“When you educate a woman, you educate a whole generation of people,” is the message that motivated Nicole Guzzo as she volunteered and created an NGO across the globe. A fashion designer from Vancouver, Guzzo began Prakasa Co. (pronounced prakasha), a non-registered charitable organization in 2017, that plays different roles in the three different countries it is established in today: India, Uganda and Nepal.
Guzzo currently lives in Rishikesh, India. When living in Vancouver, Guzzo worked and volunteered with various organizations. It was after conducting a sewing workshop for Atira Women’s Resource Society that she realized she wanted to continue helping empower women.
“All of my experience working there inspired me to continue working with women in the creative field,” says Guzzo.
As a result of her volunteering, Prakasa Co. began in Vancouver as a place for people who wanted to volunteer but did not know how. After establishing Prakasa Co. with a small community of people in Vancouver, Nicole traveled to India and later Uganda to teach sewing at a school for women. She assisted them with making Western designs for the women to possibly create businesses of their own. Her experiences inspired her to find a way to create the organization it is today.
Prakasa Co. – how it works
During one of her travels, Guzzo came across a community center in Entebbe, Uganda looking for a sewing teacher.
“I knew I had to grab this opportunity to grow my reach and help the women reach their best potential, to be able to sell what they sewed,” exclaims Guzzo.
After working with the women in Entebbe for only two months, Guzzo was taken aback by how hardworking and passionate these women were, and decided to increase Prakasa Co.’s limits.
The Ugandan branch of Prakasa employs 16 women who stitch and sell scrunchies. They have sold more than 3000 scrunchies all over the world. The Nepalese branch, on the other hand, employs four women who have stitched and sold over 100 kimonos.
All the money made selling the scrunchies goes back entirely to these women. By purchasing a single hair scrunchie, worth CA$ 8, customers can help feed a woman in Uganda for 30 days.
“The women of Entebbe, Uganda are incredibly resilient as they battle through AIDS/HIV, poverty and raising their children as single mothers. Our mission is to build these women to become self-sufficient without the need of an abusive husband, prostitution, or living with their kids on the streets,” explains Prakasa Co.’s website.
While the women work independently on the products – from selecting material, stitching the products, packaging and shipping them – Guzzo’s job in the organization was to create the brand and spread awareness of it over social media and in person. She began launching Prakasa Co.’s products in yoga studios and salons in Vancouver.
The first success occurred when the biggest local cheerleading team ordered 200 matching hair scrunchies, and the word spread! One of the main reasons Guzzo works with women is to help them battle gender inequalities, wage gaps and lack of jobs for women in Uganda and in Nepal.
“Women are the backbone of societies but they are always only perceived as caregivers; by supporting women to thrive in vocational training, it empowers them to have lives, careers and creative focuses that are just about them,” explains Guzzo.
The women working with Prakasa Co. help pull their families out of poverty and educate their children.
COVID has affected the women and the NGO itself, but thanks to people’s donations, the COVID fund that was set up for the women in Uganda has raised $5000 in a week. The money goes to the 70 family members of the 16 women they employ. Any extra funds are set aside for the education of the women’s children.
To help the women and/or to know more about Prakasa Co., please visit: www.prakasaco.com.