We are just seven days away from the grand opening of Shared Trade: A Fair Share for Women!
For the last few months, we’ve been introducing you week by week to some of the extraordinary enterprises committed to creating economic freedom and healing work environments for women. Now, we’d like you to see the beautiful creations that will be available on sharedtrade.org starting next Friday.
Shared Trade is proud to offer a collection of home goods, bath & body products, accessories, jewelry and more that add style and beauty to your daily life.
From Mekong Blue in Cambodia, we are featuring hand-made silk scarves. In a variety of patterns, each scarf from Mekong Blue is designed and dyed over a two-week period on hand looms by women at the Stung Treng Women’s Center. These scarves are the perfect purchase to set you up for fall. Enjoy a pumpkin spice latte while wrapped in warmth!
From the Akola Project in Uganda and Ethiopia, Shared Trade is proud to offer beautiful jewelry. The Umoja Necklace features a handcast Ethiopian pendant that hangs on a gold-colored chain. The second chain accents the piece with teal beads. The piece hangs long at 30″ adds that glam to your outfit.
And of course, Shared Trade will offer the full line of Thistle Farms’ Candles! Sit back and relax as the calming scents fill your home. Women of Magdalene hand pour the soy candles with love and healing. They burn clean with scents of lavender, lemon sage, citrus vanilla, and more. Light a candle for the woman still out there and hope she finds her way back home.
The scarf from Mekong Blue, necklace from Akola Project, and candle from Thistle Farms represent goods from just three of our thirteen social enterprise partners. Needless to say, there is so much more to come!
Help us launch this new initiative by telling your friends about #SharedTrade on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram and spread the news about the movement for women’s economic freedom.
Shared Trade finds its inspiration and mission in communities all over the world. Whether it’s in Nashville, TN, Guadalajara, Mexico, or Accra, Ghana, women find strength in each other and in the circle we share. For Stephanie Pollaro, founder of iSanctuary and Purpose Jewelry, the initial inspiration to join the cause came from a fashion magazine. After reading about trafficking and travelling to India, Stephanie couldn’t help getting involved in the movement of love.
Stephanie Pollaro and Wendy Hicks are the co-counders of Purpose Jewelry, a cooperative of iSanctuary. Not only does this organization serve as a safe house for victims, but it provides survivors with medical care, education, and a way to support themselves.
The United Nations defines human trafficking as “the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring, or receipt of persons by improper means (such as force, abduction, fraud, or coercion) for an improper purpose including forced labor or sexual exploitation.” 100,000 to 300,000 children are sexually exploited in the United States, and 10,000 women in India are enslaved in prostitution. Purpose Jewelry is one of many organizations striving to put an end to this issue while helping survivors rebuild their lives.
Purpose Jewelry and iSanctuary provide girls and young women with medical assistance, education, and the skills they need to sustain themselves. Once survivors are welcomed to Purpose Jewelry, they learn to make beautiful jewelry. Each survivor working for Purpose Jewelry is paid according to her skill level, and all of them are paid 100% above fair trade wage.
The products survivors at Purpose Jewelry make include necklaces, earrings, bracelets, and rings. Each piece is made by women in Mumbai, India, and prepared, packaged, and shipped by survivors rescued in Orange County, CA.
Be sure to check out Purpose Jewelry on our online store in October, and come back to our blog next week to continue meeting our partners.
Each social enterprise partner at Shared Trade started with a dream for their community. Starting small, each company began to grow day by day, product by product, and friend by friend. Our partner in Mozambique calls vision and their company, Galeria dos Sonhos or Gallery of Dreams.
The Dream Gallery’s vision is to help women formerly in prostitution in Pemba, Mozambique, through teaching skills such as handling finances and investing in their business ideas. The Dream Gallery is a safe place for women to come and be loved.
We want you to meet Tina. Tina is 27 years old and lives in northern Mozambique. Her mother died when she was young and she and her four brothers lived with her father in a one room thatched roofed hut. Her father was a farmer, and she recalled that while growing up, sometimes they had money for food to eat and sometimes they did not. She said that the bush is a dangerous place to live.
“There are lions, and they eat people,” she said. “I grew up scared of being attacked.”
During her childhood she also had an aunt who was raped and murdered. Unfortunately, rape is very common.
In 1975, Mozambique was one of the poorest countries in the world, according to BBC News. Since then, it has emerged as one of the fastest growing economies despite suffering 16 years of civil war. Despite this growth, poverty remains widespread due to floods in 2000 and 2001 and a drought in 2002. Currently, more than 50% of Mozambicans live on less than $1 a day.
The women who work at the Dream Gallery no longer have to worry about providing for their families any longer. Tina is now able to buy food and her own plates through working with the Dream Gallery.
