2023 | Style Her Empowered
Style Her Empowered (SHE) is the 2023 winner of the Distinction in International Service Award (DISA). SHE is most well-known for creating the uniform that grows when the program launched in 2017 in Notse, Togo.
In Togo, girls spend an average of 2 - 3 years in school, and only a third of girls go to junior high school. A required school uniform is the largest financial barrier keeping girls out of school in Togo and in many countries around the world. To address this problem, SHE designed the world's only school uniform that grows so girls can wear their uniforms for up to 3 years! Every girl receives a new school uniform as part of her sponsorship at SHE.
The DISA is annually awarded to a locally based organization with international scope. Students and staff of the Martin Institute, part of the U of I’s College of Letters, Arts and Social Sciences, form the DISA committee to research and honor excellent international endeavors.
Committee member Megan Kiser, a freshman majoring in international studies and business economics, said, “During our selection process, we established collective criteria, then we researched on our own and brought our individual ideas to the table, and slowly narrowed things down, settling on SHE. We really wanted to pick an organization that was both helping and empowering, a great model that isn’t always used.”
Payton McGriff, founder and CEO of SHE, a 2017 graduate from the University of Idaho with a bachelor’s in marketing, visited the Martin Institute to accept the award on behalf of SHE.
“SHE all started with the idea of teaching girls to sew school uniforms in Africa during my entrepreneur class after I was inspired by the book Half the Sky,” Payton explained. “But we quickly realized that these girls had no extra hours and it was creating too much of a burden. We ended up adding a women’s branch.” Now SHE focuses on three areas: Girls’ Education, Women’s Employment and Sustainability.
SHE increases access to education that builds girls' self-reliance. They also create safe, reliable, and dignified jobs for women from low-income and low-education backgrounds. They do all of this sustainably while making uniforms that grow and reusable menstrual pads.
“The people of Togo have been very welcoming because we have a locally driven team that has respect and trust within the community. At first, there was a paradigm to overcome,” Payton said. “People wouldn’t look one of our initial local employees in the eyes when she began our program. People avoided her. Now they see what she has done for herself, and they are seeking her out for advice! It has been a small cultural shift but now she is admired for her work. We aren’t trying to change their culture, we are changing their mindsets.”
McGriff is planning another trip to Togo this Fall and is excited to continue to grow the organization and see where it leads. “I would encourage people to remain curious about their own potential to create impact in their world. Unexpected things happen, many that are good, because you remain curious. It can be so rewarding.”
SHE ‘s 2022 Impact
• 1,500 girls sponsored through school
• 30 women employed in Togo, Africa
• 21 towns and villages served in Togo
• 2 Sustainable Factories in rural Togo
• 99.9% of our students passed their grade levels
• 5,000+ pounds of fabric recycled into reusable menstrual pads
All photos courtesy of Style Her Empowered, Inc. Thank you!