The south London borough of Southwark is one of the most deprived areas in England with an unemployment rate of 6.2 per cent, almost double the national average.
Nearly half of the borough’s population is from a minority ethnic group and it is home to the largest black African community in the country. The Beormund Community Centre runs a number of services, including vocational training, for the community in Southwark.
For the past ten years the centre has been running a 36 week African Fashion Project for local residents, which teaches them about African fashion and how to design outfits from scratch. In 2010 the charity received a £25,000 grant over two years to help pay for the tutor’s salary and the running costs of the project.
Between September 2010 and July 2011, 28 people signed up to the course, two of whom have gone on to further education and three students have established their own small dress making business.
Tutor Grace Tetteh explains the importance of the course for her students: “Many of the people that come to the classes are women from large families with limited income. Being able to make clothes is a great way for them to save money, but the course helps them with so much more than that. It is a chance for women who often feel isolated, due to unemployment or cultural barriers, to socialise and make new friends. It’s always great to see how much they gain in confidence and self esteem.
“Plus they are learning something practical which they can use to move into further education or find employment, which makes it invaluable. One former student has gone on to run a stall in Brixton while another is currently studying at the London College of Fashion.”
Student and beneficiary Joannah talks about what the course has meant to her: “My friends and family are so impressed by how much I have learnt and what I can make that they’re always asking me to make them outfits, especially my daughter! I really love coming to the classes; it’s so precious to do something that is just for me and not about anyone else.”