Imani Collection: Strength comes from adversity

Imani Collection article in Trinidad Guardian

Imani Collection article in Trinidad Guardian

This was the first article I wrote for the World of Women magazine in the Trinidad Guardian in August 2015. I remember being so nervous when I went to the event and was telling people I work for the Guardian. I was wondering if I’d get the right information, something I still wonder about when I go places. The original I sent in was really wordy and it got cut down, but not too badly. It was a learning experience.

The IMANI Collection sponsored by Conflict Women Ltd. personifies the strength which comes from adversity.

During the launch which took place at Veni Mangé on July 11, CEO of Conflict Women Limited, Asiya Mohammed, told the Guardian that all pieces are made by survivors of domestic or sexual violence. “Every piece is made by a survivor, either of child sexual violence, rape or domestic violence, and through Conflict Women’s Butterfly Project, we’re able to sell their pieces and provide them with a monthly income for up to one year, as well as free training, as well as free training in product design, business development and public transformation every six weeks. The Imani Collection is basically handcrafted cloth details and wire wrapping, which resulted from the last two workshops we did for the ladies,” she said.

The seemingly delicate pieces are reminiscent of the beautiful wire-bending tradition which is embodied in Trinidad & Tobago’s Carnival. The signature piece of the collection was mainly chosen because of the overwhelmingly positive response to the piece, and symbolised the transformation which the women went through as they made the pieces, Ms. Mohammed stated. “People loved it, people loved the style of it. You find that wire-wrapping, oftentimes in making the jewelry itself there’s a process of transformation. In selling jewelry, we call it our Butterfly Project, you see the four pieces at the top and the four pieces to the bottom, it’s almost representative of many ways, not just of the butterfly, but the transformational process of going from a caterpillar where it’s coiled, to the chrysalis where you’re waiting and finally to the butterfly, and that’s really the journey of a survivor. So that’s why we chose that specific piece for our signature piece for the overall collection and it also had a fantastic response from customers and supporters.”

Ms. Mohammed said her work was inspired by her anger at the changes she had seen in Trinidad and Tobago, and one event in particular. “I’ve done a lot of humanitarian work before I came back to Trinidad and Tobago, so I’ve worked all over the world and humanitarian work, both in women’s rights in conflict zones and war zones all across the world. This was my way of giving back to Trinidad and Tobago. Violence against women and domestic types of violence is something I’m extremely passionate about. I think the turning point for me was just seeing the country just move away from what it used to be, and November 2013, six-year-old young girl Keyanna Cumberbatch was murdered and raped and that shook the nation, and I was also shaken to the point where I just felt really, really angry, and I think anger is a really good emotion because of what you choose to do with it. So I was able to channel my anger.”

“At that time, I was working very much at the policy level on these issues of gender and human rights for Trinidad and Tobago. I was able to shift from policy and go back to the grassroots and really work with many of these women to give them some sort of financial empowerment. So much so that perhaps after they graduate from the Butterfly Project, which lasts for one year, we really hope to build a survivor entrepreneur network, not just in Trinidad and Tobago, maybe even all across the Caribbean and the world. How it works is that we partner with several NGOs across the country who work in the area of violence against women and it’s a referral system, so if anyone knows someone who is being abused, in an abusive relationship, or out of one and trying to get financially on their feet, they would encourage them to do an application form, then the company would do an interview with them and then we’d bring them in,” Ms. Mohammed said.

Profits from sales are re-invested into new conflict women monthly. Conflict Women, Ltd also prepares economic viability plans for safe houses, orphanages and works on the policy level with international organizations, governments and non-governmental organizations to design and implement projects and provide training in human rights, gender, youth policy and conflict transformation.

The collection can be found on Facebook under Conflict Women Limited and a previous collection is available for sale at The Shop at the Hotel Normandie in St. Ann’s. More information on the organization can be found at www.conflictwomen.com.

The original article can be found at http://digital.guardian.co.tt/?iid=125104#folio=114

 

This article was updated with a new picture and the link to the original.

 

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