18 May 2016

Empowerment to Women



Fashion is great, it’s fantastic, it’s art, it’s superficial, it’s a luxury, and it’s fun.

For millions of consumers around the world, fashion is an industry for mass consumerism through trends and seasons; it’s a form of self-expression. There’s no doubt that the textiles and clothing industry has provided some empowerment for working women and narrowing the gender inequality in many spheres. But, women are still under-represented in their vital role towards the development of the industry towards a more sustainable future of the industry.

For 70% of women in developing countries, fashion is a means of living – where they spend countless hours labouring in cramped factory spaces with limited to no rights, educations and acknowledgement to ensure that the industry is continuous churning out enough products to be put onto racks in retail. It's been studied however that women, as individuals who make up half the population of the world and as the individuals solely responsible for looking after the household, play a vital role in the development and the success of the fashion industry, alongside the entire value chain that the industry produces.


There’s no denying that the textiles and clothing industry has contributed to the economic and social advancement for many women of course, and does contribute to their empowerment by narrowing the gender inequality in many spheres. But women are still under-represented in their vital role towards the development of the industry towards a more sustainable future. 

In spite of their role in the economic and social contribution towards the industry, many women who work in the textiles factories in developing countries experience great discrimination of gender inequality and lack of protection and rights. These women who do so much for the things that consumers wear, then become targets for social and economic exploitation and find themselves at a disadvantage against male counterparts in terms of their wages, their economic opportunities and social marginalisation.

There is no form of self-expression in labouring for the sake of others, is there? 



Unfortunately, no matter how terrible the situation gets for these women due to the exploitation of suppliers and fashion businesses, the basic rights and needs of these women continue to be widely disregarded. It should have been done ages ago, but now in the 21st century where women, regardless of geographical location or status, should be able to live comfortably knowing that there is gender equality for them with a set of regulated rights that don’t disadvantage them from any kind of opportunities, this issue of women’s rights and empowerment in the textiles industry still have to be tackled and fixed – with the help of businesses and young fashionable consumers, coming together to raise awareness and vocalisation of women’s rights and the poor working conditions in the textiles industry is the start of potential change in the way the industry evolves in a more sustainable and safe environment. As Suzy Menkes has said at the Youth Fashion Summit in Copenhagen, "Millennials hold the key to a sustainable future," therefore making a big impact on the way the industry will move in a path that benefits women as leaders and the industry as a more productive and sustainable industry. 


Obviously it isn’t a utopian ambition because it’s not an easy task that can be achieved overnight, but it is an ambition to be able to vocalise gender equity and hopefully improve the livelihoods of women in all social, economic and environmental cases in an industry made by women, run by women for women. Through the concepts of redesigning production, improving working environment infrastructures and working towards the empowerment of women through regulated rights of work standards and even leadership and position opportunities, this goal of gender equality for the industry is gradually being tackled universally. Menkes has also stated that "by caring for what kind of shirt you buy, you will improve the state of the planet [too]" therefore becoming a double win-win in this issue that needs to be tackled. 

Some very important designers and brands include Krochet Kids, SymbologyAkolaIndigo Africa and Girlfriend Collective (my personal favourite, highly recommend this brand) that are helping to empower women as leaders in the fashion industry by giving them an opportunity to become leaders in sustainable development of ethical fashion.

By improving the lives of these women who work so effortlessly to make pieces of self-expression for consumers overseas, it’ll be the real deal towards an industry and world that is empowered by self-expression and gender equity where women are given equal opportunities and are leaders in an industry made for them. 

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As you may or may not have known, I was chosen as a delegate as part of a scholarship to attend the UN ECOSOC Forum later in the year. Although the issues and topics of the forum don't fully align with fashion and textiles, I figured that women play a very important role in the way the industry works and how it'll progress in the future, therefore justifying my research into this topic of interest to combine both women, fashion and politics into one big mash. 
I'm currently working on a very big research paper that I'll take with me to the forum to discuss with lots of officials, but for now I thought it'd be nice to share a preview of part of my research with everyone. I'm nervous, because this is an area of fashion which I haven't dipped my hand into past the very fine line of women and their sustainable impact, so I hope that you'll forgive me if I'm not on the right track. It's a work in progress.