One of Liberia’s greatest victories in recent times was the election of Africa’s first female president, Hon. Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf. Since then, the Republic has made a major impact in the growing woman empowerment movement. Many women have been afforded job opportunities as tailors and seamstresses in the booming local fashion and textile industry. One organization that has sincerely benefited in this capacity is Amani Liberia.
The organizations Creative Director Hannah Lenore, went to school for Fashion Design and came to Liberia to help with the organization. Amani Ya Juu, meaning peace from above in Swahili, started as a result of the Liberian civil war. The founder of Amani fled to Kenya where she was among many other refugees and saw an immediate need to give the marginalized women and opportunity to learn new skills and work together through faith in God.
Now after 15 years Amani has grown to Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda, Washington DC, and has come full circle back to Liberia. The project serves a two-fold purpose. First, Amani gives African women the opportunity to improve their sewing and marketing skills. The women gain experience in purchasing, bookkeeping, skill training, quality control, management and design. Second, Amani aims to sow seeds of peace in the hearts of the women as they grow in their communities and in their faith together.
In Liberia, they focus on production of clothing as well as house ware, bags and children’s products. The use of the Liberian textiles gives a very unique look, and is loved by everyone who sees the products, both in Liberia and in the United states. When asked, what the framework is in choosing women/designers for Amani Liberia? Hannah answered by saying,
“Amani Liberia’s goal is to train and give opportunities to the women of Liberia. We are here to empower them and give them the skills they need to provide for their family, and to create a safe environment for them to work in. We choose women who are in need and are willing to learn a new trade. Some of our members come in with no prior training, and other have training in tailoring and stitching.”
With the rise of African prints and textures in the Fashion industry being mentioned Hannah says,
“It is very exciting to see the rise of African prints and textures in the Fashion industry. I adore the West African textiles and when I first came to Liberia I was in awe of all the gorgeous colors! I loved seeing the women in their traditional suits, each one so creative and detailed. I felt like I was watching a fashion show whenever I attended any ceremony. I feel that the rise of African prints and textures are going to open up a lot of doors for the African Fashion designers, the world is watching and becoming more aware of the uniqueness and beauty coming from Africa.”
The organizations short term plans when it comes to development is to continue production in Yekepa, Liberia (Northern Liberia hours away from the capital). Also, they would like to see many more members come to the facility to learn new skills and benefit from the program. They have other projects on the side, some of which include an Amani Girls Club of 150 girls, a computer training program sponsored by Odebrecht, and soon they will open a small café in Yekepa.
Last year Amani Liberia asked international designer, stylist and Liberian native, Korto Momolu, to represent Liberian women due to the fact that she is living proof of the potential women have to develop their talents, and was an immense source of innovation and strength. Korto partnered with Amani Liberia in the “Sankofa Fashion show” where she created a 27-piece collection specifically for the women of Liberia to show them the power of transformations.
It is Amani’s hope to continue to bring Liberian designers together to uplift the women of Liberia.
Author: Chiquita A. Johnson
Africa Fashion Guide Liberia Contributor