Empowerment through Fashion

July 17, 2019  

There are many ways to interpret our mission of empowerment through fashion. There is the economic empowerment, which gives individuals, especially women, access to capital to support themselves and their families. By gaining skills and starting their own businesses, hundreds of graduates of the Paper Fig Skills Training Institute now have a path to financial independence. This impacts everything in their lives: beyond the ability to feed themselves and their families, they can also pay for school fees to support the growth of the next generation. And they can support other local businesses as they purchase materials they need, empowering a whole community. 

This empowerment manifests itself in more subtle ways as well. When a woman can earn her own money, she can decide her own fate. In Kasese, where the Paper Fig Skills Training Institute is based, men traditionally controlled the finances, and therefore they controlled the women in their lives. The Paper Fig Foundation is happy to stand beside our graduates and watch as they assert their own power, knowing they can support themselves and create their own futures.

We can also see this empowerment on personal, individual levels in the way Paper Fig graduates carry themselves. Look at how they walk down the runway, with pride in their hearts and smiles on their faces. These women made these dresses, and when they put on these beautiful garments, they stand a little bit taller. This is empowerment you can see.

Then there is the broader level of cultural preservation. In Uganda, second-hand clothing is big business and kids are running around in Chicago Bulls jerseys and Disney t-shirts. But there is a history of growing and making their own garments, and with the support of platforms like Kampala Fashion Week and organizations like the Paper Fig Foundation, tailors and designers are tapping back into their cultural heritage. This will help people to take pride in their own country, and eventually to create a more sustainable fashion ecosystem in Uganda and the rest of the region.