Tostan supporters play an integral role in building momentum for our community-led development programs. Our Outstanding Supporter Blog Series highlights their creative efforts to inspire support for Tostan in their communities.
Have you ever read a book and been inspired? Have you ever wondered how you can make an impact? Inspired by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn’s book Half the Sky, three young women from Charlotte, North Carolina, USA have created a movement in their community that is reaching women far beyond their own backyards. They call it Clothes for Change.
Audrey Huynh, Abbey Cmiel, and Melanie Walsh entered their sophomore year at Myers Park High School having spent the summer reading about challenges women face globally. They learned about education and economic disparities worldwide and about issues that affect women in their home city of Charlotte, such as human trafficking. Audrey recalls that she “felt a calling to give back, to support women’s empowerment” at both a local and global level.
Recognizing their community’s general lack of awareness on such issues, these three friends began to think about how, as high school students, they could best support women’s empowerment and raise awareness. Surrounded by fashionable classmates, they realized that clothing could be more than a form of individual self-expression; it could serve as a resource to bring people together and function as a tool to raise awareness. Thus, Clothes for Change was born.
Through local fashion shows and clothing sales, Audrey, Abbey, and Melanie have been able to inspire their community to participate in their efforts to create positive change for women. Funds raised at these events are donated to various nonprofit organizations that support women’s education and diverse areas of women’s empowerment.
Last year, Clothes for Change selected Tostan as one of their benefiting organizations. Audrey shared that it was Tostan’s community empowerment model and their prioritization of respect and understanding that resonated most with the group and led to their decision to feature Tostan at their events and give to its Generational Change in Three Years campaign.
Two events were held to help highlight Tostan’s work. The first was the Clothes for Change Spring Fashion Show in April 2013, complete with a luncheon, silent auction, and runway show with clothing hand-crafted by their student designers. The second was their Winter Clothing Sale this past December where thousands of new and gently used high-end women’s and girls’ clothing were resold. At the event, Clothes for Change members lined the walls with posters they created describing each featured organization so that people could learn more about the organizations while they shopped.
Audrey, Abbey, and Melanie have seen their organization grow to more than 90 student members, and in addition to clothing drives, they now sell items online, which allows them to fundraise year-round. They take great care to make sure that funds get to the people who need it the most, and after learning about Tostan, they believed that they had found an organization that aligned with their principles and was dedicated to making a true impact.
Story by Alyna Rogow, Development Assistant, Tostan