Prosperity Update

News and stories from Global Mamas

Sustainable Impact with Ethical Fashion

Sophia Khan, April 2017

Sometimes it feels overwhelming to make a difference as an individual in the face of large corporations and fast fashion advertising. However, the good news is that even seemingly small actions like choosing one brand over another can be significant. While in the grand scheme of things caring about clothes and fashion may seem superficial, voting for what you believe in with your consumer dollars can certainly make an impact.

We see evidence of this as Fashion Revolution enters its third year commemorating the Rana Plaza garment factory collapse, and the conversation around the true cost of fast fashion gains momentum.  The annual #WhoMadeMyClothes campaign encourages consumers to ask for greater transparency in the supply chains of clothing brands, and to seek out sustainable options that align with their values.

Learn more about Fashion Revolution and their Transparency Index here.

At Global Mamas we strive for complete transparency in how we produce each item in our catalog. For the last 14 years, not only have we been able to tell you who stitched your clothes or assembled your jewelry, but we can also tell you who printed your fabric, made your beads, and checked the finished product in quality control.

We take pride in making the human connection between producers in Ghana and customers around the world. Having the global community recognize the importance of working in this way—with respect for producers and consideration of environmental impact -- is what Fashion Revolution is all about. 

Theresa Tawiah (left) is on the team that makes your jewelry in Krobo. Suzzy, "Quality Control Champion," reviews batik swatches with batiker, Aggie. 

So, let’s get back to how you can make an impact on today’s fashion industry…PURCHASING POWER! If collectively, we are choosing to spend our dollars with ethical brands, the industry at large will have to change to keep customer loyalty. To influence big brands the change might be gradual, but for small brands like Global Mamas, your impact on our sustainability is acutely felt. This Fashion Revolution week, as you wear our batiks and share the stories of the Mamas, we wanted to give you some concrete numbers to show the influence of your purchases in 2016:

•      300+ Mamas were directly supported in communities across Ghana.

•      Although 85% of the Mamas have only a high school education, they made on average 3x the minimum wage.

•      100% of the Mamas’ school aged children attended school—237 kids!

•      Mamas sent an additional 117 kids (that were not their own) to school.

•      46% of producers were able to save for the future after covering daily expenses.

Martha Rhule supports her nieces Katrina and Lucy as they study Accounting and Business at Cape Coast’s Polytechnic School, in addition to contributing to the education of their 2 brothers.

After 3 years of saving her wages from working with Global Mamas, in combination with her husband’s income as a truck drive, Vida Donkoh was able to build her own home. Now that she no longer pays monthly rent she puts any extra money in the bank to go towards her children's education.  

While these are just a few examples, each Mama has a story about how this work has changed her life. As their children are able to progress through school, the impact of fair trade on the future of these families and communities in Ghana is undeniable. And that comes back around to you! Your support, your spending, your dollars.

With such an amazing community of ethical fashion producers growing up across the world, in Ghana and beyond, there has never been a better time to know who made your clothes while staying in style. This Fashion Revolution week we support and encourage you to continue making change by initiating the conversation, “Who made your clothes?”

 

From Bottles to Beads – Behind the Scenes with our Beadmakers in Krobo

Sophia Khan, March 2017

 

Odumase Krobo in the Eastern Region of Ghana is renowned for its glass beadmaking and is home to the historic Agomanya bead market. It’s also where you will find the Global Mamas Krobo Bead Cooperative. This talented group uses techniques passed down from generation to generation to craft a wide variety of beads that are transformed into jewelry for audiences across the world.

 

Based in a shady outdoor workshop in Odumase Krobo, brother and sister team Grace and Moses recycle piles of old glass bottles into the beads their region is famous for. The pair have been making beads for many years as their family trade, but they’ve been partnering with Global Mamas for the past ten. In 2016 this talented duo were chosen as the Global Mamas’ “Mama and Papa of the Year” for their extremely high quality beads-- less than 1% have quality issues which is very low for this delicate art.

 

Preparing the Glass Powder

The first stage in the bead-making process is the physically demanding job of crushing the recycled glass into small pieces using what looks like a large pestle and mortar. The glass is further refined by going through the process a second time, then the fine powder is sieved to remove any larger pieces.

 

Recycled bottles are gathered and Moses grinds them into a fine powder. 

 

Filling the Clay Moulds

Next, Grace and Moses prepare the clay moulds used to shape the beads-- which in this case will be small flat discs that we use in a rainbow of colors throughout our jewelry pieces. The hole for threading the beads is preserved by inserting a small piece of cassava leaf stalk into each indention, then the ends are trimmed with a razor blade.

Small pieces of stalk are inserted into the mold so that the finished beads have a hole.

