Activities for Helping Refugee Women Become Independent


While providing refugees with clothing aid, UNIQLO came to the realization that the same refugees needed help becoming independent so that they could rely on themselves. In 2016, we initiated a three-year donation to UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) in the amount of US$10 million, US$5.5 million of which is contributed to self-reliance support programs. Our belief is that a program like ours whose aim is to improve sewing techniques gives refugee women a means of outfitting themselves with skills to make a living and, in the process, outfitting themselves with work skills that will empower them.


オランピア ル タン トートバッグ

“Upcycling” is the act of taking waste materials and other things that are no longer in use and turning them into things with value, reusing them and recycling them. A new initiative has commenced at UNIQLO under which we use denim and other waste fabric that is left over after hemming is performed at stores to bring forth things that have value.

2016 Olympia Le-Tan Tote Bags

In collaboration with the French luxury brand Olympia Le-Tan, UNIQLO implemented a project in which we employed refugee women living in Malaysia to do embroidery work for emblems to be affixed to tote bags. We launched this project based on our idea that by outfitting themselves with skills to make a living though that embroidery work, refugee women could simultaneously outfit themselves with work skills that would empower them. All two thousand of those bags, which were released in limited quantities, sold out, with all of the resulting proceeds used to support the self-reliance of refugees through UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees).


I want to keep doing what I can as a designer

Designer Olympia Le-Tan said that participation in this project provided her with a major insight. "I decided to work with UNIQLO because I learned that it actively works with UNHCR to support refugees, such as by providing support for the clothing and employment of refugees. If they master the skills which help them find a job and become independent in the future as a result of this project, I will be more than happy. I turned my eyes to the world and worked with people in regions where the handicraft traditions have been kept alive, such as the embroidery in India and knitting in Bolivia. However I didn't have any idea about how to create pieces together with refugees. I tried it this time in collaboration with UNIQLO, and found the experience to be amazing. Now I do what I can as a designer. If I can create beautiful dresses that make people happy, I'll keep doing that."



Opening the road to independence through manufacturing

The organization that supported work at the site was Sewist Nest, a Malaysian NGO that teaches handicraft skills such as embroidery and beadwork, and supports the livelihood of refugees. Ms. Noor Hanizah Ramli from the NGO said, "Latifa and Mathouma, the two sisters who fled Afghanistan, improved their embroidery skills through this project and shared the joy of creating products. A project like this one with UNIQLO, enables refugees to master new skills and find a way to earn an income. Some participants said that they learned good labor standards from UNIQLO, such as how to create products with a quality level that satisfies the customer's expectations."
Sewist Nest felt that this was a positive and meaningful project.

Above contents have been published in the magazine "Kangaeruhito" 2016 spring issue.©Shinchosha

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