HIV-positive women weavers team up with fashion designer

A young woman in rural India is spinning thread, which will be used for weaving on a traditional handloom.
A young woman in rural India spins thread to use for weaving. (Photo: UNDP)

Internationally renowned fashion designer and former supermodel Bibi Russell has joined hands with the ethnic Bodo women of the northeastern Indian state of Assam. Together they are creating a new line of lifestyle products that will blend traditional Bodo culture with high fashion.

The collaborative programme, known as Weaving Destination, targets Bodo women living with HIV, as well as female survivors of human trafficking who are vulnerable being either re-trafficked or excluded from society.

Highlights

  • The UNDP-led Women and Wealth Project is helping to empower women living with HIV in India and Cambodia.
  • The project employs both HIV-positive women and survivors of human trafficking, giving them confidence and economic independence.
  • Internationally renowned fashion designer and supermodel Bibi Russell is teaching the women valuable design and marketing skills.

Bibi Russell, who is associated with leading international clothing brands and appeared in high profile fashion shows in the 1970’s and 80’s, is teaching these targeted groups of women modern design techniques and marketing skills that will help them sell their products.

“Women need support to develop skills that will help them to be economically independent and socially confident. What they need is self-esteem, human dignity, and empowerment for better livelihoods and sustainable income. This is what I am committed to,” said Bibi.

Weaving Destination is part of the Women and Wealth Project - a regional social enterprise led by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Population and Community Development Association (PDA) of Thailand - which aims to economically empower women living with HIV. The benefactors of this initiative have been two groups of women in India and one group in Cambodia.

Weaving Destination has helped these groups of women living with HIV to not only profit economically, but also gain better social acceptance, confidence and peer support. Furthermore, it has led them to better adhere to the treatments of their disease.

Chaya, a staff member of Weaving Destination, says: “I joined Weaving Destination production campus in 2009 and since then I have been supporting my family back home. Today, I am very confident of leading an independent and dignified life and have been able to inspire other women as well. I live in the Weaving Destination production campus along with other friends.”

The Women and Wealth Project for the socioeconomic empowerment of women living with HIV was initiated by UNDP, in coordination with PDA, in 2006. It enables groups of HIV-positive women to develop small business enterprises, which both cultivate lasting economic and social growth for the women and their families, and reduce HIV-associated stigma and discrimination at the community level.