Jonathan Simkhai Partners With Vital Voices
Vital Voices Global Partnership is a non-profit organization that provides female leaders around the world with support, resources and mentorship to help execute their visions for making the world a better place. The far-reaching implications of this work resonated with Jonathan Simkhai and his team, and so began their partnership. Through the InLieu App, Jonathan auctioned tickets to attend his show at New York Fashion Week to contributors who donated to the Vital Voices charity. He also joined the #WomenLeadTheWay Pledge At NYFW To Advance Women In Leadership initiative, alongside Vital Voices, GirlBoss, Tresemme and designers Jason Wu, Rebecca Minkoff and Cushnie, to increase the female leadership opportunities and support within the fashion industry. Jonathan also wanted to take the rare opportunity to meet and learn more from a few of the female leaders who are a part of the Vital Voices program.
"We search the world for women with a daring vision for change—whether that be combatting human trafficking, alleviating poverty, or lifting communities out of hardship—and we invest in them." - Alyse Nelson, President and CEO of Vital Voices Global Partnership
The concept of making the world a better place is overwhelming, until you speak to someone like Alyse Nelson who, after traveling to Beijing for the United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women as a college student over 24 years ago, was inspired to support change that happens on a small scale, by amplifying it on a large one. The mission of Vital Voices, of which she is President and CEO? To raise the voices of women who weren't able to raise theirs, and to provide the female leaders who are already instigating change in their respective communities, with the resources and support to realize their visions. "Really no country around the world can say that women share the same human rights and opportunities that men share, and our world is losing out because of it. We're not tapping the full potential of all citizens," explains Nelson. To illustrate what she means, she brought a few of these inspiring women with her.
At the age of fifteen, Burley organized an anti-violence program in her high school, sparked by the tragic murder of her brother. The successful initiative caught the attention of the governor of Pennsylvania who provided her with a $50,000 grant to implement the program in ten persistently-dangerous schools in Philadelphia. She has since developed a career utilizing her expertise in youth engagement, education reform, workforce development, global citizenship and social justice to help reshape communities and disrupt the status quo. "I recognize that oftentimes traditional institutions of power don't include the voices of those who are most impacted, so my job is to continue to elevate those from the poorest, most depressed communities, to places of power where folks can make decisions that actually include their story," says Burley, who has also been recognized by the White House as a champion of change. To continue empowering social activism and community involvement, Burley taps as many audiences as possible to help spread the message. As she explains, "Issues and tragedies don't work in silos," which is why solidarity and amplification by industries such as the fashion industry, helps to ensure more people will learn the importance and impact of getting involved in community struggles that deserve attention. Learn more about her work here.
Ariela Suster founded the accessories line Sequence to tangibly disrupt the cycle of violence in her home country of El Salvador. Growing up there during civil war, she and her family suffered violence first hand, and it inspired her to create a company that employs young men who are at risk of joining gangs. El Salvador has approximately 500,000 citizens linked to gangs, and endures an average of 15 murders a day. Named Sequence for the impact each product has on the lives of the employees, the company also provides sixteen programs for personal and professional development. "It's really important for fashion brands to see themselves as not only a platform for females to have a voice or empowerment but also to create change," explains Suster. Learn more about her work here.
Amanda is a civil rights activist, founder and CEO of Rise and a Nobel Peace Prize Nominee. Inspired by witnessing first hand the difficulties of navigating the criminal justice system in the wake of her own rape, she worked to get the Sexual Assault Survivors Bill of Rights unanimously passed, and set the precedent for 15 other laws protecting sexual violence survivors across the US. "The most powerful tool we all have is our voice, which is why I'm using mine to fight for the civil rights of sexual violence survivors," explains Nguyen, whose organization helps empower ordinary citizens to defend their rights by passing their own laws. Aside from spreading her message, the fashion show experience held special importance to her. "So often sexual violence survivors inappropriately get asked what they were wearing when they were raped. For me, fashion is a way to reclaim that. Everyone here asks 'Who are you wearing?' and its a celebration of joy. I think joy is the most radical form of rebellion." Learn more about her work here.
The inspiring work of each of these women, as well as the broader Vital Voices community, is just getting started, which is why Jonathan Simkhai is committed to supporting their mission moving forward. Watch this space for more.
All of the women are wearing Jonathan Simkhai Collection.