The inspiration to start an organisation working to empower and create better opportunities for youth and women started during Maria Liv’s studies and work in South Africa from 2008-2012.
During her years in South Africa, she experienced first-hand the poverty and massive need for better opportunities and development in the country. At the same time, she became inspired by the strong spirit and resilience of the young women that she worked with in a poor slum area, Khayelitsha, just outside of Cape Town.
She met several determined young women there. One of them, Babalwa, took her under her wings and introduced her to her community in Khayelitsha.
Babalwa counselled young women living with HIV & AIDS and also took in a young boy, Uuka, who had run away from home, even though she herself lived in a small shack made of tin and wood.
Before she could legally adopt Uuka, Babalwa got seriously ill. She died of meningitis in the brain in 2010, most likely caused by her HIV diagnosis. Uuka was placed back with his parents, where he would once again be exposed to the sexual and physical abuse he ran away from. As a foreigner Maria Liv felt powerless and in a short time she lost all track of him and his family.
Maria Liv returned to Denmark knowing she needed to do more than be a powerless bystander. Babalwa’s dream of helping the people in her community and the difference she made for them has therefore been passed on to her in the formation of DUG.
The mission of DUG is to collaborate with partners in local communities to help create better opportunities for marginalised youth and women. But, just as important, to give them a voice and to empower them take an active part in designing a better future for themselves.
The collaboration with the fashion industry made this dream possible.
In 2015 Maria Liv met South African Alfra Roos, who has worked the most of her life to help youth and women in her community in Grabouw, South Africa. In 2017 the two founded the South African NGO “Designers without Borders SA”, which is today led by Alfra Roos.
DWB SA is DUG’s main local partner, sharing their vision to make a positive change for youth and women in South Africa through design thinking, empowerment and creative projects.