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Women Helping Women Secure Their Futures
01 November 2012

Women helping other women through Fair Trade initiatives around the world has become a huge topic of discussion, and this month the World Fair Trade Organization is featuring selected women’s organizations in Africa that do just that.  After taking a look at multiple women driven Fair Trade organizations throughout Africa, it is evident that power comes in numbers in certain circumstances. When women work together, opportunities are created that otherwise might not exist for these same groups of women.  These intentional communities come in all different forms, ranging from cooperatives, artisan associations, networks of home-based workers, as well as informal community-based groups.

 Women living in poor communities struggle with challenges due to lack of resources and
 infrastructures.                                                                                                     Photo: Batsiranai

Women living in poor communities struggle with challenges due to lack of resources and infrastructure. Because of this, it is pertinent that women’s organizations continue to work together, and create opportunities that are much more effective and efficient and backed by organized structure.  Although it is hard to measure the success of these cooperatives due to lack of empirical evidence, the heart-filled collaboration and support seen and felt among the women is an indication of successful in its own right.

This month, we are featuring four women driven Fair Trade organizations to show our case. The rest of the article will describe the organizations and the ways in which the women working for the cooperatives stick together in a cohesive and positive fashion, encouraging each other to achieve their full potential, and allowing dreams to come true one woman at a time.

Global Mamas

                             Photo: Global Mamas

Global Mamas was founded in Ghana in 2003 with the intention of helping women in the communities to gain financial independence and achieve long lasting prosperity.  The organization consists of 500 individual producers, 50 staff members and 374 volunteers. They are all working together to provide support for each other, and empower one another through mission driven success and extended opportunities to better both themselves and their children.  Through coming together as a cohesive cooperative, the crafts women of Global Mamas have brought about opportunities for themselves through many different outlets.  The women support each other through helping one another to pay off debts, open savings accounts, support each other’s children through all levels of school, purchase new equipment with combined efforts and source raw materials in bulk to share amongst one another for a lowered overhead cost.  If these women were working independently from one another, the shared benefits of collaboration would not be felt like they are amongst the Global Mamas.  By allowing these women to access fair market prices and global competition, they have the chance to develop their own economic infrastructure among each other, cutting down on the reliance on foreign aid and allowing for a more sustained form of development. For more information and to purchase products, visit the Global Mamas website here.

Gone Rural

                                 Photo: Gone Rural

Gone Rural is a group of self-motivated women found along the mountainous regions of Swaziland in Africa.  The women of this cooperative have created a support network that exemplifies women empowerment, and sets a precedent for other women’s organizations around the world and throughout Africa.  Groups have been formed among the women. Each group has their own savings schemes that allow each woman to save money each month, which can be borrowed by other groups and returned at the end of the month with a fair interest.  At the end of the year, the groups of women come together to share the savings that they have earned throughout the past 12 months, and prepare for another successful year of loans and payments.  These same women have also set up equitable business models though which they can trade with each other throughout the year. This trading will consist of anything from produce to weaving grasses, depending on the different needs of the women at different times.  The women also assist each other by acting as trainers and facilitators, teaching each other new and improved techniques for crafts- making as they are developed.  For more information visit their website here.

Kazuri is a women’s organization in Kenya, whose main handicrafts included beaded jewelry and ceramic pottery.  Throughout the organization, groups of women have become experts in different areas of the production process, including making the ceramic beads, painting the beads, etc. By providing expertise in a specific area, the women can support each other with quality work that is spread out equally among each other, so that no one women or group carries the load of burden of providing financially for the community. Like the women of Gone Rural, the Kazuri women support each other by guaranteeing loans for one another from local savings and credit societies, allowing the women to continue to produce handicrafts even before purchases are made. The women are also very supportive of each other in times of need, especially during sickness or the loss of a loved one.  Because the women of Kazuri have worked hard to implement sustainable business practices, and support each other in every way possible, their organization has continued to gain success since its inception in 1975, and plans to do so for some time to come.  To learn more about the kazuri women and contribute to their cause, visit their site here.

Batsiranai, located in the township of Harare, Zimbabwe, is a Fair Trade group of mothers working to create beautiful embroidered and painted handicrafts that are sold in a global market.  All of the Batsiranai women are mothers of children with special needs, meaning that besides being economically marginalized, they also struggle with bringing up their children with special needs.  Because it is common for families with disabilities to be shunned by the local community of Harare, it has become necessary for these families to stick together to avoid complete isolation from one another.  With the economic successes that this community of women have experienced through their handicrafts, they have been able to purchase properties that have been made into a physical therapy room, work rooms, and office, and housing for three families.  The women work hard each day to provide hot meals for each other and all of the family members within the community. To read more about the organization, and contribute, visit their website here.

By teaming up together, women are able to truly influence each other’s lives, and provide lasting support for one another in ways that would otherwise not be possible.  Indigenous African women and their families experience hardships and obstacles more painful and deprecating than other marginalized women.  A glimpse of these women, and learning about the support that they provide for each other in the face of so many challenges is inspiring and eye opening.  These strides towards empowerment and betterment are being made by women and for women, and the more we learn about cooperatives such as those in Africa, the better we can assist them and encourage them to build stronger communities and create secure futures for generations to come.

By Lindsey Hethcote, Intern

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