Fashion has a say at the United Nations Conference on the Status of Women – WWD

On Thursday, the United Nations continued to champion women, with fashion in the mix.

Conversations covered leadership opportunities and empowering women in fashion.

An afternoon discussion focused on how women are leading the charge for sustainable fashion. Titled, “‘Women-Led Innovations Advancing Equitable Workforce Development: The Role of Fashion,” the live-streamed and in-person panel discussion delved into the playbook for advancing women in the fashion industry.

Speakers included Tamburai Chirume, co-founder, The African Academy of Fashion; Ngozi Okaro, executive director, Custom Collaborative; and Kerry Bannigan, executive director, Fashion Impact Fund and co-founder of the UN Conscious Fashion and Lifestyle Network (which is a joint initiative of the United Nations Office for Partnerships and the Fashion Impact Fund). The event was moderated by Business Insider’s Senior Entrepreneurship Journalist, Jennifer Ortakales Dawkins.

The panel explored digital needs, workplace practices, partnerships, and where leaders are advancing the development of the fashion workforce. These, of course, mean financial equity (both The African Academy of Fashion and Custom Collaborative are grant winners from the Fashion Impact Fund) and leadership opportunities.

Chirume called for a “sisterhood built through fashion” that empowers women from crafting to consuming. “The question is always, what happens after that show?” she polled. “The Fashion Impact Fund has enabled us to do what we do best. Eighty percent of our women are currently employed in jobs, whether in the retail sector, or in our studio, in the [designs] we do.”

The African Academy of Fashion has seen a 100% comprehensive rate for its students, funding the ‘holistic’ education of 20 previously unemployed women in Cape Town, South Africa.

“Everyone in the industry is saying you have staffing needs or business needs. Well, here’s the solution,” said Okaro, who spoke about the talent development happening in New York at the Custom Collaborative.

Bannigan spoke about the digital divide that persists, including the lack of access to electricity, iPads, computers or other tools that underpin supply chains.

“What we have to look at in the fashion space — the reality is that people don’t have the ability to connect,” Bannigan said. Whether it’s sampling, manufacturing, or even using Slack, Okaro chimed in, it can drive the inclusion of women in the fashion workforce.

A kind of “tech lending library” was a solution Custom Collaborative came up with in New York. Partnerships for online courses through the University of Fashion and the Fashion Institute of Technology have also helped the organization’s efforts.

“It’s about opening doors and creating entry and opportunity. There’s nothing wrong or different about women entering these programs… It’s that they haven’t had the opportunity,” Okaro summed up.

At that point, Bannigan added, “If women could have access to money and media and marketing, then they’d be unstoppable.”

The 67th edition of the Commission on the condition of women takes place from 6 to 17 March.

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