After being abducted by Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) at the age of 13, Grace survived two years in the Northern Ugandan bush before she was able to escape. Today, Grace, among 22 other formerly abducted women, are employed as seamstresses by an organization known as Mend.
Since 1987, Kony’s army has abducted over 30,000 children, forcing them to become soldiers in his army or wives to his soldiers.
Grace, among thousands of other women, suffered the physical, emotional, and mental pain of being held captive by these men. Although the seamstresses were fortunate to escape, many were ostracized by friends and family upon return due to involvement with the rebels. In order to address these issues and work through traumatization, all of the women employed by Mend received three months of counseling and tailoring training through Invisible Children.
The Invisible Children is an organization that began in 2006 as an initiative to end the LRA conflict in Uganda. In addition to establishing numerous campaigns that rehabilitate and educate formerly abducted people, Invisible Children formed Mend as a social enterprise in 2009 in order to give women employment opportunities and create awareness around circumstances in Uganda.
As their Mother’s Day promotion, Mend seamstresses created beautiful limited edition clutches for women to receive on Mother’s Day. The clutches are a thoughtful gift for a mother that supports a mother in need.
In addition to clutches, MEND seamstresses, like Grace, also sew purses, handbags, and laptop sleeves all specifically designed by the Mend design team. Mend products range anywhere from $35 to $300. “It is an immense responsibility,” designer Juan-David Quinnones shared, “to make something that will last, add value to people’s lives, and tell an amazing story.” As Quinnones refers to, each bag shares a message from the woman who created it through a tag that has her picture and story on it.
When asked “Where did you get that great bag,” customers have the opportunity to share not only where their bag is from, but also who made it and why. Exchanges like these, thanks to Mend’s dedication, has transformed consumerism into a form of activism.
“One of our bottom lines is the growth of our seamstresses in all aspects of their lives,” professed Mend director Chris Sarette. In addition to the employment opportunity, Mend provides their seamstresses with a full-time social worker, literacy classes, and financial meetings to help the women grow holistically, for themselves and their families.
– Heather Klosterman