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Bag Full of Hope

The event, titled ‘Bag of Hope’, was held at the International Humanitarian City.

Fashion students in Dubai have upcycled refugee tent waste material into handbags to send out a special message on World Refugee Day.

The pupils from Dubai College of Fashion and Design (CFD) held a fashion show in collaboration with humanitarian relief supplier firm NRS International on Wednesday to display the bags.

The event, titled ‘Bag of Hope’, was held at the International Humanitarian City and aimed at raising awareness about the plight of refugees by using fashion.

Four designers took part in the show, including Hiba Asif from Pakistan, Amira Saif from Yemen, Fatima Al Ali from the UAE and Sherifat Abubakar from Ghana. As for the winning design, it was a tie between Saif and Abubakar.

“The bag was made from fabric which was used as a tarpaulin for a refugee tent,” said Abubakar. “We are raising awareness about peace, love, hope and connectivity through fashion and it’s a great way to send the message about what refugees go through. If and when our products go into the market, the entire funds made will be given to the cause of refugees. This is how fashion can play a role – by adding words of inspiration on them, making them out of meaningful materials and giving the funds away to refugees.”

Saif’s handbag design was inspired by the unstable situation in her home country, Yemen. She said reading and watching the news of how the war in Yemen has displaced so many people inspired her to create a bag that sends out the message of peace.

She created a logo of a dove on her design, which she said is meant to represent peace and harmony.

“I took positive words like happiness and kindness to design my bag. I think we all need to think about the plight of refugees a lot more. There are many people who live in underdeveloped countries, those who are forced out of their homes because of war and violence and it’s important to come together as humans,” Saif said.

Meanwhile, Wieke de Vries, senior marketing and communications manager at NRS International, said: “We have a zero-waste policy in our factory in Pakistan, hence we aspire to upcycle the tent materials, such as poly cotton and mud flap PVC fabric, and turn them into something more useful and meaningful.

“This allows us, as a manufacturer, to raise awareness on the importance of shelter to displaced populations, given that the leftovers literally come from the same batch of tents distributed by humanitarian agencies in different refugee settlements worldwide.”

This is not the first time fashion was used to raise awareness about the refugee crisis. In 2017, Khaleej Times reported the story of Helen Storey, a celebrity fashion designer who turned a UNHCR refugee tent into a dress and walked through the crowd at Dubai International Humanitarian Aid & Development Conference and Exhibition with the dress on.

2018 saw largest number of displaced people

Nearly 71 million people were forcibly displaced by the end of 2018, which is the highest number in United Nations Refugee Agency’s 70-year history.

The new figures were revealed in the annual Global Trends report that is released a day before World Refugee Day, June 20.

The total figure is 70.8 million displaced people, which is 2.3 million more than the previous year and is greater than the population of Thailand.

The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) noted that the crisis in Venezuela is only “partly reflected” in the report and has become one of the world’s “biggest current displacement crises”, with some four million Venezuelans who have already left their country.

More than two-thirds of refugees worldwide came from just five countries, including Syria (6.7m), Afghanistan (2.7m), South Sudan (2.3m), Myanmar (1.1m) and Somalia (0.9m)

“Over the past decade, the global population of forcibly displaced people grew substantially from 43.3 million in 2009 to 70.8 million in 2018, reaching a record high,” the report said.

“Most of this increase was between 2012 and 2015, driven mainly by the Syrian conflict. But conflicts in other areas also contributed to this rise, including in the Middle East such as in Iraq and Yemen, parts of sub-Saharan Africa such as the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and South Sudan, as well as the massive flow of Rohingya refugees to Bangladesh at the end of 2017.

“Of particular note in 2018 was the increase in the number of displaced people due to internal displacement in Ethiopia and new asylum claims from people fleeing Venezuela. The proportion of the world’s population who were displaced also continued to rise as the increase in the world’s forcibly displaced population outstripped global population growth.”

The UNHCR has also launched its ‘2 Billion Kilometres to Safety’ campaign, which is an approximate figure of how much refugees walk per year to reach a safe and secure location after they’ve been forced to flee their homes. People worldwide are being encouraged to walk, run or jog, use the hashtag #EveryStepCounts, and punch in the kilometres covered onto UNHCR’s website.

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