his son Muhamed* in their container home on the Greek island of Lesvos. Photo: Andy Aitchison/Oxfam

Ali, his wife Ikhlas and their 14-month-old son Muhamed* were brought to the Greek island of Lesvos after being saved by the coast guard. The bombings and violence they witnessed in Syria forced them to flee their home, leaving everything behind. They had hoped to reach Italy but their journey across the Mediterranean almost ended in tragedy.

“We were at sea on a boat with another 47 people,” said Ali. “The sea got very rough. It was terrifying. My wife and my little boy were with me, and I cannot swim. Thankfully the Greek navy came and helped us.”

Only one of Ali’s seven brothers is still in Syria – the rest are now living in Germany.

“We would like to join them and start a new life away from bombs and violence,” he said.

After Mozambique was devastated by Cyclone Kenneth last year, fathers like Tawab rushed to protect their families. When his two-year-old son Calado* developed an eye condition and breathing difficulties in the aftermath of the cyclone, Tawab carried his little boy through the floodwaters to their local hospital.

With climate change hitting the world’s poorest people the hardest, Tawab said he fears for the future: “Two walls of our house have gone, and half of the roof. I was very afraid. The wind was so strong. Trees were falling through the electricity lines, and one even hit the wall of our house. Most of the crops in my village have been taken by the water.

“And we are an agricultural community so we depended on those crops. Every year there is some flooding here but not like this. This is so much worse. These rains are like nothing we've ever seen before. There is so much damage. It will not be easy to rebuild our house like it was before. Life is not easy for us now.”

*Names changed to protect identities

Mariam, Burkina Faso

The music has stopped in the heart of the desert, the savannahs, and forests of the Sahel and the Central African Republic - taking with it the joy of better days. Fear has spread across the region, and people are facing it on two fronts: firstly, where armed groups devastate villages, driving more than five million people to flee their homes.  Secondly, the rise of COVID-19 is creating additional fear and uncertainty amongst communities.

And for the majority of displaced women, their dance partners have also disappeared. Many men of working age have been killed by armed groups, disappeared or have left in search of a better future. In Burkina Faso, women and children represented 84 per cent of the displaced population. Women find themselves in extremely precarious situations, struggling for their survival and for those depending on them. Many bear the scars – visible and invisible - of acts of violence. In the Central African Republic, a woman is victim of sexual and gender-based violence almost every hour.

These Sahelian and Central African women are hundreds of thousands, survivors and heroes - waiting for music to resume in their lives. Whilst they do not sing, they still have their stories, and hope, to imagine another future.

A team of female humanitarian workers with Oxfam collected the following stories. They are accompanied by illustrations made by the artist Sophie Le Hire, who has lived in Senegal for four years and who, in her artistic approach, proudly carries the voice of women, whom she considers as "giants". By juxtaposing two styles, she illustrates the reality of the present and the dream for the future of these women

Mariam*, Burkina Faso

“We are in the crossfire: behind us there are attacks, in front of us is the disease. How will we cope? I will be so glad when this illness ends.”

My name is Mariam. I am 25 years old, and I come from the Center-Nord region in Burkina, near Dablo.

My dream was to have a high school diploma. I became a mother while still in school but I hung on and continued until 10th grade. However, in April they closed the school - because of insecurity classes stopped completely.

I wanted to be either a teacher – to educate children and to share knowledge with them – or to be a doctor and to save lives. All of this fell apart.

When attacks by armed groups became more and more frequent, I chose to flee my home so that I would not end up like so many other victims of violence or rape.

Everyday life is not easy here. We don't have enough to eat, and I have to ration our lunch if I want something left to eat in the evening. There is no firewood and, as a woman, I am afraid when I have to go and collect it in the bush; I do not feel safe. To survive, I try to do laundry in town for other families, or pound millet or sorghum for 500 CFA [0.83 USD]. At the moment, we need support for everything: water, food, shelter.

With the arrival of COVID-19, our life has changed: markets are closed, and with it any place where we can find work. Preventative measures have changed our daily lives. We can no longer move around when and where we want to. To protect my family, we wash our hands regularly before doing anything else: cooking, eating, going to the toilet.

The disease has made our lives more difficult, especially when it comes to accessing water. So as to avoid finding ourselves in a crowd, we leave at dawn to go to the well. If there are a lot of people, we leave the cans at the well and return to the house.

We urgently need water and hygiene kits - if we were able to get these items, it would improve our daily lives.

Interview by Syntyche Ouedraogo, Oxfam in Burkina Faso.

*Name has been changed to protect identity

Oxfam’s response

In the Sahel and the Central African Republic, Oxfam provides humanitarian aid and carries out advocacy actions for communities affected by large-scale humanitarian crises. Women and girls are the most exposed in crisis and it is fundamental that their specific needs and their protection are at the heart of humanitarian responses. Women also play a major role in developing social cohesion and peacebuilding.

