Women of vision

Fashioning Hope

    In our series "Women of Vision," we highlight females that are making a positive change. A young Japanese entrepreneur is using fashion to empower women in one of the world's poorest countries.

    Vibrant and intricately designed bags are flying off the shelves of department stores across Japan.

    "The pattern is just fascinating! No one has anything like this," says a customer.

    They're created by single mothers from Uganda. Chizu Nakamoto helped bring these one-of-a-kind bags to Japan. She believes it will provide them a stable job, but more importantly, instill hope.

    "It is not just about generating income. I strongly feel that what's most needed is a way to motivate them to restart and reconstruct their communities," she says.

    Uganda is still recovering from a civil war that spanned nearly 2 decades.

    The country is struggling economically and relies heavily on international assistance. The average wage is less than $3 a day, and it's much less for single mothers.

    Nakamoto first visited Uganda 3 years ago while working for an NGO.

    She saw first-hand the challenges single mothers faced.

    When Nakamoto discovered many of these women were experienced seamstresses, she began helping them manufacture bags using local textiles.

    She knew that to sell internationally, their product needed to be impeccable.

    "Their mindset was like, 'It's OK as long as the shape is that of a bag.' I thought to myself, 'What am I going to do?'" she says.

    Nakamoto spent 3 months training them, showing them how to sew straight using a tape measure.

    Nakamoto began selling them online and in Japanese department stores.

    With $100 price tags, the bags sold out fast.

    Nakamoto was excited to share the good news with her Ugandan partners.

    The majority of the profit goes to the women, who now make more than double the average wage in Uganda.

    "It was hard. You work so hard, and you're never appreciated. You're paid less for what you earn. Now I'm able to send my kids to school," says one of the women.

    "I make a point of letting them know how much the customers appreciate their hard work. It's important to create social roles and an environment where they can feel needed," Nakamoto says.

    Nakamoto is helping these women earn a stable income, enabling them to envision a brighter future.