Meet the Dubai-based teen who has won global recognition for charity fashion shows

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A Dubai teenager has won global recognition for creating sustainable fashion shows that raised Dh30,000 for charitable causes.

Eeman Syeda, a 16-year-old Pakistani pupil at Gems Metropole School Motor City, was named as one of the 18 Under 18 Most Influential Teens by Crimson Education – a global education consultancy firm.

She crafted ensembles from throw-away scraps and weaved together outfits with discarded fabrics.

The proceeds of the fashion show were used in the first year for the education, shelter and food of more than 20 orphans in Malawi, with recent proceeds going to the Al Jalila Foundation.

“It’s an incredible honor to be recognised as one of the top 18 most influential teens in the world. And to be the only winner from the Middle East and from the UAE makes it even more exciting,” said Eeman.

“I got the idea to host this fashion show after working on a project with students in Malawi and I wanted to make an impact in some way.

“We get end-of-life fabrics, these are clothes that won’t be used anymore, and clothes that people are about to throw away. I led a group of designers, pupils at the school, to upcycle the clothes, and they give the clothes a new life.

“Then we hosted a fashion show and we auctioned off the clothes, and all the money that’s raised is given to charity.”

The first edition of the fashion show, entitled MTS Walks, was hosted in 2022 and it has since become an annual event.

The fashion show involves pupils working to upcycle the end-of-life fabrics donated by charity store Thrift for Good, while others work backstage to make sure the event runs smoothly.

She has hosted three shows at her school in the UAE and has helped teens in England and India set up the event based on her idea.

Since 2022, Eeman has been able to raise Dh30,000 for charities.

“In order to replace fast fashion we need to take small steps towards sustainability,” she said.

“I have led more than 60 designers [pupils at the school] over the years as well as more than 50 models [pupils at the school].

“I wanted to do something to help people and to give back to the community and I really wanted to make a difference, which would allow me to help people globally.”

The fashion show is a ticketed event at which the designs handcrafted by the pupils are auctioned, and the money donated to a charity.

This year the fashion show was held on January 31 and attended by more than 350 people.

A pair of Air Jordans was auctioned off for Dh1,000 while a plain denim jacket on which a pupil painted a small dragon brought in Dh800.

In the first year, the money raised by MTS Walks was donated to help orphans in Malawi to sponsor them for 12 months and this year the money was given to the Al Jalila Foundation.

“I’m hoping to make this a permanent event every year in schools around the UAE and internationally,” Eeman said.

The Year 12 pupil aims to study engineering and entrepreneurship at a top university in 2025.

“I feel like my main aim is to empower people. I believe by combining both of these interests, I’ll be able to solve the biggest challenges, uplift communities, and also be able to make a difference in this world,” she said.

“Sustainability is like a garden and small acts nurture its growth from recycling to conserving water.”

Speaking at Cop28

Eeman was invited to represent the youth of the UAE at the Cop 28 climate change conference where she talked about the fashion show.

The pupil participated in the Gems Global Innovation Challenge and was the winner at of the Cafu Youth Entrepreneur Accelerator Programme.

She is also the president of Girl Up at her school, a girl-focused development initiative.

“I moved to the UAE when I was about five years old. I want to give back to the UAE and I want to give back to Pakistan and countries that are less privileged,” she said.

Through these opportunities, I’m really able to do so because through the fashion show in the first year, we helped orphans in Malawi.”

Fashionable ideas

Her school supported her by providing space and sewing machines and allowing pupils to hold the event in the school hall.

The pupils also required approvals from authorities when it came to donating the proceeds to charity.

“It is with great enthusiasm that I extend my support for Eeman in recognition of her exceptional achievement of founding MTS Walks, a sustainable fashion show that promotes creative upcycling,” said Madhav Juneja, country manager in the UAE for Crimson Education,

“Throughout our evaluation process, Eeman stood out for her commitment, perseverance, and dedication.

“MTS Walk events have raised funds for over 20 orphans and shows Eeman’s dedication to sustainability and inclusivity. Her passion is evident and serves as an inspiration to all.”

Daniella Aschettino, head of secondary at Gems Metropole School Motor City said: “Eeman is a student who is greatly influential, who uses her knowledge and skills for the betterment of the school and its students.

“When leading on initiatives, she always thinks big-picture, especially in terms of sustainability which she is clearly passionate about.”

Updated: March 28, 2024, 9:47 AM

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