Enhancing women’s economic empowerment by linking artisans to the international fashion industry
Women’s economic empowerment through the Ethical Fashion Initiative of the International Trade Centre (ITC) was showcased at the World Export Development Forum in Kigali, Rwanda on 17 Sep 2014.
The Executive Director of the ITC Arancha González said the Initiative allows artisans living in urban and rural poverty to connect with the global fashion chain through work with Vivienne Westwood, Stella McCartney, Ilaria Fendi and Stella Jean.
Through the initiative, over 7000 women who are micro-entrepreneurs have already benefited from job opportunities and dignified work which have helped to improve lives with more than 80% of women being able to educate their children.
Ms. González said this initiative launched in 2008 promotes artisans from the informal sector by creating avenues for them to improve their skills and creativity, and build awareness of the value of linkages with the international fashion industry. She stated that the initiative has successfully created jobs for the poorest of the poor and helped to uplift lives in the countries in which Ethical Fashion operates – in Kenya, Ghana, Burkina Faso, Mali and Haiti.
Introducing a key staff member of the Nairobi-based Ethical Fashion Africa, Winnie Wangari, the Executive Director said Ms. Wangari has learned about quality control and international export standards in the five years she has worked with Ethical Fashion.
‘When I joined Ethical Fashion, I was in the packing section for international orders and the I became a supervisor of beading and embroidery, and finishing departments,’ said Ms. Wangari. ‘I have received a lot of training on quality and have improved my skills, and I now know what export quality is! The income I receive has improved my life and given me opportunities, and I am able to support my family. Ethical Fashion Africa works with many communities, training women on how to improve their skills and make quality products of many wonderful different designs. As the orders increase from international buyers, more people receive work.’
Also working to help empower hearing-impaired women in Kenya was Dinah Rambeka of Sasa Designs, which produces costume jewellery. As the workshop manager, Ms. Rambeka supervises 15 women artisans who are hearing-impaired. They produce bracelets, necklaces and earrings using glass, bone and beads. The company not only sells their products locally, but also exports to the USA, Canada, Germany and Japan
‘Our goal is to be sustainable and to receive many orders to extend the network to more hearing-impaired people in Kenya,’ said Ms. Rambeka. ‘The women have the skills but very few opportunities are open to them due to their disability. I have been empowered to work in this sector to offer my management skills to marginalized individuals and to promote the production of local costume jewellery. These hearing-impaired women are willing and able to take on new designs and to develop their skills. Through this work, they are able to provide for their children. I would like to encourage more initiatives to embrace those women who are marginalized as they too can participate in the international value chain of fashion by using their wonderful skills to create unique items of women’s accessories through creative use of a variety of materials.’