Prada wants to use fashion as a vehicle for promoting women’s empowerment and sexual and reproductive health in Ghana and Kenya.
The Italian luxury house has teamed up with the United Nations Population Fund, a.k.a. UNFPA, to launch “Fashion Expressions: The Stories She Wears,” a pilot program that will impart 45 young women—30 from Ghana and 15 from Kenya—with not only practical knowledge and skills relevant to the fashion industry but also a “deeper understanding” of sexual and reproductive rights so they are less vulnerable to gendered inequalities and other harmful practices.
“This training program reflects Prada Group’s belief in fashion as a force for good,” said Lorenzo Bertelli, group marketing director and head of social responsibility at Prada. “We are honored to partner with UNFPA on this unique project to leverage the social and economic power of our industry to create more inclusive and equal societies.”
Prada and UNFPA developed the first-of-its-kind training initiative, which rolled out in May, with local partners such as International Needs in Ghana and the county government of Kitui and the Kitui County Textile Centre in Kenya. UNFPA Ghana and Kenya will be working with established local fashion brands to facilitate six-month industrial attachments that could pave the way for longer-term employment.
The aspiring designers, Prada said, will gain experience in the realm of fashion and production with a concentration on local traditions and styles, recycled and upcycled fashion and traditional textile design. They’ll also dive into financial literacy by learning about bookkeeping, budgeting and business management.
At the same time, the program will provide “comprehensive” sexual and reproductive health education, with sessions covering topics such as menstrual health management, puberty and teenage pregnancy prevention. They’ll also be taught how to protect against and combat gender-based violence, including female genital mutilation and child marriages.
At the end of the six months, the trainees will showcase their work at a presentation in Ghana or Kenya.
Mariarosa Cutillo, chief of strategic partnerships at UNFPA, described the initiative as an “impactful” one that “pushes boundaries for sustainable development solutions” and will serve as a “springboard” for further collaboration with Prada in the coming years.
“UNFPA is working with creative industries to find innovative ways to support young women from ‘left behind’ communities to access their rights and choices in order to unlock their full potential,” said Mariarosa Cutillo, chief of strategic partnerships at UNFPA. “Fashion is a powerful platform to provide long-term, sustainable education and development opportunities across the world.”