Acacia’s workshop, which began in Nairobi, Kenya employing 20 women and men has grown dramatically since we first began working together. Now employing over 1000 artisans across 2 continents, Acacia Creations provides sustainable employment for artisans in six countries, providing not only jobs, but training, education and healthcare.
Razaan Jakoet, founder of Chic Fusion, follows her passion for economic empowerment and assists in relieving unemployment by training women from disadvantaged communities in Woodstock, Cape Town to create her South African-inspired products. Razaan designs all the products before handing over the felting to the artisans.
Artist Marissa Perry Saint founded the social enterprise Dsenyo, in an effort to create long-term economic opportunities for African women and artisans. With a focus on textiles, Dsenyo works with 120 women and artisans in Malawi and Northeastern Brazil to craft a line of fair trade gifts. Dsenyo donates 3% of sales to community development projects in Malawi.
Entoto Beth Artisan, founded by Bethlehem Berhane, is dedicated to restoring the HIV/AIDS affected community on Entoto Mountain in Ethiopia. Through their outreach they provide fair-wage employment to over one hundred HIV infected women. They create unique hand-crafted jewelry pieces using local materials such as tire thread, reused artillery shells and even coated coffee beans.
After the genocide, Rwanda was faced with many women left as widows, single mothers, and teenage orphaned girls. The organization was started by two sisters, Joy Ndunguste and Janet Nkubana, who had a deep desire to help these women move forward with their lives. What started with 20 women is now a network of 4,000 weavers across the country.
Gone Rural was founded in 1992 by the late Jenny Thorne to create employment for women in rural communities across Swaziland. The business has grown from 30 to over 770 women in 32 countries worldwide. Their unique home accessories combine traditional skills with high end design and are hand woven from sustainable, local natural fibers.
Good Paper is an organization helping women who have escaped sex trafficking in the Philippines and those orphaned in the Rwandan genocide create better futures for themselves and their families. With stable fair-trade wages, the artisans are able to pay rent, put food on the table, and educate their children. This economic autonomy allows them to work towards achieving their dreams. Good Paper provides more than just jobs, raising the standard of living for the card makers and their families.
Greenola strives to provide advancement opportunities to artisans through design and innovation, using fashion as a tool to create positive change in the world. Working directly with artisans in Bolivia and Kenya, Greenola respects and preserves the cultural heritage of their artisans by paying fair wages and providing access to quality healthcare, design education, business training, and community building.
Philip and Katy Leakey, who live among the Maasai, came up with an idea to help women earn an income after a devastating drought. They used grass which was dried and cut into bead-size pieces and dyed lovely hues and then strung into necklaces and bracelets. Now over 1,400 women are making Zulugrass while leading traditional lives.
Founded in 2005, MADE harnesses the talent and skills Kenyan artisans with a goal of creating long term jobs, teaching new skills, and empowering developing communities. They buy their raw materials from local individuals, at a fair price, thereby helping to both strengthen the local economy and empower small businesses.
Laurel Brandstetter and the Mar y Sol team started its dying, looming and sewing raffia sourced from trees growing in Madagascar, transforming the material into well-made hats and handbags. Support for this organization enables artisans to gain economic independence and promotes environmental conservation.
MEND is a product line by Invisible Children, an organization established to help bring an end to LRA (Lord’s Resistance Army) atrocities in Uganda and help improve the lives of women affected by the conflict. Mend provides these women with training, financial support, counseling, schooling, and an outlet for their talent.
Mushana was founded in 2009 by Angela Tucci Robinson who became involved with an orphanage and AIDS widow community. Angela’s initial financial support for this village led to the development of Mushana, which means sun in Uganda. Mushana currently provides steady work for 20 Ugandan women and men.
Mushmina was founded by sisters Heather and Katie O’Neill, who provide employment opportunities for artisans, both women and men throughout workshops and small businesses in Morocco, with specialties in metal-smithing, leather-working and textile production. Each artisan is empowered by contributing in their own ways to the creative process in this global exchange.
Shanley Knox founded the Nakate Project to connect women in harmful occupations in remote villages in Uganda with positive role models - Ugandan professionals and artisans. Their mission is to inspire women to be courageous, to live deeply and remind us to express our adventurous side.
Quazi Design is a company that believes in pushing the boundaries of craft, responsibility, and design, transforming magazines into original accessories and interior, using only 100% water magazines. Based in Swaziland, all their products are hand made by local women, empowering them through skill sharing and earning a sustainable permanent income so they may become self- reliant.
Same Sky is a trade-not-aid initiative in Rwanda and Zambia, providing employment opportunities to women struggling to lift themselves out of poverty after the devastating effects of the Rwandan genocide, rape and HIV/AIDS. The sale of Same Sky bracelets directly supports these women working in artisan cooperatives.
Co-founded in 2012 by Ella Peinovich, Gwendolyn Floyd, and Catherine Mahugu, Soko has dedicated itself to helping women claim better economic equality. Originally, women would produce 60-80% of Africa’s cotton goods, but only received 10% of the income. With Soko’s help, Kenyan artisans are able to directly access the market to sell their goods on mobile phones.
After traveling Uganda, Liz Forkin Bohannon was inspired to create Sseko Designs, a high-end, ethical handbag and accessories fashion brand. Liz’s mission is to empower women in impoverished communities to pursue or complete their university education. By providing full-time employment, Sseko Designs helps women achieve their dreams of overcoming poverty. In addition to serving women in Uganda, Sseko Designs partners with artisans across East Africa.
Michael Zigani, the lead designer of vibrant leather handbags, is handicapped from the waist down, still supporting his entire family. The money earned from crafting discarded bones from nearby butchers and wood from government forests allows parents to pay school fees, feed their families and pay rent.
To The Market (TTM) Survivor-made Goods, takes an active role in equipping the survivors they employ with economic independence, while also raising consumer awareness of the challenges that artisans in underdeveloped countries face. TTM showcases handmade goods made exclusively by proud and passionate artisans who have overcome the perils of abuse, conflict, and disease throughout countries spanning four continents.
Founded by Erin Brennan Allan, Toto Knits is a line of organic cotton knitwear, ethically made by a group of single mothers in Kenya. The knitters are paid by the piece, which allows them to work as much or little as they like while providing the opportunity to put their families first.
Tribalinks was founded in 1990 by jewelry and interior designer Phyllis Woods. She employs artisans throughout the countries of Mali, Ghana, Senegal, Ivory Coast, Togo, Niger, Nigeria, Mauritania, Namibia, Ethiopia, Thailand, and Bali, thus providing a sustainable income for craftspeople and their families around the world.
The idea for uSisi (“sisters” in Zulu) came from founder, Stella Pretorius, who left the healthcare field and launched a series of income generating activities for parents of undernourished children. More than 100 women have worked with the project, earning enough money to put their children through school, build houses, and consistently put food on their tables.
Founded by Penny Webster and Johnnie Sears, Woven Promises works with textile artisans in Sabahar to promote silk production in Ethiopia, and basket artisans in Namibia. The organization provides artisans economic stability, which serves as a stepping-stone for progressing their lives. They also contribute to Namibian girls’ education and are currently putting 97 girls through school.