“I can provide for myself properly,” she said.
Tina currently dreams of building her own house. Right now, the majority of her weekly salary goes toward rent. The Dream Gallery also has a dream for the company. To the people at the Dream Gallery, success would look like a woman being able to get a job or create a business of her own or simply move up within the business to manage others and help run the business.
For now, the Dream Gallery is focusing on creating high quality products. These products include table runners, children’s clothing, serviettes, clutches, iPad sleeves, cross-over bags, and men’s bow ties. All of their products are made from authentic, African, wax fabrics.
Tina said that one of her favorite things about working with the Dream Gallery is that if someone doesn’t know how to do something, they teach each other. She said that the people are patient and kind.
“Galeria dos Sonhos is honored to have Tina on our team,” according to Grace Davis, Director of the Dream Gallery. “She brings joy and laughter into our space every single day. She is patient and kind and eager to learn. Since joining us she previously only spoke Makua but is now learning to speak Portuguese! We love having her in our family and providing a safe circle where she is always welcomed.”
Here at Shared Trade, we value our friendships as much as anyone. Today we want to share the story of a friendship that began years ago that will now strengthen with Shared Trade and the story of an organization birthed out of Thistle Farms. The first organization we want to share with you in this post is The Studios of Thistle Farms.
The Studios of Thistle Farms is an initiative of Thistle Farms based in Nashville, TN and is comprised of the Paper Studio and the Sewing Studio. The Studios of Thistle Farms is committed to empowering women who have experienced addiction, sex trafficking, and life on the streets. One of the Studios’ inspiring women is Penny.
Penny’s many responsibilities at Thistle Farms include shipping, packing, and working in the paper studios.
Penny is a graduate of Magdalene House, a two-year residential program that is partnered with Thistle Farms. Before she found Magdalene, Penny was trying to survive on the streets and ended up in jail. She spent five months at Magdalene before joining the Thistle Farms community, where she started out working in the packing and shipping departments before becoming manager of the Paper Studio.
“At Thistle Farms, I’ve learned that I’m always going to be a sister for life, and they love me no matter what,” she said.
Each of these cards is handmade in Thistle Farms Studios.
From card sets and journals to coasters and tote bags, each of the Studios of Thistle Farms’ products is made with love. In the Paper Studio, thistle paper is handmade from recycled paper, t-shirts, and thistles that are harvested by “Thistle Farmers” from all over the country (click here to learn more about harvesting thistles). The paper making process usually takes a full day. First, the shredded recycled paper and t-shirts, along with other materials, is made into a pulp. The pulp is then formed into sheets of paper which are dried in a press. Finally, the handmade paper is used for silk screen greeting cards, hand sewn journals, and other beautiful creations. Each of Studio’s products is unique and will be sure to make a perfect gift.
The Sewing Studio has five sewing machines and a large work table where fabric is cut to patterns and new designs are created. On any given day, the seamstresses are working on batik tote bags or hot pads, or are sewing custom labels on Thistle Farms t-shirts or other items. In addition, the Sewing Studio has made prototypes of packaging used in Thistle Farms’ kits (such as the recently announced Tea Kit) which have been passed on to other Shared Trade partners for higher volume production.
The second organization is Sibimbe, a sewing cooperative located in San Eduardo, Ecuador. The main employers in the Los Rios region of Ecuador are owners of banana plantations, and the jobs available involve back-breaking work for low pay. Three years ago, Reverend Becca Stevens and a few other people from St Augustine’s Episcopal Chapel, in Nashville, TN, wanted to provide an opportunity for a small group of women in San Eduardo to create a sustainable business. Becca started with a group of three women, who said they would like to sew. Over the next year, Becca was able to obtain three sewing machines and supplies, which were then taken to this group of women to create the sewing cooperative Sibimbe, named after the river where the founding seamstresses learned to swim.
Sibimbe launched its business by creating healing oil pouches for Thistle Farms. The beautiful, hand-sewn pouches made by women at Sibimbe hold five essential healing oils.
Ahimsa inspires universal love and nonviolence and is made from cinnamon, clove, sweet orange, and cedar in olive oil.
Mitzvah encourages acts of human kindness and is made from lavender, ginger root, mandarin, and vanilla in sweet almond oil.
Compassion opens the heart to prayer and mindfulness and is made from geranium, myrrh, chamomile, and lavender in jojoba oil.
Inspiration uplifts the spirit and invites new dreams and is made from bergamot, cardamom, and sweet orange in coconut oil.
Finally, Contemplation restores the mind and body for reflection and is made from jasmine, grapefruit, frankincense, and myrrh in olive oil.
