A gallery filled with thousands of baby booties — each pair unique in material, color, and patterns — has the power to flood visitors with delight.
But when the 12,000 baby booties each represent 10,000 missing women around the world, the result presents a much more sobering experience.
“You can’t turn away from the fact that these booties represent human beings: mothers, daughters, sisters, and aunts,” Gendercide Awareness Project vice president June Chow said.
The 100+ Million Missing exhibit debuted in February at the Fashion Industry Gallery to raise awareness of approximately 120 million women missing around the world due to gendercide, the systematic killing of members of one gender.
The project, curated by Beverly Hill of University Park, took more than six years to bring to fruition.
Several Dallas organizations were involved, including knitting groups, area high schools, and the Junior World Affairs Council of DFW. The foundation also commissioned sewing co-ops in remote areas around the world to create a majority of the baby booties. Each community was given fair pay to use local materials to create booties that defined their culture, Chow said.
One community of refugees in Jordan created baby booties out of their own clothes and hand-crocheted grocery bags.
“The fact that these women came from so much suffering and were able to find it in their hearts to deliver a piece of beauty to the world shows that there’s still a light in all this darkness,” Chow said.
Though the exhibit has closed its doors for now, its lasting impact is only beginning. Fifty percent of proceeds from the exhibit have been donated to education partners overseas that provide scholarships to girls in at-risk communities. Proceeds from the exhibit as well as those from fundraisers and donations have helped provide roughly 20,000 meals to women and their families.
That’s not to mention the impact of employing women who don’t always have the opportunity to make money.
A grandmother in a Ugandan co-op wrote that the money she earned making booties helped her save up to purchase HIV medication for her grandson. A group of children who made paper beads for the shoes saved up to purchase their own schoolbooks. Women in India have gained sewing skills to make a living for themselves and escape the harsh jobs often forced upon them by their community.
“This experience wasn’t a handout for these women and girls,” Chow said. “It was an opportunity for them to take charge of their own lives.”
Project organizers hope to share the exhibit with a wider audience. The organization is looking for spaces to host the installation and inspire more people to take up the call to action.
Opportunities to spread awareness include getting involved in fundraising efforts, donating to partner schools, and reaching out to groups in Dallas that work with remote communities.
“The biggest and most inexpensive step anyone can take away from this is implementing good will,” Chow said. “We can challenge each other to support each other’s lives, because at the end of the day we’re all humans despite the circumstances we’re born into.”
To learn more about the Gendercide Awareness Project, including how to contribute, visit gendap.org.