Ethical FashionWith a mission of empowering women through fashion, the Ethical Fashion Initiative (EFI) unites people from impoverished communities across the world to turn their passions and skills into an income for themselves and their families. Women and men from Afghanistan, Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Haiti, Kenya, Mali, Tajikistan, Uganda and Uzbekistan are able to sell their crafted goods through the Ethical Fashion Initiative.

Goal to Reduce Global Poverty

Beginning its work in 2009, EFI proudly creates long-term and sustainable jobs. Beyond this, they also contribute to six of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) directly and two indirectly. The SDGs are 17 United Nations (UN) goals focused on providing a better and more sustainable future for the world.  The UN created the goals in 2015 with a timeline of achieving each by 2030.  EFI believes that to achieve the SDGs, sustainable and ethical fashion has to play a significant role.

The Ethical Fashion Initiative operates as part of the International Trade Centre’s Poor Communities and Trade Programme (PCTP). It continues the mission of PCTP to reduce global poverty through empowering entrepreneurs in impoverished communities. It also bridges the gap between development and fashion in these countries. Finally, it empowers community artisans to grow their skills and knowledge while making a consistent and reliable earning for themselves.

Supporting Communities and Building Infrastructure

Beyond just connecting these artisans to the fashion world, EFI works to support and sustain its artisan community. Beginning in 2015 with one hub in Kenya, the EFI now operates through hubs in various countries to create a business infrastructure.    With quality control initiatives, management support, workshops on industry education and professionalism, EFI does more than just provide a space to sell crafts.

Connecting Local Artisans to Global Brands

The Ethical Fashion Initiative has connected local artisans to global brands like Biffi Boutiques, Carmina Campus, Chan Luu, Instituto-E, Isetan, Karen Walker, Marni, Mimco, Osklen, sass & bide, Stella McCartney, United Arrows, Vivienne Westwood and Yanvalou Designs. Not only are these brands supporting the artisan of the Ethical Fashion Initiative, they too are working towards the end of global poverty.

Monitoring Progress through RISE

Respect, Invest, Sustain and Empower are the words behind EFI’s acronym RISE. RISE is the initiative’s program dedicated to monitoring and tracking the sustainability, supply chain and production of these artisanal products. RISE is also responsible for connecting the product to the consumer. The program is able to do this through its three-tier system: assess, control and trace. From “product passports” to highlighting specific local artisan communities, RISE communicates the EFI mission globally. RISE also demonstrates how the consumer can play a role in ending global poverty through sustainable fashion.

Beyond the products it connects the world to, the Ethical Fashion Initiative also connects the world to the people of its community. From purses and backpacks to pillows and shoes, the Ethical Fashion Initiative is taking a stance on global poverty. It is fighting for a better tomorrow through ethical fashion. This connected global market is more than just high fashion, it is a resource for many people to create a better future for themselves and the world.

– Annaclaire Acosta
Photo: Flickr

Poverty and Human Rights
Some individuals assume that issues, such as poverty and human rights violations, can be solved separately from one another. However, what many fail to realize is that poverty and the denial of human rights are problems that are interdependent issues. In other words, where there is poverty, there are human rights violations and vice-versa.

Poverty is more than just individuals lacking in quality employment and material goods; it also incorporates social and physical goods. Social and physical goods are characterized by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as a right to cultural identity, right to equality, freedom to live with respect and dignity, freedom from violence and degrading treatment, freedom of political opinion, education, personal security and many other basic human rights.

According to Amnesty USA, “Gross economic and social inequality is an enduring reality in countries of all political ideologies, and all levels of development. In the midst of plenty, many are still unable to access even minimum levels of food, water, education, healthcare and housing. This is not only the result of a lack of resources, but also unwillingness, negligence and discrimination by governments and others. Many groups are specifically targeted because of who they are; those on the margins of society are often overlooked altogether.”

It is estimated that one-third of all human deaths occur because of poverty associated reasons. These poverty-related reasons are considered easily preventable such as access to clean water, nutrition and access to quality health care because they fall under basic human rights.

This relationship is further validated by statistics. The Human Rights Watch reports that those who live in dire poverty within low income or lower-middle income countries, also live in homes where the head of household is part of an ethnic minority group.

In recent years, the Office of the U.N.’s High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in collaboration with other U.N. partners, has recognized this relationship between poverty and human rights violations. A few of the approaches that these organizations are utilizing are empowering the poor, providing international assistance and cooperation and strengthening human rights protection systems.

Currently, these organizations are collaborating with multiple governments in order to employ poverty reduction strategies as a way to ensure that vulnerable groups have access to their basic human rights.

Shannon Warren

Photo: Flickr