Made in Women- socio-professional inclusion through eco-responsible sewing training

Description: The association D’Antilles et D’Ailleurs has been running a sewing atelier since 2020 consisting of a professional training course to vulnerable migrant women in sewing to produce ecologically sustainable products such as washable periodic protections, cloth diapers, learning how to do sewing alterations etc. The atelier is situated in the center of Fort-de-France, the capital city of the island. Our experience in the field and our collaboration with the Mouvement du Nid since the first confinement of the Coronavirus crisis highlighted three glaring problems encountered by migrant women: difficulty in accessing the labour market, lack of specific professional skills and difficulties related to the children they care for. Moreover, Martinique being an island department, the question of reducing the waste produced on the territory arises as a real challenge on a daily basis. The project aims to provide a safe space for the women trainees where they acquire new interpersonal as well as professional skills. The sewing atelier is situated in the premises of the Mouvement du Nid and D’Antilles et D’Ailleurs enabling an easy access to the different services provided by the two associations and also being close to the priority neighbourhood of Terres-Sainville where most participants live. Many of the participants thus also benefit from French language courses as well as computer and digital skills courses. In addition, they can easily get help for their administrative procedures, health related issues etc. Through this process of empowerment they are able to gradually leave prostitution, build self-esteem and construct a professional project.
Country: France


Category/Topic: Education, Entrepreneurship and Business
Target Audience: Vulnerable migrant women living in Fort-de-France
Objectives: The 6 months long training course aims at giving a useful set of skills in sewing to the participants, that can be useful in the labor market. In addition to this, we also aim to boost the self-confidence of the wome and construct their professional project, which may or may not be in the field of textile and sewing.
Context/Background: The Made in Women project took form gradually and is financed by multiple actors as it is a long-time action requiring substantial initial investment especially in equipment, materials and product development. In 2019, being conscient of the needs to give a concrete response to the women supported, D’Antilles et D’Ailleurs started to analyse and understand the way to move towards the social enterprise sector. The first step was a research, in the summer of 2019, during which more than 169 women were registered thanks to a common collaboration with the Mouvement Du Nid. Even if the research was more aimed at understanding and registering the women to give them an identity and be able to express their “existence “among the missing formalized data concerning Martinique, it also serves at identifying their main sectors of competences and of interests of the women. Among these: sewing. Considering the results and the expertise of the staff on Development Cooperation, the organization moves the first step towards the project MADE IN WOMEN funded by the CBY programme of EU with the aim of creating a collaborative e-commerce able to valorise the productions of women and women artisans all around the world (from women to women). In addition, the organization applied to the Operational Grant given by the Chanel Foundation to receive a first accompaniment (pre-incubation) in business plan and brand development to imagine the “Made in Women” brand. The second step was the need to set-up the professional sewing lab in Martinique. The association applied to the national fund PLAN PAUVRETE and to a multitude of funders such as ADEME, CTM, the Raja Foundation and SNCF thanks to which it was able to rent a building in the city centre of Fort De France (that now is in co-working with the Mouvement Du Nid), buy professional machines, textiles, hire a trainer and set-up the lab. The collaboration and the synergic work with the Mouvement Du Nid facilitated the identification of the women and the integration of the first group within the Atelier.
Key Features/Activities: During the first year of the project in 2021 and despite the difficulties brought by the pandemic seven migrant women followed a six-month long training course by a professional seamstress. The participants learnt how to use and repair professional sewing machines, how to follow and design patterns as well as learn to select suitable fabrics according to the product. No previous knowledge of sewing was required and the participants were selected in collaboration with the Mouvement du Nid. The first year of the project the trainees concentrated on the production of reusable washable periodic protections and cloth diapers. The participants of this first training all acquired valuable professional and soft skills and after finishing the training continued into other studies, found work or decided to stay and continue with the training to further progress in sewing. On the second year of the training the training was adapted to create a second group for the more advanced trainees who have been creating technically more complex products such as camping kit. On the third year, 7 women women are in training and are for the first time being paid during it, due to a new collaboration with the local Job Center. A key feature has been the psycho-social support for the trainees in defining a career path and objectives for their socio-professional integration, provided by a social and family education counselor and a specialized educator. The women were supported in their administrative procedures, access to common law, healthcare, legal matters, definition of their professional objectives etc.
Outcomes/Results: The women who followed the training in the first year all managed to define their professional projects, and many of them enrolled to continue a training after in different fields (professional training, university…). Mid 2021 the organization DACPA requested the possibility to replicate the sewing lab in the neighbouring island country of Dominica and D’Antilles et D’Ailleurs offered support with the project GREEN WAVE funded by ADEME and Karaib Climat. In 2022, the association managed to obtain a national label called Qualiopi allowing it to seek state financing for the training activities, which it obtained through Pole Emploi for the 2023 trainees.
Impact: The trainees have been able to obtain a valuable new skills set in the field of sewing, producing and marketing eco-responsible creations, boost their self-confidence and creativity. We have been succesful in promoting their socio-professional inclusion.
Challenges Faced: The role of the seamstress trainer has been central to the successful implementation of the training as the person needs not only to be qualified in sewing but also have a certain pedagogical approach and cultural sensitivity working with a vulnerable public from migrant background. They may need to deal with issues of for example language barriers, cultural differences, motivation and assiduity. We found it important that the trainer is able to adapt the training to each participants skills and level and that the trainees have access to assistance with their social and health-related issues. Other issues we faced were related to the administrative situations of the women, the lack of solutions for child-care and not being able to pay the trainees which sometimes led to abandoning the training in order to work.
Contact Information: Contact: Submitted by : Meri Saaristo,