Statement

FASHION WITH A CAUSE

24 December 2020

 

With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, countries across the world have witnessed a rise in the number of reported cases of gender-based violence. Protective confinement and lockdown measures taken to protect people from the spread of the virus also meant that women who face domestic violence found themselves locked in with their abusive partners for lengthy periods of time, resulting in heightened tensions at home.

 

Amilani Perera is no stranger to these stories of violence against women. As an aspiring fashion designer, she has heard of many incidents of violence in the home from members of her own team and atelier. She knew she had to do something to shed a light on this grave issue which many others are afraid to speak about. This was the birth of her ‘Unbreakable’ collection which debuted at Colombo Fashion Week in 2020 - a unique collection done in collaboration with the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) Sri Lanka, making a stand against domestic violence.

 

Fashion plays an important role in our daily lives. It is a commodity which in many ways, is a reflection of how we experience and channel the world. It is woven into our decision-making processes, and fashion, whether through garments or through the image-building of the fashion industry can form and shape stereotypes and norms, for both good and bad. Ultimately it has the potential to influence and shape gender relations. Recognizing the universal appeal and the powerful tool it can be to empower communities and challenge norms and beliefs that perpetuate violence against women and girls, UNFPA continues its collaboration with the designer label ‘Amilani Perera’ beyond the Colombo Fashion Week 2020.

 

“In collaborating with UNFPA, they introduced me to the Women’s Development Centre which runs shelters and safe homes for survivors of violence in Kandy. When I met these women I was amazed at their resilience and willingness to come out of their abusive background to make something new of their own. Not only did they help me with some special fashion pieces for CFW 2020, but they also worked with me on my special Christmas Collection 2020. I say special because every item in this collection has been made by these women who are so amazing….so talented. They deserve to have their skills taken beyond their own environment” says Amilani Perera.

 

Even before COVID-19 plagued the world, sexual and gender-based violence was one of the greatest human rights violations, and this is an area that UNFPA has committed to addressing. It is an issue that is sensitive in many cultures and so people often don’t want to talk about it, although global estimates indicate that one in three women experience physical or sexual abuse in their lifetime. This is why UNFPA works with different partners to find new and innovative ways to advocate for all women and girls. Amilani Perera says, “UNFPA recognizes art and design as a powerful medium to communicate sensitive messages….. this groundbreaking partnership enabled us to reach different audiences, to raise awareness on gender-based violence.

Both UNFPA and Amilani Perera are now looking ahead at the 2021 Colombo Fashion Week and this Christmas Collection is a stepping stone to continue the good work so more survivors at the shelter can have access to skills training and training on fashion designing.

“This new Christmas Collection is not only a chance for the partnership to continue beyond Colombo Fashion Week but also an opportunity to crowdfund for support, so survivors of violence can also enjoy a safe and merry Christmas. It’s fashion with and for a cause,” says Sharika Cooray, the National Programme and Policy Analyst - Women's Rights & Gender, of UNFPA in Sri Lanka.

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As we enter the festive season this Christmas 2020, take a minute to think about these shelters which house victims and survivors of gender-based violence.

Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, they need your help and support to keep these safe homes running.

If you are interested in supporting, please contact the Women’s Development Centre please contact +94 081 2234511 / +94 081 2228158