Milvea – “clothes that make a difference”

RealStars has interviewed Mikael Lestander who is the founder of the social enterprise Mileva which aims to give new hope for women who have been subjected to trafficking.

What is Milvea?
Mileva is a social enterprise aiming to provide a better life for women who have been subjected to trafficking and prostitution. We are managing a small-scale, artisanal production of clothes in Kathmandu, Nepal. We are providing the women involved with accommodation, food, and training

How was the idea of Mileva born?
It started after having seen the movie “Mammoth” by Lukas Moodysson. I got a feeling that I had to do something – for those who really do not have much of a chance. I soon became especially concerned about the issue of women being forced into prostitution. I can hardly imagine a fate worse than that.

But how?
I have previously been in contact with Fairtrade and their products. It is a good thing that they exist, but I could never sell anything like that. So I came to focus on clothes, t-shirts. I was merely missing experience, capital and connections. But I was in close contact with a designer. There were many who wanted to make a contribution: the issues of initial capital and connections were soon solved.

How do you work?
We started in March 2013. We bought sewing machines, rented a place which was to function both as working and dwelling place. We had already met project manager Bimal and discussed how to work things out. Furthermore, we hired a training manager and a matron who were also to provide support for the seamstresses. And last but not least: we hired two women from an organisation focusing on women who have been subjected to trafficking. Every garment is thereto labelled with the signature of the woman who has manufactured it; this in order to enable the person wearing it to get a sense of connectedness with the person whose destiny has been altered. This reconnection is extremely important.

What are your visions?
Today we have three hired seamstresses who all share a common past in trafficking. For them, we have three part-time employees who offer them training, support and take care of the administration. We hope that more people in Sweden will choose to make a vital difference next time they buy clothes. There are so many who want to do something. Many people donate, but the money we spend is even more important. Aid does not change the world. But our consumption does. If only a fraction of this is realised we can continue to make a difference for women who have been severely mistreated!

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