Making the world a better place is not an easy task to accomplish. But for College of Idaho sophomore and Davis Scholar Keneuoe “Kenny” Mphutlane, the opportunity to help others was as simple as giving the shirt off her back.
“I learned about the Rwandan genocide in international politics [class] and what impact it had on women,” said Mphutlane, an international political economy major from Lesotho, Africa. “I then thought it would be best to think of a project that did not just involve giving a handout but instead one that would help young women acquire a skill.”
Kenny’s project, titled Fabulous Development, takes a unique approach to the community service model. Mphutlane’s project will teach impoverished Rwandan women the intricacies of sewing and creating their own fashion designs. After the clothing items have been created, they will be displayed in a fashion show and distributed for sale.
The idea, as Mphutlane describes it, is to empower African women with a trade that will help them financially and encourage positive mental health.
“There’s a saying: ‘Give a woman some bread and see a whole community get fed,’ ” Mphutlane said. “If all of a sudden young women in poor communities have the skills to professionally create clothing items that are in demand and have further access to the global market, that’s a lot of bread.”
To get the project up and running, Mphutlane has created international connections and planned fundraising events to support her endeavor. Although there is still much work to do, Fabulous Development already is beginning to see the fruits of its labor.
“I have been able to get partnership with an amazing and reputable designer in Rwanda, Sonia Mugabo,” Mphutlane said. “We’re communicating about the first collection, a fashion show we’ll be hosting for the women, as well as exploring different channels of distribution for the clothing.”
Mphutlane recently presented her work at the Clinton Global Initiative University, an annual conference that brings world leaders, students and youth organizations together to address global challenges. Her project was a finalist in the Resolution Project Social Venture Challenge and received a “Commitment to Action” award for an exemplary project in resolving post-conflict issues. CGI U, held March 21-23 at Arizona State University, also featured influential speakers including former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Sen. John McCain, and former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.
It has taken a lot of hard work, dedication and College of Idaho support – particularly from political economy professor Dr. Jasper LiCalzi – to get Fabulous Development where it is today, but for Mphutlane, the driving force is the love she has for her homeland.
“What inspired me – and continues to inspire me – is my love for Africa as a whole,” Mphutlane said. “The history, the diversity, the beauty and, most importantly, its potential to grow.”
Founded in 1891, The College of Idaho is the state’s oldest private liberal arts college. It has a century-old tradition of educating some of the most accomplished graduates in Idaho, including seven Rhodes Scholars, three Marshall Scholars, and another 12 Truman and Goldwater Scholars. The College is located on a beautiful campus in Caldwell, Idaho. Its distinctive PEAK curriculum challenges students to attain competencies in the four knowledge peaks of the humanities, natural sciences, social sciences and a professional field, enabling them to graduate with an academic major and three minors in four years. For more information on The College of Idaho, visit www.collegeofidaho.edu.