Oxfam and its local partners provide humanitarian aid to more than 400,000 internally displaced people (IDPs) and host communities in the region, in terms of food aid, access to water, hygiene and sanitation and to protect the most vulnerable, especially women and girls. Oxfam also work alongside communities in conflict transformation programs to foster cross-border dialogues and the inclusion of women and young people in peacebuilding processes.

Since the arrival of the COVID-19, Oxfam has adapted its programs to protect the poorest and most vulnerable against this new threat. Oxfam also distribute hygiene kits to schools and health professionals and take action to ensure clean and safe water continues to flow.

Read Victorine and Tedy's reflections.

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Tedy, Mali

The music has stopped in the heart of the desert, the savannahs, and forests of the Sahel and the Central African Republic - taking with it the joy of better days. Fear has spread across the region, and people are facing it on two fronts: firstly, where armed groups devastate villages, driving more than five million people to flee their homes.  Secondly, the rise of COVID-19 is creating additional fear and uncertainty amongst communities.

And for the majority of displaced women, their dance partners have also disappeared. Many men of working age have been killed by armed groups, disappeared or have left in search of a better future. In Burkina Faso, women and children represented 84 per cent of the displaced population. Women find themselves in extremely precarious situations, struggling for their survival and for those depending on them. Many bear the scars – visible and invisible - of acts of violence. In the Central African Republic, a woman is victim of sexual and gender-based violence almost every hour.

These Sahelian and Central African women are hundreds of thousands, survivors and heroes - waiting for music to resume in their lives. Whilst they do not sing, they still have their stories, and hope, to imagine another future.

A team of female humanitarian workers with Oxfam collected the following stories. They are accompanied by illustrations made by the artist Sophie Le Hire, who has lived in Senegal for four years and who, in her artistic approach, proudly carries the voice of women, whom she considers as "giants". By juxtaposing two styles, she illustrates the reality of the present and the dream for the future of these women

Tedy, Mali

"I want my children to get an education worthy of the name, to be one day part of the elite in this country."

My name is Tedy, I am 40 years old, I am Malian, native of the region of Mopti in the Center of Mali.

Because of the violence, I had to flee my village, and I live today with other displaced people who have known the same fate, on a site near the capital.

Before the conflict, I was selling milk and I was also a hairdresser. I took care of my family and even managed to save money.

But one day, as intercommunal violence became more and more serious, we were forced to flee, to leave my house with my children, taking only my phone and the clothes I was wearing. We had to take a very long route to arrive in Bamako, forced to pass through Ouagadougou and stayed more than two days without eating anything. I had no money and without the help of one of my daughters who works in the capital, I don't know what would have become of us.

I haven't had a chance to study and the struggle of my life is to send my children to school. I will do my best to make them the most influential people in our community and even in Mali! Access to education is a right for every child.

Shortly after arriving at the site, I was appointed President of the displaced women because I speak the national Bambara language, so I can easily speak to the authorities. It was a big responsibility. I talked a lot with the other women, and we decided to develop activities to earn a living. I got the necessary support so that we were trained in making soaps and dyes, as well as in the practice of traditional henna and hairdressing. In Bamako, there are really a lot of weddings and we thus had the opportunity to put into practice what we had learned.

Like others, I am a mother and I take care of my children alone. At the beginning, I had started a small condiment business, it worked a little, but alone and with my children to take care of, I did not manage and I had to give it up. Together with the other women, it became possible.

Unfortunately, with Coronavirus disease, all of our activities have stopped. We hope this disease will pass quickly so that we can take control of our lives again. Here on the site, we protect ourselves against the disease by respecting the barrier measures decreed by the health authorities and we have received hand-washing kits.

I can’t imagine the future. We would like to return home, but the conflict persists and we are afraid of endangering the lives of our children. It is for them that every day I find the courage to fight and to encourage other women to do it too, we have a duty to guide our children on the path to a better future. In my dreams, this path is education and I will continue to believe in it and hope for it.

Interview by Sitan Coulibaly, Oxfam in Mali.

Oxfam’s response

In the Sahel and the Central African Republic, Oxfam provides humanitarian aid and carries out advocacy actions for communities affected by large-scale humanitarian crises. Women and girls are the most exposed in crisis and it is fundamental that their specific needs and their protection are at the heart of humanitarian responses. Women also play a major role in developing social cohesion and peacebuilding.

Oxfam and its local partners provide humanitarian aid to more than 400,000 internally displaced people (IDPs) and host communities in the region, in terms of food aid, access to water, hygiene and sanitation and to protect the most vulnerable, especially women and girls. Oxfam also work alongside communities in conflict transformation programs to foster cross-border dialogues and the inclusion of women and young people in peacebuilding processes.

Since the arrival of the COVID-19, Oxfam has adapted its programs to protect the poorest and most vulnerable against this new threat. Oxfam also distribute hygiene kits to schools and health professionals and take action to ensure clean and safe water continues to flow.

Read Victorine and Mariam's reflections.

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