OneMama.org Confronting The Global Issue of Domestic Violence at New York Fashion Week

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Contributor: Elizabeth Mann

Sometimes in all the flash of New York Fashion Week and high profile OneMama.org Charity Red Carpet events, it can be easy to forget why we do all of these events and that this OneMama collection funds birthing, medical, domestic violence, and family planning programs in impoverished communities.

I interviewed founder Siobhan Neilland of OneMama.org to hear more about the story behind the new OneMama Collection items, to be showcased at FALL NYFW September 2016. What intrigued me was the story behind the new Red Carpet necklaces and how they are funding a newly added sector of OneMama.org, a domestic violence program.
It all started with her Siobhan’s team of on-the-ground OneMama Clinic Directors, a clinic Siobhan Neilland founded in 2008. It was a trip that was planned the same as years before, executed the same. Though she was now in the arms of her friends and colleagues, expectant for the weeks to come in Uganda, she was also met with sadness that would play out for her over the next weeks.

Behind a metaphorical door most don’t dare to open or even discuss, Siobhan, is a woman who is not just taking care of U.S operations to OneMama.org, but also a women who devotes every spare second and resource to keeping the clinic running in Uganda. These operations also include the future planning for the clinics yet to break ground. Even Siobhan was not aware of what was happening behind closed doors–even between the staff of her clinic. This is sadly not a unique circumstance. This is a culture hidden behind closed doors. This is a culture of out of sight and out of mind…but brokenness and broken bodies anguish their reality at home. Until this trip, when the door flew open in Siobhan’s face, she was faced by an issue that could go undressed no longer. This adversity sparked a motivation to change things. “I would not know when I started this investigation that it was like a loose string of an old sweater. With a light pull, it unravels an issue that is much bigger than a few people—even bigger than the OneMama Clinic and community. This is a global issue that I know all too well from my work with OneMama.org, and the work with UN Women. However, it is different to hear about it, and experience the gritty reality firsthand. When you are in the trenches and see people almost dying in front of you, those statistics you hear take on a new meaning. I must admit, I knew things could be bad here for women, but I had NO idea that how bad,” Siobhan says in a heartfelt letter to her social media following after she arrived back home in the States.

Domestic Violence affects close to 70% of women, ages 15 to 49 in Uganda, some of the highest rates in the world. Siobhan was standing looking over the silent and physical wounds and this was people she knew. Part of the 70 percent, standing in front of her, and taking up valuable space in the clinic they have all created together.

Flip the script to nearly a year later; there is a vast contrast to where Siobhan is standing today as you read this. She’s standing at a figurative crossroad to a world that you don’t generally connect to domestic violence, on one of the world’s biggest cultural stages of the world: New York Fashion Week. Though OneMama is taking the stage for the third year in a row as the official charity for the event, she and the team are arriving with new vision and new creations, celebrating the Ugandan communities she represents.

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Though Siobhan will likely be decked out in couture pieces from OneMama Collection made in Uganda by the OneMama community, but her eyes will be set on the greater picture; using the proceeds from the line to develop Domestic Violence programs right in the midst of the 70%. During her show, Siobhan tells the story behind each of her pieces; the stories of the women who walk miles in the sweltering sun to deliver their babies at the OneMama Clinic with our midwife, Mama Jamira, and the women who now have a global voice through OneMama.org.

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Every individual who walks the runway on September 14th & 15th is treading a new path for the men and women who are hidden, afraid, waiting for someone to open their door to freedom. Taking steps is the defining difference between looking away–like many before her–and creating opportunity for a better situation to rise. This is just the beginning; OneMama.org is opening the door to tangible change, starting with New York Fashion Week.

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