 

Once all the moulds are filled Moses adds ceramic pigment to the glass powder and mixes it thoroughly to color the beads. He then fills the moulds with the colored powder, tapping each tray to make sure there are no gaps before brushing away the excess powder with a feather-- you may have noticed that many tools used in the bead-making process are resourcefully made from things found all around in nature!

Colored pigments are added to the glass powder then the moulds are meticulously filled.

 

Firing the Beads

Grace piles the filled moulds onto a board and takes them over to Moses who places them carefully in the kiln using a long-handled spatula. The kiln is heated with a wood fire to reach a high enough temperature to melt down the glass powder.

  Keeping a safe distance the filled moulds are placed in the kiln.

After anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes, Moses removes the fired beads from the kiln and leaves them to cool. The dyes which started out as pale pastels darken to their final bright hues through the course of the firing.

 

Loving the Product

Finally, Grace rinses off the beads in cold water, adding a handful of sand to smooth off any rough edges. She threads them onto a string and the finished orders are packed up and sent to the Global Mamas office, where a team of bead assemblers transform them into a wide variety of bracelets, necklaces, and earrings as a colorful accent to your wardrobe!

Grace removes the fired beads from the mold and files off the rough edges with sand.

These colored discs are specifically used to make products like our catch of the day bracelet. In addition to our ready made jewelry creations, customers can purchase bags of our beads to incorporate into their own crafty projects!

 

Grace and Moses, proud to be making your jewelry!

Thanks for supporting the fair trade, handcrafted way.

 

 

Women's Day 2017: Elizabeth's Story

Sæunn Gísladóttir, Marketing Volunteer

Every five years the United Nations puts out the World’s Women Report, a comprehensive study based on data gathered by national and international statistical agencies that looks at the worldwide status of women in comparison to men on a broad range of topics-- from education to healthcare and beyond.

While overall trends, such as the increasing numbers of girls attending primary and secondary education are encouraging, women are still badly underrepresented in tertiary fields of study related to science and engineering. In many developing countries women have limited access to their own cash income and have little say in economic decisionmaking within their household.

Although every day at Global Mamas is, in a way, International Women’s Day, March 8th has been set aside to celebrate the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women around the world. It’s also a time to draw attention to the ongoing need for greater gender parity in modern times,  something we tackle head-on each day through sustainable fair trade relationships with the Mamas in Ghana.  

As you “Meet the Mamas” on our website, you read about small business owners buying property, building homes, and thriving in their financial independence. As you talk to the batikers and beadmakers you discover women growing confident to make their own decisions and be active changemakers in their communities. You also read, time and again, of the great joy with which they are sending their children-- sons AND daughters, to school. An opportunity many of the older generations didn’t have access to themselves.

Cecilia purchase land of her own and hopes to start a batik school. Aggie paid her own way through an undergraduate degree in management.

When Elizabeth Asem started working for Global Mamas five years ago, it was her dream that the women in her family would receive a higher education. Many Ghanaians only complete Junior Secondary School (JSS or JHS) due to the high cost of secondary and tertiary education.

Elizabeth (left), with younger daughter Gifty (middle), and sister Perfect.

Elizabeth’s dream came true last November when her sister, Perfect, completed community health nursing training-- a three year program following secondary school-- with her financial support. Elizabeth’s daughter, Gifty, also completed high school and is currently studying education at the University of Cape Coast.  Her goal upon graduation is to return home and become a teacher in Cape Coast. Elizabeth is very proud of her family and believes that higher education is a vital part of Ghana’s continuing development.

This International Women’s Day we’re excited for the future of Ghana and believe in it’s success as more and more women are able to achieve their full potential and are empowered to make change in their communities. To Global Mamas customers that are the key to our success in supporting Ghanaian women to #BeBoldForChange, Elizabeth urges, “Keep on wearing the African way!

 

A Pan-African Solution

Alice Grau, creative director

As a fair trade organization, Global Mamas makes fair trade and ethical behaviors the core of everything we do. We have created long-term, respectful relationships with the Mamas and usually stay with the same raw materials suppliers long-term, too.

While our products are handmade in Ghana, our dream is a fully African supply chain, with all raw materials sourced from Ghana or further afield on the African continent.

Cotton growing in Tanzania, and the Kiboko workshop in Nairobi, Kenya. 

Global Mamas has been talking about this since way before I joined back in in 2009: It’s something that our founders wanted to have happen from the beginning, but there was always a lack of availability for materials like cotton fabric or zippers.

Until now.

After two years of work, we’re excited to announce that we’ve created our first fair trade organic cotton one-pieces and t-shirts made fully in Africa! These pieces are made from GOTS certified cotton grown using environmentally sound practices by a Tanzanian company called Sun Flag. Global Organic Textile Standard, GOTS, is a rigorous standard that verifies compliance at each step of production.  From Tanzania the jersey fabric is then sent on to Kiboko Leisure Wear, a World Fair Trade Organization (WFTO) certified production facility based in Kenya where the fabric is carefully stitched into durable t-shirts and one-pieces for children and babies.

