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Rebuilding girls’ lives through art and and design

Design and fashion promoting peace and prosperity for conflict-affected young women in Eastern DRC

Photo of Alessandra Podest
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Explain your project idea (2,000 characters)

Decades of conflict have thrown DRC into chaos. Ranked 176 out of 188 on the Human Development Index, DRC remains one of the poorest and most dangerous African countries to live in. Nearly 68% of the population is below 25 years old and 60% of DRC’s population lives below the poverty line. Since the 2010s, the conflict has seen further fragmentation and proliferation of armed groups and militias, most of them of small size and primarily ethno-centric; widely driven by high levels of distrust and insecurity in and between communities. North Kivu has been the hub of fighting between government and rebels, resulting in families torn apart, countless deaths and thousands of women being raped. Girls live in a society where traditional gender perception mean that they are excluded from education, subjected to child marriages and cut out of prosperity and peace opportunities. Our idea wants to address causes of economic instability and insecurity, and marginalization of young women in Eastern DRC, by creating women-led fashion cooperatives, with members from different communities and tribes, which utilize ethnically patterned textiles to produce a wide range of tailoring products. Textiles are highly valued in the DRC and used to define tribes or traded as currency. Women will use African art and tribal textiles to explore identity and conflict, and the use of art in building peace and to facilitate processes of reconciliation. Tailoring products of high-quality locally sourced fabrics will find success in Eastern DRC markets, replacing imported and more expensive fabrics and become a source of profitable income. Women will be empowered as active agents of peace: by working in cooperative tailoring women will get to know different ethnic and tribal background, overcoming conflict and community rivalry whilst sharing messages of peace within families and communities. Women will also be able to effectively influence the peace process.

Who are the beneficiaries? (1,000 characters)

Primary beneficiaries are 1,000 women aged 14-25, their families and communities totalling 15,000 people. The project will identify vulnerable women from communities around the city of Goma in Eastern DRC, train them in tailoring, quality control, purchasing, management and design, and help them to set up ethical social business. They will be trained in the use of arts and design for peacebuilding and intercultural dialogue, and in Healing and Rebuilding Your Community methodology championing collective resolution of conflicts at community level. By working in cooperatives, young women will provide peer support to one another, join their efforts to manage a microenterprise. A second group of beneficiaries will be their families and children who will be able to meet their basic needs and attend school. Lastly, communities will benefit from more empowered women who will act as mediators of peace and positively influence the peace process promoting dialogue and inter-community trust.

How is your idea unique? (1,000 characters)

Rebuilding Girls’ Lives embeds a unique approach of combining the arts and design and the powerful role of women as actors of social change to promote prosperity and conflict resolution at community level. It is a community-driven intervention which starts from a simple idea but with high return on investment potential and easily scalable. The traditions of African culture can be read through clothing: the designs of the fabric have meaning containing history, identity and philosophy. Rebuilding Girls’ Lives strategically use tribal patterns and design to create unique, low-cost ethical tailoring products that will replace imported more expensive fabrics and spread a message of peace.

Idea Proposal Stage (choose one)

  • Initial Design: I am exploring the idea, gathering the inspiration and information I need to test it with real users.
  • Prototype: I have done some small tests or experiments with prospective users to continue developing the idea.

Tell us more about your organization/company (1 sentence and website URL)

Chance for Childhood is a charity working in Africa to support the most vulnerable children, often invisible from society, such as street children, disabled children, children affected by conflict and children in conflict with the law.

Expertise in sector

  • 7+ years

Organization Filing Status

  • Yes, we are a registered non-profit.

In 3-4 sentences, tell us the inspiration or story that encouraged you to start this project.

Central role of African culture and women’s resilience directly inspired this idea. By working in post-conflict East Africa and the DRC over the past 20 years our experience has taught us that women are always the worst affected ones in a situation of protracted violence. Yet women are the most resilient subjects able to lead families and communities towards peace and stability.

Please explain how your selected topic areas are influenced, in the local context of your project (1,000 characters).

Ongoing conflict in Eastern DRC makes girls in particular the primary targets of violence. Traditional gender perceptions are exacerbated by the ongoing conflict meaning that girls are expected to carry out domestic chores, subjected to child marriages, abuses and remain excluded from society. A survey conducted in 2016 highlighted the critical vulnerability of adolescent girls in the areas of Goma: 62% have never been to school and 73% live in acute poverty. Girls victims of violence or even former female child soldiers are also excluded from rehabilitation programmes and reintegration into society. Our primary goal will thus be to work with local communities to stop violence, abuse and stigmatization of girls whilst building sustainable peace and viable economic opportunities for young women.

Who will work alongside your organization in the project idea? (1,000 characters)

The project will see Chance for Childhood and local partner Children’s Voice working together along with communities around the city of Goma and Kibati. Chance for Childhood (CfC) has worked in the city of Goma, Eastern DRC, since 2015 to support children and young people to rebuild their lives in the aftermath of war. Children’s Voice is a woman led community based organisation based in Goma that works with children and young women who are victims of the armed conflict that is devastating the Kivu region. Following consultation with local communities, In 2016, CfC and CV, started the Rebuilding Young Lives project aimed at fully refurbishing the primary school at Kibati, whilst in 2017 another intervention was in place to target young women through vocational training. The proposed project therefore builds on this experience and seeks to scale up its positive results .

Please share some of the top strengths identified in the community which your project will serve (500 characters)

- Multiyear expertise of both organisation working in the specific project context - Great level of community participation and of beneficiaries -primarily young women- - Young women facing exclusion and stigmatization along are willing to gain emancipation and independence - Positive contribution of women as catalyst of social change and promotion of peace - Unique use of arts and design in the promotion of peace

Geographic Focus

Goma, Eastern DRC, North Kivu

How many months are required for the project idea? (500 characters)

24 months

Did you submit this idea to our 2017 BridgeBuilder Challenge? (Y/N)

  • No


Join the conversation:

Photo of Luz Gallo

Hey alessandra podesta , this idea has the potential to add on to the fashion system in Africa that is gaining a lot of visibility. Have you considered to partner with fashion designers in order to produce fashion collections for runways and other fashion events?

Photo of Alessandra Podest

Hi Luz, yes we have considered linking up with the fashion system in Africa -we were actually very inspired by the sapeur movement and the idea of further promoting a culture of locally produced clothing instead of foreign mainstream brands- and would totally aim to link up with fashion designers for this.

Photo of Luz Gallo

Great to hear this alessandra! Hope to hear later from your updates on this project!

Photo of Emily Molzan

Fantastic idea! We are partnered with an organization that works in Goma, DRC - Worlds Collide Africa. The Tchukudu Womens Training Centre enrols women survivors that have come to Goma with their families for a change at safety and survival. Women learn tailoring, basket weaving and batik in an effort to provide skills for self-sustainability. They women are also able to send 2 children to school at the partner Jonathan Holiday School. Look up Worlds Collide Africa and lets connect!

Photo of Alessandra Podest

Hi Emily, great to hear about your experience which sounds fantastic. Absolutely, let's connect!