Prada, UNFPA Fashion Training Program to Empower Women in Ghana, Kenya – WWD

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Prada Group supports the economic inclusion of women in Ghana and Kenya.

In an effort to use fashion for ends rather than just for profit, the luxury company has partnered with the United Nations sexual and reproductive health agency UNFPA to hone a cohort of women and girls in the fashion skills that will eventually lead them to fashion jobs.

Officially unveiled on Wednesday to first 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 proven to have empowered its participants, according to UNFPA.

“The idea is to not only have technical expertise for the module, but also to make sure that somehow [the women and girls] are connected, that there are channels for program sustainability at the local level,” Mariarosa Cutillo, UNFPA’s strategic partnerships manager, told WWD. “We’re talking about the techniques, but there’s also the part of running the business at that time and therefore managing the finances and therefore also becoming economically self-sufficient.”

For six months, women and girls – between the ages of 15 and 30 and from vulnerable backgrounds, whether they have been victims of abuse, early pregnancies or family deaths resulting in economic hardship – will be trained in the techniques of fashion and business. .

Intern Zainab works at the Ussher Polyclinic Sewing Center in Ghana.

Prada, UNFPA

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 in using recycling and alternative materials to make the clothes they want to make. On the business side, they will have the opportunity to learn financial literacy skills, including bookkeeping, budgeting, and business management.

“We actually work with local experts, so [UNFPA’s] country office, and we have a consultant from Ghana who is a local fashion expert who makes all the connections with the right local suppliers. They are local fashion experts. They are local experts, for example, batik; they are local experts in all traditional techniques, so it is also a way of giving visibility to these local techniques which are so powerful in Africa in general and, in this case, particularly in Ghana and Kenya,” said Cutillo said. “If you see some of the designs, they are so powerful. And it also gives motivation to the girls because it’s something that is their reality there. It’s completely thought locally and implemented locally.

Beyond the fashion itself, and in line with UNFPA’s mission, the training program is also designed to help empower women and girls in health and protection. sexual and reproductive. As part of the program, there will be “comprehensive education sessions” on topics such as menstrual health management, teen pregnancy prevention, gender-based violence prevention and response, and practices like child marriage.

“The general idea is really to promote social and economic justice for these women in particular, because the idea is that they then enter the world of work in their country by implementing what they learn through this module,” Cutillo said.

UNFPA and Prada will continue their ongoing work of collaborating 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 between Fashion Expressions interns. “which will provide fixed-term employment opportunities.

Although Prada’s role has been more of a supportive observer letting the program take shape locally than being actively involved in training or sharing techniques, Lorenzo Bertelli, marketing director and head of social responsibility at the company, 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,” Bertelli said. “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 equal societies.”

The pilot of this program for the first cohort will end at the end of the year, and UNFPA is already looking to places like Latin America to deploy similar ones.

“We want this to be a sustainable program and one of the things that will be important is the channel that we can also create with these girls and women to access the world of work…the pilot does not end with the pilot,” Cutillo said. “As an outreach, we’d like to see these girls really become champions in their own communities for women’s empowerment… It’s a really practical way to bring that concept to life. United Nations ”leave no one behind.'”

A group of women, some wearing orange couture dresses and some black, stand close together, smiling outside the International Needs training centre.

Trainees at the International Needs training center in Ghana.

Prada, UNFPA

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