Expanding the Core of Impact | Four Month Update on The EPR Fund

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Four Month Update #2
Our Agreement with SHEIN: We receive $5M a year for three years in two installments per year. We received the first installment ($2.5M) on June 30th, 2022 and the second installment on January 25, 2023. This comes out of the overall EPR fund that SHEIN agreed to set up to benefit multiple organizations and communities, which is $50 Million over 5 years, or $10 Million a year.

Here’s what we have accomplished since our last update on October 28th, 2022

Mabilgu Program for women and girls working as Kayayei

  • We have now placed 80 women from our Chiropractic Program in our apprenticeship program in Accra. An additional 10 have graduated from the program.
  • We have expanded our Accra-based Mabilgu Program to be open to girls and women who did not participate in the Chiropractic Program, welcoming 10 new participants in addition to the 100 we have already supported to leave the kayayei trade.
  • Our Incubator team has created a month-long sewing and up-cycling curriculum for women and girls who are waiting to be placed in their apprenticeships or who are transitioning between jobs.
  • We established a Tamale Mabilgu Office to find jobs for the women who wanted to be closer to home. This includes placements in midwifery school, sewing, catering and a recently initiated partnership with Wee-North to create an extended training program for 10 of our participants where they will learn bricklaying, tiling, plumbing, electrical installation, carpentry and welding as well as be placed in an apprenticeship. This program will include housing and classes such as self-defense.
  • We opened the Mabilgu House in Accra, a residence for 18 women in our Mabilgu Program and we hired one former apprentice to work full-time on coordinating programming between the Mabilgu House, The Or Foundation office and the dozens of apprenticeship locations.
  • We created a scholarship program for women who wish to return to school during or after their apprenticeship and we added Sexual & Reproductive Health as well as Swimming to our Opt-in Class schedule. We are happy to see more of the women reconsidering the value of education and asking us what their options are.
  • In process: Hiring of a Graduation Specialist to support the women after their first apprenticeship is complete. A film and written report focused on our Chiropractic Study.

Community Engagement & Secondhand Solidarity Fund

  • We dispersed debt relief and business remodeling funds to 121 people.
  • We provided safety equipment to 75 Old Fadama residents to support their regular cleaning of the dumpsite and e-waste burning area and we organized our first Community Clean-Up with our team and 50+ members of the Old Fadama Community.
  • We dispersed over $260,000 in crisis relief funds to over 900 individuals who were impacted by the November 29th Market Fire.
  • Market Upfit: Our biggest project over the next three years is to upfit a section of the market, making it safer, cleaner and more dignified for retailers and tailors while also structurally eliminating the need for bales to be head-carried. This project begins with a demonstration site. The November fire outbreak slowed down our timeline by about 2 months but we have selected the site for the demonstration project, consulted all relevant stakeholders and we have completed two meetings / site visits with a local architect to formalize plans.
  • We launched the Sender / Receiver Residency program, partially supported by the British Council, to (virtually) connect 30 young people in Ghana, the UK and the Netherlands to study and interrogate the linear power dynamics of the secondhand clothing trade.
  • We hosted dozens of Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) meetings with over 1,500 retailers and we launched the Stop Waste Colonialism Campaign calling for the EU to make EPR Globally Accountable. While our agreement with SHEIN is a form of Voluntary EPR and an important model for how brands can take responsibility for their waste in the absence of policy, we are continuing to push for mandated EPR policies across the Global North with a current focus on the EU.
  • In process: We have purchased fire extinguishers for the market that we will install in March along with a fire safety training program.

Ecological Research

  • Weekly Beach Monitoring and weekly water sampling at the beach and Korle Lagoon continues but we have added air sampling, air monitoring and a weather station to our ongoing ecotoxicology study. We have collected 1,072 water samples.
  • We have expanded the Beach Monitoring team, increased pay, provided uniforms and safety equipment and have completed additional tasks such as tentacle digs and sediment sampling.
  • We hired a Laboratory and Research Assistant as well as two Lab Apprentices from the Beach Monitoring Team to support the expansion of our ecotoxicology study.
  • Our entire team has undergone 2-3 Microfiber Identification training sessions to support the ongoing counting of microfibers from the beach and from Korle Lagoon.
  • We launched Agbetsi Living Water @livingwaterswim, a month-long scientific expedition where one of our board members, Yvette Tetteh, will swim 450km down the Volta River while our crew collects water and air samples. This is an environmental campaign exploring how textile waste, and pollution in general, is impacting Ghana’s most important waterbody.
  • We built the first hybrid-solar powered research vessel in Ghana called The Woman Who Does Not Fear, to support the Agbetsi Living Water Swim and to support forthcoming efforts to map the textile pollution along Accra’s coastline.
  • In process: Counting Microfibers and installing additional air monitors in the market and dumpsite.

Material R&D

  • 5 Metric Tons of clothing waste have been collected and transformed directly by our efforts, this is exclusive of the support we have given to retailers and upcyclers to help keep garments in circulation and remanufacture items within the market.
  • We soft-launched our Mop on Black Friday with a workshop and user-testing, followed by initial sales at Green Butterfly Market in Accra.
  • We reached a production capacity of 30 fiberboards, 125 square feet or 38 square meters, 45kg fiberboard panels per week and installed fiberboard sound absorbers in our sound studio.
  • Fiber to Fiber Pilot: We set up 1 collection point and two storage sheds in Kantamanto, collecting over 50,000 cotton-rich garments and training ten apprentices in how to identify fiber type. We rented a warehouse and built a baler made of 100% scrap metal and have baled up the feedstock for our pilot.
  • We opened the Incubator in February, which included expanding our capacity to train people on re-manufacturing.
  • The Material R&D team has designed a safety training program for apprentices.
  • In Process: Modifications to the Mop, Incubator Curriculum for the first batch of entrepreneurs, streamlining of fiberboard production and the assembly of a new shredder.

Regranting & Internal Capacity

  • Since the SHEIN Agreement We have redistributed a total of $129,800 in no-strings-attached grants, capacity support and donations to a total of 9 organizations with contributions ranging between $1000 and $25,000. We have committed an additional $70K to be distributed in the next month. We intend to redistribute at least $250,000 in total by June 2023.
  • Since October we went from 25 full-time employees to 27 + 1 part-time + 7 residents in Ghana and 1 part-time resident in the USA*.
  • We installed 20kw of solar panels as our main power source and backup batteries at our offices in central Accra in December of 2022. In addition to providing a stable source of electricity for our operations, this project serves as a vital and accessible demonstration for members of the Kantamanto community to engage with solar electricity as we prepare to upfit a section of Kantamanto market with a similar solar array.
  • We launched our internal Healthcare Fund.

*Please see previous update slides for info on pay structure, which remains unchanged