Together for Girls

Together for Girls – Designers on a Mission

The Sportswear company Nike initiated a project in cooperation with the UNHCR and Care to design sportswear for Somalian refugee girls. The project took place in the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya where 140.000 Somalian refugees fled due to the crisis in 1991/92.

Nike’s Gulsun Erkal teaching the girls to sew their outfits.

The population is Muslim, in their tradition, girls are expected to wear a hijab, the traditional veil covering the whole shape of the body. Although this veil may have positive effects in protection from the heat and from insects, it hinders women from being active in sports because it doesn’t allow free movement. Engaging in sports would have a positive effect in the girls’ lives because it would be a source of activity, freedom, self esteem, team building and conflict solving, a break from daily routine, and most important, a motivation for attending school.

The new dress had to be designed in such a way that it conforms with the traditional norms of covering the whole body, not revealing its shape. The new design has an attached hood for covering the head, replacing the traditional head scarf, and allowing free body movements and comfort in 40°C of heat.

Somali refugee girls in their new sports uniforms, with the Nike design team in Dadaab camp, Kenya.

The result looks like pants covered with a hijab, made of a modern, robust, flexible fabric. Nike has sent some fashion designers into the camp to work on the dresses in consultation with the girls who are to wear them, and to teach them how to sew the garments themselves in order to continue production independently in the future.

From the designs offered, the girls chose the most traditional ones. They were also shown to the traditional leaders of the camp’s community, and eventually got their approval. The first sport played was volleyball.

Leave A Comment