Refugee Week began in 1998 as a chance for Australia’s refugee community and supporters to celebrate and raise awareness about the experiences, capabilities and value of refugees.
This year, the Year of Welcome, will be the first digital Refugee Week, held online due to the Covid-19 crisis. Despite this change, the purpose of this year’s Refugee Week is still not only to educate but to promote harmony and togetherness while celebrating our diversity.
At The Social Outfit this Refugee Week, we are celebrating the incredible contribution that people from refugee and new migrant backgrounds are making in the fashion industry - right here in Sydney! Our #WearTheChange2020 Campaign invites participants to style the same ethical garment five ways across five days, showcasing fashion that is made fair, made for good and good for the planet.
The initiative has received an incredible response from our community and is helping us raise funds for our nonprofit programs, so needed at this time given our Newtown was closed for 8 weeks during the Covid-19 pandemic resulting in a huge loss of income for our social enterprise. While we are starting to slowly reopen the shop - just two days a week with distancing measures in place - we decided to bring our community together online for this fun fashion styling challenge.
#WearTheChange2020 encapsulates our values - community, creativity and collaboration. It gives our supporters the opportunity to participate directly in the work of The Social Outfit, by getting creative with styling their ethical garments to fundraise for our non-profit community programs. Our sewing school, retail training program and creative arts workshops aim to create social cohesion while providing refugees and new migrants with training and employment pathways in the fashion industry, focusing on manufacturing, retail and design.
Employment is pivotal for a positive settlement experience and with “only 20% of female humanitarian migrants engaged in the labour force compared with 60% of males”**, we at The Social Outfit know how important this opportunity is for the community. With many refugee and new migrant women already having strong sewing and tailoring experience, The Social Outfit’s programs work to strengthen these capabilities, building on pre-existing skills to suit an Australian context.
Since 2014, over 400 women have been engaged in our programs and we have paid upwards of $6600,000 for more than 30,8000 labour hours worked. Our community learning programs focus on strengthening social cohesion, teaching new skills and building on existing ones, increasing participant’s networks and connections as well as developing employment goals to pave the way for a fulfilling career in Australia.
At the beginning of Refugee Week 2020, we spoke to sewing technician, Wissam Berou and senior sewing technician Naw Esther Han about where they learnt to sew, their time at The Social Outfit, and their unique cultures.
“I like the team and the community in The Social Outfit, everyone works together” – Wissam Berou
Previously a seamstress and tailor back in Syria, Wissam made women’s apparel, wedding dresses and tailored men’s clothes from her home-based business. Joining the Social Outfit in August 2018 as her first job in Australia, Wissam has become our resident accessories specialist, making many of the beautiful foldover clutches and scrunchies.
“When I started at the Social Outfit, the environment is very good for me, and we help one another, and I even learnt a little bit of Afghan language” – Naw Esther
Naw Esther, originally from Myanmar, learnt to sew from her sister, sewing clothes for customers in their home-based business.
“People are caring for each other, and I am more comfortable here. I like The Social Outfit”
With the amazing effort of 70 participants in #WearTheChange2020 and over 350 donors we exceeded our initial goal of $15,000 before Refugee Week even started, and are now chasing our stretch goal of $30,000. Every dollar raised will support us to continue our work and increase our social impact in the long term.
If you have the means, we are very grateful for your support of #WearTheChange2020 during this challenging time. You can make a tax-deductible donation here. Thank YOU!
** (Centre for Policy Development’s Settling Better Report, 2017)