By CHARISSE DE LOS REYES
Everybody has a talent. Some people have not realized what their talents are yet, while others have found theirs. New York-based fashion designer Ntumba Mukendi discovered her talent at a young age. She first worked for a famous fashion designer, and later decided to use her love and talent for designing clothes for a good cause. Through ntumba.ntumba apparel, the organization she created, and through ntumba.ntumba design, her own clothing brand, Ntumba helps people overcome challenges that face them due to their gender. This is called gender empowerment, and some examples are providing education for girls in areas where there are no opportunities for women to go to school, or giving money to former African soldier boys in post-war areas so they can start their own businesses. Ntumba supports gender empowerment by producing empowerment workshops and fundraisers, as well as by donating money earned from selling clothing and accessories to organizations that also promote gender empowerment.
IndyKids: How did you get interested in designing clothes?
Ntumba Mukendi: Both of my brothers are excellent sketchers, and, of course, I wanted to be like my older brother, so I started sketching. I started actually designing clothes when I was 12-years-old.
IK: What inspired you to create ntumba.ntumba apparel?
NM: When I went to church, I was trained to give back to my community. In 2006, when I founded ntumba.ntumba apparel, I had long left the church, but realized that you could get to a point where you are more fulfilled with God and giving back becomes a natural flow. That’s when I decided to create a fashion-based organization that uses fashion for social work.
IK: Why do you think gender empowerment is important?
NM: I believe that society creates meaning and expectations according to a person’s gender. So, we tend to act according to these expectations: the way we get up every day, the way we brush our teeth, or the way we get dressed. Your gender can determine your destiny if you let it, depending on where you are located and what the options are for each gender. For some, that could mean that their gender determines what they become when they grow up.
IK: What is the best part about your job?
NM: I LOVE IT!
IK: What is the most difficult part of your job?
NM: Doing the research about those I am actually helping. Reading about all of the hurtful things that could happen to a human being makes me sad.
IK: What are your tips for kids who would like to use their talents and skills for a good cause?
NM: Find your “thing” and just do it! You could start anywhere even if you don’t know what exactly this “thing” is. It could be a specialty, like merging marriage counseling with social work and fashion. Your specialty is what’s going to make your business work.