Each of these bags are hand sewn by women who work at Sibimbe.
This friendship is important for both Sibimbe and Thistle Farms because they both ultimately have the same goal.
“The purpose of this cooperative is to provide decent work and to improve the quality of life for women,” said the Reverend Gina Angulo, priest at Escuela Anne Stevens. “It is our hope that in the future there will be many more women that can be a part of Sibimbe.”
Be sure to check out The Studios of Thistle Farms’ and Sibimbe’s products once they are available at the Shared Trade e-commerce site this October. Perhaps you might want to send a friend of your own some essential healing oils or a friendly, handmade note. Through our relationships with our partners, Shared Trade wants to promote love and friendship across the globe and close to home.
While living in a country that has been torn by over twenty years of civil war, the women of Uganda are often marginalized and struggle to find hope in their lives. After working with a Ugandan boarding school, one woman decided to start her own fight against poverty and violence. That woman is Brittany Merrill Underwood, who began The Akola Project.
Founded in 2007, Akola is one of five projects supported by the Ugandan American Partnership Organization (UAPO) as an effort to alleviate the impact of poverty. At Akola, women are taught to create beautiful jewelry and textiles, while also finding hope again in their lives. Here is the story of one of Akola’s artisans.
Before working for the Akola Project, Scovia could not provide food for her children or pay their school fees. Now, she supports her family by creating paper bead necklaces.
Babwetenda Scovia did not have much hope in her life before working at Akola. She lost her husband to HIV/AIDS, and has also contracted the virus. A young mother of three children, Sovia begged her relatives to help her give her children food and an education.
Now, Scovia is an artisan in training, and she makes paper bead necklaces for the Akola Project. Because of her income from working at Akola, she can receive medical treatment as well as provide food for her family and send her children to school.
Scovia is one of the many women employed by Akola to make paper bead necklaces. The beads on the necklaces are hand-rolled and finished with a non-toxic varnish. Finally, the beads are strung together to create the perfect statement piece.
The beads on Akola’s necklaces are hand-rolled and strung together to create the perfect statement piece.
Women at Akola also make necklaces with bold pendants. Each pendant is made of bullet casings from past civil wars and plated with a brass or nickel finish.
In addition to making jewelry, Akola women meticulously weave cotton, raffia grass and palm leaves into textiles that are then used to make fashionable clutches. The interior boning of each clutch is hand braided using palm leaves. The weavers can weave up to sixteen palm leaves at one time.
Although weaving textiles is not a native trade of Ugandan communities, Akola has adopted it with expertise. The weavers may spend up to one day weaving the 1.5 yards of fabric that is needed to make one clutch simply to ensure a highest quality product.
Akola’s artisans also create beads from ankole horn. Indigenous to Uganda, these horns would normally be thrown out, but Akola gives them a new purpose as delicate beads in black, tan, and cream colors.
Like the ankole horn, women who are welcomed at The Akola Project are also given a chance to renew their lives. One of these women is Mukulu Ketra.
Ketra is a prominent leader in her community because of her work with Akola.
Ketra is a strong leader in her community. She invests a portion of her monthly income from Akola into her community’s savings and loans group. Over the past six years, she has used those savings to launch small businesses and enlarge her commercial farm. She has invested in nine cows, a chicken coop, and goats. Not only has Akola improved her life, but she has used her earnings to improve her community.
Be sure to check out Akola’s jewelry on SharedTrade MarketPlace in October. By supporting Akola, you can bring hope into a woman’s life.
I am so grateful and humbled to be here in San Juan Costala, Mexico, meeting the poorest of women whose years of living in poverty, enduring loss and daily hardship is written all over their beautiful faces. Yesterday they understood that each of them is part of a big and growing circle, each of them loved for being the woman she is …it makes me want to do more , give more, to love more. At the end of our tea-time I asked them to tell me something about their lives that I could take with me back to Nashville and share with their sisters at Thistle Farms and beyond.
Maria: “ I just want a home somewhere, sometime.” She is old. Weezie and I talked about how she can raise some money/volunteer workers to build her a one room home. It can be done.
Gisele: “ I want to take care of my children – thats all. I want to always have food for them” Young and pregnant with her 5th child. No partner/husband. She lives with her children in a one-roomed ‘house’ with a dirt floor , 2 dogs , a small stove in one corner and a mid sized bed in the other where they all sleep together at night.
Weezie is a powerhouse. They are so fortunate to have such a strong, caring woman in their midst. I attend the board meeting of Operation Feed ( Moringa Madres sponsor) on Thursday and talk to them about TF/ST and MM and how important community support is to the success and sustainability of the initiative.
Time to sleep.