In the part 1 of Fashion fights poverty I told you about a young woman I met on my way out and true to her word she sent her question to me by email and here is what she had to say
Firstly, it was a pleasure to hear you speak last week at the Africa Fashion Guide event, particularly on poverty alleviation and the women you work with through ethnic supplies. It was also great to meet you briefly at the end of the evening. You may remember, I came and asked you a long-winded question, I said I would email you with it so you could respond if you got a moment! So here it is again..
I understand how important it is for women in Africa to make clothes, be tailors etc, having worked with different NGOs and women’s groups, I have seen how empowering being a skilled tailor is in Togo – But if the fashion industry insentivises this, providing greater demand and income for women, is it not also at risk of reducing the emphasis on women’s education which really is what can change women’s positions in society, enabling them to reach positions of greater influence and increase their opportunities and choices?
I have thought on this some more since I posed the question to you, and wonder if there are ways of incorporating education in to ethical fashion projects which give women business at the same time. Maybe you know of some. Personally, I am still a believer in the state providing good education, but perhaps it is too late for that in lots of African countries.
Yes, that is a long question and I will do my best to unpack it here and hopefully you the readers can join in.
My initial thoughts are that this young lady has concerns that women maybe excluded from education and confined to being tailors and that whilst that provides an income women ought to access education so that they can take up their full roles in society.
I agree that that women should have access to education and I believe that the single most reason why African women are poor is the lack of education and that is why I am involved in an education initiative in SW Uganda. But I am also a realist- some women will not access education for whatever reason.
When that happens initiatives that provide skills that enable women to become financially independent are the next best thing and such initiative see women as tailors or designers of fashion accessories and handicrafts.
In my mind the worst situation for an African Woman is to find themselves without an independent source of income nor an education as this equates to social, political and financial exclusion which are key elements of an individual being able to participate fully or have any influence in society for that matter and is what I mean when I use the word empowerment.
I have met many such women and in fact I work with some of them and I can tell you the reality of their lives can be challenging
So over to you folk- what are thoughts?