Throughout her career Angelina Jolie has done many things, but she has never been to a fashion show… until now.
The actor and director was sitting front row at a fashion show in a refugee shelter in Nairobi, Kenya, last June. “I haven’t been to one before, but it was my kind of runway: the most beautiful girls, survivors with their heads held high, bringing forward their own designs and culture; showing how it’s possible to find your femininity again after it has been brutally attacked.”
Angelina visited a shelter, on World Refugee Day, which is run by RefuSHE, an NGO that seeks to fill a crucial gap in care for girls and young women between the ages of 13 and 23 fleeing Somalia, South Sudan, and other war-torn countries in the region.
“I thought the girls represented their culture and their craft in a way that was so impressive,” Jolie says of the runway show, which culminated in the audience rising to its feet and dancing with the models. “They are women in full.” The program is part of a UNHCR initiative, MADE51, that aims to bring market access to refugee artisans.
“There is so much talent within refugee populations that goes to waste because people are not allowed to work or are not able to work,” Jolie says. For Halima Aden, a 20-year-old Somali-American model who spent the first seven years of her life in Kakuma, the RefuSHE program is a welcome addition to camp life, where enterprising women rely on a barter economy of trading incense or braiding hair to make ends meet.“I wish my mom had something like that in the camp,” Aden says. “As a refugee, sometimes you feel like you don’t have a say in the world, so it’s nice that women can now have a hand in their own destinies. The craft they learn is something they can take with them because knowledge sticks with you.”