UNIQLO seeks to support refugees in a way that enables them to acquire the capabilities they need to support their daily lives and to build a future for themselves using their own skills. To date, we have developed Self-reliance and Livelihood Projects through UNHCR in six Asian countries (India, Iran, Malaysia, Nepal, Pakistan, and Bangladesh). The programs offer vocational training in areas such as sewing techniques and computer skills, training in company management, and telecommuting support. This support is helping many refugees gain greater economic independence and build stable lives in their individual communities.
Livelihood Support Project in Bangladesh
In September 2022, UNIQLO and UNHCR launched a new project in Cox’s Bazar refugee camp in Bangladesh. This project aims to provide skills development opportunities for refugee women in sewing to produce reusable cloth sanitary napkins needed in the camp.
Many of the participants are women who often are single heads of household and have to support their families on their own. We hope that by establishing a safe space for women, where they can develop their capacities, produce essential hygiene garment items for their community, discuss their concerns, receive stipends as volunteers and reduce the challenges they face in their daily lives.
As a first step, the project will train 250 women in sewing skills by the end of March 2023 and we plan to expand the project further over the next three years.
Past self reliance programs
UNIQLO not only supports refugees with clothes, but also self reliance programs.
In 2016, we committed US$10 million over a three year period in support of UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) activites. US$5.5 million will go to self-reliance support programs.One example is a vocational training program to improve sewing skills.
“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.
Olympia Le-Tan Tote Bags
In collaboration with the French luxury brand Olympia Le-Tan, UNIQLO implemented a project in which we requested refugee women to do embroidery work for emblems to be affixed to tote bags. 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."
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