 

Global Mamas founder Emma Myers batiks the lion motif.

Once the fabric is turned into garments in Kenya, the plain white cotton pieces are then sent over to us in West Africa to be adorned with whimsical batiked creatures by the Mamas in Ghana! We even created two new designs to celebrate, stay tuned for those to launch in April.

Join us in celebrating a leap forward in supporting prosperity for women in Ghana and across Africa!

 The Kiboko team outside their office in Kenya, and the finished Lion one-piece.

Workshops for Financial and Physical Health

By Sæunn Gísladóttir

This week the Mamas and staff at our Cape Coast office received two short-term volunteers from Chicago, Ellen Rogin and Terri Winters. Ellen is the New York Times bestselling author of Picture your Prosperity, a book that offers a motivational plan for women who want to take control of their financial planning, and Terri is a registered nurse. The two held workshops in their areas of expertise, working with the group to create inspirational “Prosperity Pictures,” examining Cash Flow Management, and assisting with breast cancer screenings.

 

Terri (left) with Patience, Global Mamas People Development Manager (middle), and Ellen (right).  

Ellen led the workshop participants in creating their “Prosperity Pictures.” These boards are visualizations of where the women aspire to be five years now. After searching through magazines for their desired images, the Mamas shared their collages with the rest of the group and discussed how they were feeling, using adjectives like “excited” and “happy”, expressing confidence that in time they can achieve their dreams. Ellen emphasized the importance of how your attitude has a direct impact on what shows up in your life.

 

Workshop participants are pictured here, enjoying some music while searching for images they’d like to include on their Prosperity Pictures.

The Cash Flow workshop was also very popular. Ellen led the workshop which involved improving performance by imagining it. She shared financial planning techniques from her book then went over the Mamas’ business cash flow. She asked workshop participants to work on a spending plan (writing down everything they spend), and to save 10% of their income to achieve their long term goals for themselves and their families.

Ellen further encouraged positive thinking. Towards the end of the workshop she praised Global Mamas for the impact the NGO is making and pointed out that today there are more women opening businesses in Ghana than men.

In addition to providing training for financial “health” and well-being, Terri facilitated education on breast cancer screenings, in which 32 Mamas and employees participated.  The screenings involved a manual examination also utilized a newly developed screening using a breast cancer detection device.

Workshop participants pose happily with their Prosperity Pictures after the workshop.

 

Thanks so much to Terri and Ellen for sharing their expertise and contributing to the financial and physical health of our community! We love having volunteers share their skill sets with us in Ghana! 

 

Global Mamas Celebrates our Mama (and Papa) of the Year

By Patience Treve

Each year, we celebrate the Mama who most exemplified our values in the last year: strength of community, long-term commitment, innovation, economic self-sufficiency, and creating positive change.

Our Winners

This year, we have not one but two winners: Grace Doku and Moses Buernortey. A brother-and-a sister team of beadmakers, the siblings live and work a short walk from our Krobo office.

 

Grace and Moses were selected as winners of Mama and Papa of the Year because of their high quality beads – less than 1% have quality issues, which is very low for the delicate craft of glass beadmaking. Their fellow beadmakers say that Grace and Moses are kind, open, hardworking people with whom they enjoy working. Of working with Global Mamas, Grace and Moses say, “Global Mamas really makes our livelihood better.”

Our Celebration

For the first time, we made the awards celebration open to Mamas across our locations in Ghana. Delegates from Accra, Ashaiman, and Cape Coast traveled to Krobo for the event.

Mamas enjoyed a meal of yam and palaver stew with banana splits for dessert. Patience Treve and Gladys Adimer served as masters of the ceremony, which included a quiz on fun facts about Global Mamas. Batikers Faustina Tetteh and Mavis Thompson were the winners displaying their knowledge of Global Mamas trivia.

Three cheers for our Mama and Papa of the Year and to all the hardworking women (and men) in the Global Mamas community!

Celebrating Fair Trade Month

Amelia Brandt, volunteer

Happy Fair Trade Month from all of us at Global Mamas!

For us, Fair Trade Month is all about celebrating our accomplishments, especially those that exemplify the heart behind our values as a fair trade organization. For example, one of our values is as follows: “We are innovators dedicated to quality, creativity, and continuous improvement.” This value was brought to life by Mamas in Cape Coast as we solved a unique quality challenge.  

The Challenge

As a social enterprise, our ability to create prosperity for women in Ghana depends on our ability to provide customers with high-quality, fair trade products. Last year, we partnered with a group of Mamas in Cape Coast to explore the financial challenges we face when seamstresses and batikers bring in products that aren’t quite the level of quality we need for export. Mamas receive a slightly lower payment for these “less-than-perfect” products, which are then sold at a discount in our store in Accra.

