UNODC supports the reintegration of girls in conflict with the law in Kenya through fashion

© Photo: UNODC

Madrid (Spain), 10 March 2020 – Clothing designed by 13 Kenyan girls during vocational training at their rehabilitation schools featured on the runway at a unique fashion show in Madrid on 6 March 2020. The Designing Dreams fashion parade is part of an initiative that seeks to empower adolescent girls in-conflict-with-the-law at the Kirigiti and Dagoretti Rehabilitation Schools in Nairobi County by providing them with life-skills, education, vocational training and psycho-social support. 

The partnership involves the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Kenya’s Ministry of Labour and Social Protection through the Department of Children Services, the governments of Spain and Canada, four leading Kenyan fashion designers and a Spanish-based NGO, THRibune. 

“This initiative will help these young women to reintegrate back into the community as valuable individuals in Kenya’s labour market, whether they choose to succeed in fashion or any other field. The idea behind the fashion show was to diminish the stigmatization surrounding this vulnerable group of youth that makes them susceptible to crime, human trafficking, substance use and radicalization,” UNODC Regional Representative for Eastern Africa, Amado Philip de Andrés, said. 

The participating designers, who volunteered to train the adolescents in fashion design, dress making and entrepreneurship skills alongside vocational trainers at the schools are: Henry Wanjala (Henry Wanjala Clothing), Larry Luchera (Luchi Designs), Naomi Ng’ang’a (Stylebyneomi) and Judith Owino Akinyi (The Native Woman). 

“It is more than rewarding to see the faces of these young girls light up at this chance to elevate themselves through this project. It is an amazing project to be part of,” said Mr Wanjala who was present at the showing in Madrid. 

To raise funds to continue the sustainability of the rehabilitation programme, THRibune staged a charity concert in Madrid on 7 March. THRibune has also arranged for elected creative pieces designed by the adolescents to go on sale in two leading retail stores in Madrid. 

The findings of a 2019 UNODC Needs Assessment for rehabilitation homes, borstal institutions and prisons in Kenya highlighted the challenges of reintegrating at-risk youth, especially young women and adolescent girls, who too often are unable to return to their homes and have no means to sustain themselves. 

Last year, with funding from the Government of Canada, UNODC procured four sewing machines, with two put into immediate use at each rehabilitation school during dressmaking vocational training. 

The designs premiered at the Designing Dreams High-Level Fashion Show at the UN Office in Nairobi on 27 February 2020, organized by UNODC and the government, and attended by all 13 girls and their designer mentors. 

Guests at the event in Nairobi included: Principal Secretary of the State Department for Social Protection, Nelson Marwa: Lady Justice Martha Koome of Kenya’s Court of Appeal; Ambassador of the Kingdom of Spain to Kenya, Javier Garcia de Viedma Bernaldo de Quiros; THRibune’s Maria de Paz; head of the Kenya Fashion Council, Akinyi Odongo; Miss Universe Kenya, Stacy Michuki; and Miss Plus-size Kenya, Tracy Nduati. 

Others who volunteered their time for the event in Nairobi included the MC, TV presenter Anita Nderu, the professional models and the Safari Cats performance group. 

The hashtag #designingdreams was trending in Kenya following the show.

For more information visit our Regional Office in Eastern Africa website