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Saturday 18 November 2017
Local

EmpowHer to teach young women to become independent earners

JAMES DUPRAJ

This Is ME Global (thisismeglobal.com) will host EmpowHer – A Changemaker Event on November 5 at Maracas, St Joseph. The event’s inaugural theme is Headwraps and Hats and its aim is to raise funds, as well as create sustainable business opportunities within communities that do not have the economic resources to create cottage industries. In addition to the sale of headwraps and hats, there will be a headwrap tutorial session which is expected to spark the creativity and design of those in attendance.

Founder and programme manager of This Is ME, Dr Marielle Barrow, said EmpowHer is about nurturing the talent and promise of our nation’s youth. “More than 90 per cent of our students are young women who mostly haven’t had access to resources that are abundant for many in our society. EmpowHer is about teaching our young women to become independent earners who can shape a vision of and for themselves and work toward it.”

The programme provides Art Therapy, Mindfulness Workshops, and access to a psychologists, mentorship, or monthly opportunities to earn income and sell merchandise to budding fashion industry entrepreneurs from high need communities. The classes offered through the programme fall into four main modules: Fashion, Life Skills & Leadership, Entrepreneurship, and the Sustainable Income Project (SIP). Among the skills taught are garment construction, pattern making, colour and design, and textile design. Additionally, each student is required to complete a business plan as part of their coursework.

The EmpowHer event will also launch the This Is ME SIP, a module within the training programme that allows students to explore paths for lasting livelihoods. As Dr Barrow points out, although tuition scholarships are available to potential students, some still do not have the means to get to class or for lunches. “So, by producing and selling merchandise and taking small production contracts from designers, our students can become more self-sufficient.”

She said apart from the launch of the SIP module, EmpowHer is also a chance to introduce the public to the wide range of handmade products, the promising cohort of students, and the This Is ME programme in general.

All proceeds from the event will support women in the areas of fashion and entrepreneurship, and will feature influential speakers. Among the confirmed guest speakers are the Minister of Community Development, Culture and the Arts, Dr Nyan Gadsby-Dolly and keynote speaker Dr Catherine Kumar, co-founder of Powerful Ladies of Trinidad and Tobago (PLOTT).

“We have a formidable keynote speaker in Dr Kumar, who will share her journey and highlight the key markers on her road to success. Stories are important; they stay with us,” Dr Barrow says of the significance of the speakers at EmpowHer. “We will also be offering door prizes for aspiring entrepreneurs for free one-hour consultations with successful businesswomen.” She said the event will also be an opportunity for networking and the event hopes to inspire This Is ME’s 27 students to realise their dreams as their work will be on display and for sale.

“There is a vast range of technical and creative talent found naturally in Trinidad and Tobago. Particularly during these challenging economic times, we want to use EmpowHer to create viable alternatives for employment and earning power to empower young women. Every contribution towards this event changes a life in Trinidad and Tobago for the better.”

Part of Dr Barrow’s motivation is the disadvantaged roles many women must succumb to in society. “Women are bold, talented, and equipped, and challenges of inequality often strengthen our resolve to succeed,” she says of the innate resilience of women. “Women are nurturing. They are mothers and so the kinds of solutions they bring to the marketplace shift the way we operate. I believe we need more women in business not only to level the playing field in terms of gender but to bring a different tenor and fragrance to our society.”

Among the groups she would like to see at the event are people interested in starting businesses, those who are already well on their way, and well-positioned and affluent business people who can support and be shining examples to others. “We want educators and mentors who are willing to nurture and business persons whose charge it is to care for the society that funds their businesses. We want retirees who are looking to invest their time giving back. We want businesses who are looking to invest in young entrepreneurs,” she adds.

Dr Barrow said she would like to see her students become powerful entrepreneurs on their own terms, with work and businesses that can help shape a sustainable future for them. “I want to see a strong culture of giving back develop in our communities. My dream is for This Is ME to develop into the Orange Academy, a school of the Arts, Entrepreneurship, and the Environment with regional campuses and exchange programmes. We are working toward that,” she says of her ultimate goal and the growth she would like to facilitate.

A passionate lover of the arts – visual, dance, literature, and music – she believes art is a vehicle for healing and positivity. She believes her vocation in life is to nurture the potential of others through artistic means.

“I’ve been accused of having my head in the clouds, but it is a vision that changes the world around us,” she says. “That’s how the This Is ME project has become what it is today – vision, recognition of art as a vehicle for emotional and economic transformation, and nurturing company.”

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