Uganda: JRS Kampala fashion designers prepare for graduation showcase
27 November 2013

Some students of the fashion and design class showcase their creations during World Refugee Day celebrations organised by JRS Kampala at the Xavier House office compound. (Jana Benz/JRS)
Fashion Design helps refugees to be creative in different styles. It gives them the skills and opens their minds to generate income out of their own creativity.
Kampala, 27 November 2013 - I am so grateful to JRS as an organization for giving me this opportunity to practice my career as a designer. It is a chance for me to work and share my experience with refugees from different countries, such as from DR Congo or Rwanda - especially as I have been a displaced person myself in 2003 due to the actions of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA).

Fashion Design helps refugees to be creative in different styles. It gives them the skills and opens their minds to generate income out of their own creativity. Compared to the older days when fashion was not a style, fashion nowadays is more a trend in which we can create whatever man can think of. “Fashion is needed everywhere and every time”, JRS Uganda Country Representative Stephen Kuteesa confirms, because everybody wants to wear fashionable clothes everywhere.

The twenty trainees were taught how to create different fashions during their eight month course. At the beginning the students did not know anything, but today they know and can create any design one may want.

End of the journey. As we come to the close of the course having learnt many aspects of fashion and design, the learners are given a period of one month to do project work. This is a period to exercise and research for all designs that they feel like to do in preparation for their graduation outfits. Graduation is going to take place on 18th December.

The learners produce African traditional, casual, office, evening, creative wear and floral outfits for their graduation showcase as a sign of conclusion of the course. During the graduation ceremony, the students are able to show their designs and the skills they have acquired.

They are now looking forward to start working as designers and tailors. The students are very grateful to JRS for the chance of learning they have been given: “I had never learned something practical in my life”, Jean Pierre* explains, “only French and Latin which is not useful here. My motivation to come here was to make some money in Kampala because of my three children who are going to school. Now I can make clothes for my children and mend them.”

Many expressed the challenge of not having a sewing machine; but with their newly acquired skills they would easily get customers. As courses take place only in the mornings, former students will therefore be given a chance to make use of the machines at JRS in the afternoons from next year on.

Who knows, the next outfit you wear may have been designed by one of the fashion and design students that have been trained at the JRS Kampala project.

*Name changed to protect identity.

By Agnes Amajo JRS Kampala Fashion Design Instructor

As of October 2013, there are 39,000 registered refugees and asylum seekers in Kampala, Uganda. JRS operates in the Ugandan capital of Kampala assisting urban refugees and asylum seekers. JRS started work there in 1998 and continues to provide emergency assistance (food, non-food items, rent and transport payment assistance, medical support), vocational training, adult literacy classes and psychosocial support.