Putting a Face to Fashion: Uganda
As you know from my previous blog postings, I strongly believe in the power of supply chain transparency -- I love companies that share stories of their workers through photos, videos, and interviews – evidence of the real faces of fashion. Two companies (well, one of them is a non-profit but most of their operating expenses comes from selling merchandise) I want to share with you in this posting are Sseko Designs and Krochet Kids Intnl. Both produce merchandise in Uganda and both use the creation of fashion as a basis for social change; in the case of these two companies to use fashion to empower women in Uganda. Through the creation of fashion both companies offer women steady employment, education and/or scholarships, and opportunities for the women to become self-reliant. In addition, by producing merchandise in Africa with materials/fabrics from either the US or Africa both companies can take advantage of the US trade initiative known as the African Growth and Opportunity Act when importing the merchandise back into the US,
Sseko Designs makes wonderful “ribbon sandals” with interchangeable fabric straps as well as leather bags and other footwear and accessories. The model used by Sseko Designs is to provide employment to women during the 9-month gap between high school and university requiring them to save money to pay for tuition. Sseko also grants scholarships to these women so that they can earn a college degree. As they note “If we considered the impact that each product we consume has on the lives of those who produced that product and chose to see consumerism as a force and opportunity for positive social change, we believe the world would be filled with beautiful products with even more beautiful stories.” On their website is a “meet the women” page with stories about the women who work for Sseko Designs. For example, Pauline works in assembling sandals. Her goal is to study law.
Krochet Kids Intnl. creates hand crocheted hats, scarves and other men’s, women’s, and children’s apparel. The model used by Krochet Kids Intntl. is that women enter their program, learn to crochet and have steady employment for up to three years. During that time, they set goals, learn about business operations and finance, and have one-on-one mentoring with a local female program mentor. An interesting aspect of Krochet Kids is that they are a registered non-profit organization. As they note, “As a non-profit, we are able to focus more resources and financial investment into our program initiatives and the activities that achieve empowerment.” Upon graduation from the program, the women have gone on to become business owners and teachers. As noted in a Krochet Kids Intnl. video: “the true measure of social impact is not how well you can care for someone in your presence, but how well they thrive in your absence.” Watch their videos of the women crocheting hats sold all over the world and you too will be inspired.
These are the true faces of fashion.
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