“Women hold up half the sky”
In recent years, much attention has been given to the plight of oppression of women and girls around the world, due in part to the Half the Sky movement inspired by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn's best-selling book Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide. One incredibly important way to help bring women and girls out of oppression is through education; out of the world’s approximately 170 million children that lack access to education, 70% are girls.
The fact that any children are not receiving a proper education is, of course, worrisome. In the case of young girls, however, the issue tends to be more pressing. Girls are often denied access to education because of traditional beliefs in certain societies that prescribe a higher importance to girls learning how to run a household rather than learning how to read, write, and acquire basic mathematical skills. Women make up about two-thirds of the world’s illiterate population, reflecting the fact that well over half of the girls in some developing nations are not able to receive the education they deserve.
You might be wondering: what can we do to help amend the situation? Many girls in these nations are unable to attend school because they lack the resources necessary to cover the costs of tuition and school supplies that are essential to getting a full education. So what is this post about girls’ education doing on a blog about sustainable fashion? That’s where fashion brand Le Dessein comes in. In an effort to change the lives of girls around the world (and the communities and countries they live in), Le Dessein is committed to donating 25% of their profits to pay for the yearly tuition rates of young girls in countries where access to education may be difficult or not prioritized.
Le Dessein began this venture by working with girls in Liberia, where 77% of the poorest girls aged 7 to 16 have never been to school. This work was done in conjunction with the More Than Me Foundation, a foundation committed to helping young girls who live in some of the poorest slums in Liberia get an education and keep them off the streets. Le Dessein’s starting goal is to be able to help 10,000 girls get the education they deserve, and they are looking to expand their reach to Haiti in the upcoming year to further this work.
Le Dessein specializes in upscale women’s wear. Their high-end dresses, sweaters, and tops bring classic, season-less looks that attest to their desire to bring luxury wear into the socially responsible fashion world. This year, they also expanded to include a bracelet line. Each bracelet is comprised of a unique kind of gemstone that boasts some kind of inspirational or healing element. What really sets Le Dessein apart, though, are the designs embroidered onto each item of clothing from their line. In an effort to boost the self-confidence and creativity of the girls being supported in Liberia, an activity of taking photographs of friends and family was undertaken by the girls. They then used these photos to create drawings that became the basis for the embroidered images on Le Dessein’s clothing line. Through an education and creative activities such as this, Le Dessein’s ultimate goal is to empower and encourage these young women to lead the lives that they wish to lead rather than being forced to accept the path that might be traditionally placed on them. With an education, a greater breadth of opportunities is given to these girls, opportunities that might never have been possible without proper schooling.
None of this would have possible without the creative mind of founder Eric Coly. Eric is no stranger to the effects that empowerment and education can have on women; he comes from a long line of matriarchal influence. His grandmother attended college in the early 1920s in Senegal, an incredible accomplishment for a woman in Africa in that time. Her youngest daughter, Eric’s mother, also went on to attend college, this time in France. His two sisters both have received post-doctorate degrees in their turn. After taking a career in banking that fulfilled what he believed to be path worthy of his family and education, Eric realized that he needed something more in his career, something that could fill the creative space that was lacking in the world of finance. To pay homage to these extremely influential women in his life and to find a career that would work as an outlet for his creativity, Eric turned to the socially responsible fashion world, still a relatively obscure corner of the fashion industry at the time.
He wanted to create a label that could show how stylish and luxurious ethical fashion could be, rather than the “hippy” and casual styles that ethical and sustainable brands tended to lean towards. His hope is that through Le Dessein, not only will he be able to bring luxury clothing with a conscious to the world, but he will also be able to help young girls in need of an education see that with their artwork being worn by people around the globe (and with the knowledge that school affords them), they can break out of the roles that the patriarchal societies they live in so often tend to burden them with.
Care about these girls. Care about the world. Shop at Le Dessein (www.ledessein.com) to fashion an education for young girls in need.
Facts from the UNESCO Girls’ Education Fact Sheet
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