#IWD2019 — #CollectiveMeets…Sisterhood

As it’s the week of International Women’s Day, we’ve decided to celebrate all the Collective gals doing great things for women. We spoke to #CollectiveFam Rebecca Thomson and Rachita Saraogi, co-founders of Sisterhood; a creative design programme for girls aged 13–17 aimed at unleashing their creative confidence through exploring larger social and systemic issues that affect them.

Rachita Saraogi and Rebecca Thomson

How was Sisterhood founded?

“Sisterhood started whilst both Rebecca and myself (Rachita) were studying at Central Saint Martins — as we were graduating and started out our careers as designers we found that there was a sizeable decline between women who graduated with a creative degree (70 out of 100 being women) and those who actually got a job within the industry (40/100 being women). We also found a lack of visible women in leadership roles who we could turn to for inspiration or even guidance but when we looked a bit further we found that this wasn’t only in the creative industry and the root of this, for women starts much earlier. So we decided we wanted to go to the root of the problem — and this starts in school, with lack of confidence, courage & charisma being the lowest amongst girls. We also want girls to work together on issues that affect them, for them to learn that collaborating together is so much more important than competing with each other.”

Why do you put design at the heart of your programmes?

“When you use design as a tool not only for visual outcomes but as a method to problem solve (also known as design thinking) it provides you with so many skills that transfer to careers even outside the creative industry such as collaboration, prototyping, pitching, project management, research and even building empathy etc. the list goes on.

Apart from these skills it also is a very hands on, practical approach to learning and is always situated in the real world — something we know from experience and extensive research that is missing from our current education system.”

What advice do you have for aspiring social entrepreneurs?

“From our experience so far, we think there are two things in particular stand out:

1) If you’re thinking of starting a project or business or have already started find a person or people who will carry your vision with you. It is these people who will walk side by side with you through every single moment, who will bring the energy when you are on the verge of giving up.

2) Create a product or service for something that you really care about — which sounds a bit cliche as that is to be expected if you’re starting a social business but we’ve come across so many people who have social businesses but are so far removed from the experiences and issues they are tackling. For us, Sisterhood is something that we need ourselves, with every programme we are learning and growing just as much alongside the girls we work with.”

What part did Camden Collective play in your journey?

“Camden Collective was our first ever work space — it made us feel so legit! It was great to walk into a creative space in which everyone around us is working on such a variety of businesses. And of course having the support of the community there, the team especially really cares about what you are doing and are always sharing about the work we do or letting us know about opportunities — it gives us the confidence to keep going.”

What are the challenges of being a girl in our current society? What advice do you have for young girls growing up?

“From the girls we’ve worked with we clearly see that having the chance to express themselves, learn what they care about, what they’re capable of — these are some of their daily challenges. Particularly growing up with social media where you are fed narratives that tell you to think a certain way, or look a certain way or act a certain way — it’s a real challenge for girls to be on a journey of discovering who they really are.

We’d say to young girls and those around them — parents, friends, siblings, guardians that work with young girls to cultivate their interests, don’t hold them back from exploring things outside their or even your own comfort zone, let them try and fail and learn. Give them the freedom to explore and as a result through this trial and error is how they will build their confidence.”

How can we empower different voices and cultures and dismantle a world of narrow beauty standards?

“The first part is self-awareness, it’s realising that your view of the world is not the only one or the right one, it is only how you are currently perceiving it. With that awareness comes action — where you ask yourself ‘okay how do I build more of a complete narrative’ — and then you action it by including other perspectives, experiences and voices.

We asked a version of this question to a group of girls that were on a Sisterhood programme, so it would be only fitting to take their advice on how to dismantle narrow beauty standards:

“Society should not control the females and encourage them to wear a lot of makeup and make them insecure about their natural beauty, my message is to them that when you were born your parents loved you for who you are and for how you came out as and we should embrace that’ — Rochelle, Age 14

‘For me beauty is not about how you look, but how you feel’— Tasnia, Age 14

Any exciting upcoming projects?

“Yes, we’re about to launch a trial version of a volunteer programme for Sisterhood. We realised that we are surrounded by such wonderful, skilled and talented people who want to use those skills for good but often traditional volunteering and time commitments restrict them from doing so. Therefore we’re testing out a skills based volunteering initiative — it’s very much going to be in its prototype phase but we’re excited to see what comes out of it.”

If you’re interested, keep an eye out on their instagram and twitter: @oursisterhood.

- Thanks for reading!