The Prada Group supports the economic inclusion of women in Ghana and Kenya.
In an effort to use fashion for purpose rather than just profit, the luxury company has partnered with the United Nations sexual and reproductive health agency UNFPA to improve a cohort of women and girls in fashion prowess. which will eventually lead them to jobs in fashion.
Officially unveiled on Wednesday to see the fruits of the first fashion training program launched last May for 30 women in Ghana and 15 women in Kenya, the “Fashion Expressions: The Stories She Wears” program has already shown it has awarded power to its participants, according to UNFPA.
“The idea is to not only have technical expertise for the module, but also to make sure then somehow [the women and girls] they are connected, that there are channels for the sustainability of the program at the local level, ”Mariarosa Cutillo, head of strategic partnerships at UNFPA, told WWD. “We are talking about the techniques, but there is also the part on the management of the company and therefore on the management of finances and therefore also on becoming economically self-sufficient”.
Over the course of six months, women and girls, aged 15 to 30 and from vulnerable backgrounds, regardless of whether they have suffered abuse, early pregnancy or family deaths that have produced economic hardship, will be trained in techniques of fashion and business.
These include skills ranging from fashion design and illustration to pattern making, sewing and, thanks to local partners with traditional skills, things like batik dyeing. When it comes to sustainability, the cohort will also be trained on the use of recycling and alternative materials to make the garments they want to make. On the business side, they will be offered the opportunity to acquire financial literacy skills, including accounting, budgeting and business management.
“We are actually working with local experts, then [UNFPA’s] country office and we have a consultant from Ghana who is a local fashion expert who is building all the connections with the right suppliers locally. These are local experts on local fashion. These are local experts, for example, in batik; these are local experts in all traditional techniques, so this is also a way to give visibility to these local techniques which are so powerful in Africa in general and, in this case, in Ghana and Kenya in particular, ”Cutillo said. “If you see some of the designs, they are so powerful. And that also gives the girls a motivation because it is something that is their reality there. It is completely thought out locally and implemented locally “.
Beyond fashion itself, and in line with UNFPA’s mission, the training program is also designed to help give women and girls greater action in terms of sexual and reproductive health and protection. As part of the program there will be ‘comprehensive education sessions’ on topics such as managing menstrual health, preventing teen pregnancy, preventing and responding to gender-based violence and practices such as early marriage.
“The general idea is really to promote social and economic justice for these women, particularly because the idea is that they then enter the world of work in their countries by implementing what they are learning through this module,” Cutillo said.
UNFPA and Prada will continue their ongoing collaborative work with local partners, including International Needs in Ghana and the Kitui County Textile Center in Kenya, as well as established local fashion brands to facilitate connections for “Fashion” trainees. Expressions “that will ensure” long term employment opportunities “.
While Prada’s role has been more that of a support observer who let the program take shape locally rather than being actively involved in training or sharing techniques, Lorenzo Bertelli, the company’s marketing director and head of corporate social responsibility, he said the effort is in line with Prada’s beliefs.
“This training program reflects the Prada Group’s belief in fashion as a force for good,” said Bertelli. “We are honored to partner with UNFPA on this unique project to harness the social and economic power of our industry to create more inclusive and equitable societies.”
The pilot project of this first cohort program will conclude at the end of the year and UNFPA is already looking for places like Latin America to launch similar ones.
“We want this to be a sustainable program and one of the things that will be important is the channel that we are also able to create with these girls and women to have access to the world of work … the pilot does not end with the pilot,” he said. Cutillo. “As for increased awareness, we would like these girls to truly become champions in their own communities for women’s empowerment … This is a very practical way to give substance to this UN concept” “leave no one behind . ‘”