How can fashion help refugees?

By Ochan Hannington

South Sudan's civil war has sent more than a million refugees into neighboring Uganda. Now a group in the host country are empowering refugees through a fashion house.

Rise-Up is a new design hub in Kampala that showcases fashion created by refugees.

"Refugees need a platform where they can share ideas," said Rise-Up founder Donnas Ojok. "Refugees need a platform where they can learn news skills, so that they can not only better themselves when they are in countries that are hosting them, but also when they go back home they need the skills to actually start up a living, to start up from something rather than start from scratch."

The group have trained 35 refugees providing skills and direction in a place where finding employment can be difficult for new-comers.

"If the refugees come and they are embroiled in this mess of unemployment and they have no productive engagements to do then they can easily get involved in other anti-social activities, like crime or maybe prostitution," said Mr Ojok.

"So we believe that by RISE-UP providing this platform, training refugees, mentoring them, coaching them, giving them the relevant leadership skills that they need to navigate the rough terrain of the city, it could just be the beginning of something great - the beginning of something that the refugees might need not only now but also when they go back to their countries."

Rise-Up also runs fashion shows to promote awareness and tolerance for victims of war. And with a peace deal in process in South Sudan hope is beginning to grow.

Mr Ojok works with a lot of youth through the program as said young South Sudanese are optimistic and enthusiastic about the future.

"This interest, I believe, is because they want something new. They are tired of the kind of life they have been living and they want to go back to their country and start up afresh."