January 9, 2009

Lifecycle of a handbag

We have a new site www.g-lish.org where you can read all articles from This is Ghana in a much more organised fashion. Read Lifecycle of a handbag there.

I was wandering up the road to work in regional Ghana minding my own business when I shouted “STOP!”

I knew that stylish, red, raw silk shoulder bag hanging alongside a motley range of developed-world seconds. And those daisies! I pulled my partner over the stinky gutter and into the tiny shack shop while I plucked the shiny red bag from its latch. My jaw almost fell into the sewer when I read: “Sentosa Silk, Cambodia.”

I knew it. Unmistakable. I worked with Sentosa in Phnom Penh. I sent their signature daisy purses home as gifts. What on earth was it doing here in Ghana? I knew the bag was made at a fair trade NGO, just like the one I worked for a few hundred metres up the road from where I was standing.

I hate shopping, and I’m no bargain hunter, but I had to know the price, especially because I knew the value--raw, hand-woven silk. And I’m constantly marveling at the developing world pecking order: ambulances donated to Ghana from Iran, for instance, and Cuban doctors doing the salsa down the corridors most hospitals here... Anyway.

So I ducked inside.
“How much?” I asked the owner. She sized me up.
“Five Ghana Cedis.” (That’s just under 5 US dollars.)
I almost fell over.
“It’s worth at least 20!” I whispered to my boyfriend outside in the sweltering sun.

I wanted to offer 10. Crazy. But I knew the effort that went into that bag.

So I left it. I figured some lucky Ghanaian could be the belle of the funeral (it was red and black: funeral colours) and nab a bargain they may never realize the true value of, and that it was hand made by young men and women working hard to overcome disabilities inflicted by land mines and other consequences of the civil war in another small developing nation half-way around the world.

We stepped over the open sewers and up the hill towards the Global Mamas office where hard-working Ghanaian women brought in their own fair trade creations.

Another "what on earth" moment in Ghana.

And what is it with the Cuban doctors anyway?


  1. Yep, absolutely true. Sometimes the things you find in Ghana are so cheap that they probably dont even cover the costs! Shoes, Bags, and sometimes even cars!

    Anyways, as a Lebanese that grew up in Ghana, I have enjoyed reading your blog. Keep it up with the interesting articles!


  2. Absolutely true. The things you find in ghana surprize you sometimes!

    As a lebanese that was brought up in ghana, I have enjoyed reading your blog, keep it up!



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