Model Trades Catwalk for Helping Underprivileged Women in Kenya

By Darby Jones August 25, 2021
Maja Kotala ditched the runway to teach sewing and design to underprivileged women in Kenya.

Former model from Poland, Maja Kotala, ditched the runway to teach sewing and design to underprivileged women in Kenya. The 30-year-old from Chorzów created the educational program ‘Sewing Together’ that equips Kenyan women with necessary skills to then be able to sell their creations.

“I have just finished with one group who are ready to fly. The next group has started and they have amazing energy,” said the former Polish model. “They want to change their lives, they want to help me in changing the lives of other people and I couldn’t be more thankful and grateful.”

The project has partnered with Salvation Army Kenya, and 20 graduates now have products available for purchase online.

The courses are free for the women and take place in the Bamburi district of Mombasa. Students learn how to not only create clothes, but also how to start their very own fashion line. Included in the curriculum are yoga and meditation classes.

The idea for Sewing Together came about when Kotala lost her modeling job in Paris due to COVID, followed by the death of her father. She had previously studied fashion design in Australia, so she decided to put these skills to good use by empowering women in Africa and teaching them to sew. 

“Uganda was the first trip and I have to admit I didn’t like it,” she said. “I came back home it was so hard. The culture difference was so big, I didn’t know if I wanted to continue with it.

“The love I felt inside of me for Africa came back so I decided to give it a second chance and went to Nairobi.”

In addition to teaching the group about sewing and designing clothes, the initiative is also tackling menstrual poverty with reusable pads. According to the Sewing Together website, “Due to the lack of adequate protection, young girls during menstruation are often forced to use leaves, feathers, or even sand. Many young women even stop going to school.

“It creates gaps in education and often leads to expulsion. Sewing Together reached out to Polish fashion houses seeking help, from their offcuts we make pads!

Kotala said, “They wanted to change their lives and I was supposed to be the person who they did that with.”

Image source: Maja Kotala / Sewing Together Facebook