Young girls and women are routinely overlooked in developing nations despite their ability to strengthen their communities. Most African girls can only expect 5 years of schooling and worldwide, a staggering 65 million girls under the age of 12 are not enrolled in school. These are statistics Eric Coly is working to change.
CEO, designer and founder of Le Dessein, Coly aims to empower underprivileged girls through education by using his socially minded upscale fashion line as a platform to inspire and generate funding.
“Young girls in developing nations have not been given the attention they highly deserve in education. Yet they have the undeniable power to help uplift their communities out of poverty through education and the earning power it will generate,” says Coly.
The initiative calls on those unable to afford an education to create drawings of inspiring portraits, which are then embroidered onto the clothes. Twenty-five per cent of the proceeds are invested into the girls’ education.
Coly is a descendent of working women. Although 1930’s Africa frowned upon women in schools and in the workplace, Coly’s grandmother remained an active participant in the working society. His grandmother’s ambition instilled in Coly’s mother a belief that “women had an irrevocable right to be educated.”
“The embodiment of that belief is made evident with her [my mother] finishing her studies of Pharmacy in France and an emphasis throughout my childhood of the importance of education for my brother Franck and my two sisters,” says Coly.
His mother’s belief in education and her love for fashion are what eventually came together to create Le Dessein. The company’s next objective is to fund 10 000 girls in 10 years.