 

However, even though we sell these products in our store, we must still ask Mamas to remake the products needed for export. We told Mamas how much we invest in paying for lower classes of products and how the growing surplus of these products was having serious financial implications for the organization.

 

The Solution

In the spirit of transparency and problem-solving, we asked for their feedback on the best way for us to continue to succeed.

 

The Mamas provided a variety of recommendations to help create what they call “first class” products more consistently, from cutting around errors in a batiking pattern to keeping bright and dark batiks separate when drying.

 

The Mamas then set goals for delivering export-quality items. Global Mamas staff members were truly inspired when seamstresses set a goal to produce 99.5% of their items in the top class of quality, planning to control quality with more careful sewing. For batikers, since there are some quality challenges that are out of their control, the goal was set at 90%. Mamas dubbed the program First Class, First Time to reflect their goal.

 

Mamas receive a 10% bonus for each month they reach the goal. In May of this year 28 seamstresses and seven batikers were thrilled to receive a bonus. Batiker Aggie Cole was so thrilled with her bonus that she danced around the Cape Coast office to everyone’s enjoyment. Aggie has been a Mama since 2005 and is the proud batiker of our ever popular Elephants print.

“If everyone can produce First Class, First Time, it’s more profitable for the women.
We can use the money we used to spend paying Mamas for lower-quality products to
reinvest in the organization, which is good for everyone!”
- Patience Treve, People Development Manager

Quality Control Champions

At our Cape Coast and Ashaiman offices, we have quality control (QC) teams who are responsible for ensuring product quality prior to exporting. They have deep knowledge and passion for our products, as well as an eagle eye for details.

To support the Mamas in their First Class, First Time goals, we saw an opportunity to elevate their responsibilities to help the Mamas succeed. Each QC Champion is now responsible for forming a relationship with specific Mamas. This way, when a Mama delivers her products to the QC staff, she knows she’s always working with the same person. The QC Champion will know her strengths and challenges, share the results of her monthly quality report, and offer specific advice on how to improve.

  “I like First Class, First Time.

It gives me a goal... to get the bonus and to do better work.”

– Martha Rhule, Cape Coast batiker

Thanks to the Mamas and quality control teams working so hard to make the First Class, First Time program a success, product rejects have dropped by 77%. Their efforts were recognized on Wednesday, October 5 by the U.S. accounting firm Eide Bailly with an honorable mention for its Resourcefullness award, which includes a $2,000 cash prize! The prize is being invested in our equipment loan fund for Mamas; this round of funding will be used to purchase water storage tanks for batikers.

 

Safety Equipment Training in Cape Coast

Katie Eilert, intern

It’s not every day that the Global Mamas staff gets to practice wielding a fire extinguisher! Quality Control workers and Mamas gathered at the Cape Coast office for safety equipment training that included a presentation by the Ghana National Fire Service. The informative training was held as part of the World Fair Trade Organization’s biennial auditing process, and it supplied Mamas with the safety tools necessary to protect their health while working.

 CC_PatienceTreve_1_GlobalMamas_sm.jpg

The WFTO auditing process ensures that Global Mamas and its producers are in compliance with the fair trade principles embedded in our mission. The safety training especially emphasized the 8th principle of fair trade, which focuses on providing good working conditions for employees and ensuring their wellbeing.  Carrying out our aggressive plan to improve our workplace safety, both in-house and with the Mamas, would not have been possible without the generous support of n. dowuona & Co.

We regularly supply our staff and the craftswomen with protective gear and encourage its use, but as part of the training we did another thorough dispersal of gear. Batikers received face shields and goggles (in addition to the gloves we already provide). Although the dye that adorns the fabric with beautiful swirls and shapes is safe in its final form, it isn't ideal to breathe the fumes every single day in its raw form. Rubber boots also protect their legs from stray wax splatters, which can burn skin.

Overall, Cape Coast manager Patience Treve said she feels extremely proud that the Mamas understand the safety equipment’s critical benefits and use it consistently while they work. Every so often, she pays impromptu visits to the women’s workshops to ensure that they are actually utilizing their new masks, boots, and gloves, and she has been impressed with just how many are making their health a priority.

ACC_??&Vida_1_GlobalMamas_sm.jpg

 (Mamas Faustina & Marama in Ashaiaman)

“The Mamas, they really love it,” she says, and some have remarked on how it has positively impacted their work. Even when Ghana’s rainy season brought flooding to her home and workspace, batiker Agnes Cole Ada was able to weather the harsh elements with the help of her rubber safety boots. She could still continue her work and meet all of her deadlines on time.

The training gave Patience herself a hands-on look at safety at the office as well. After filling a bowl with fuel and lighting it outside, she was handed a fire extinguisher and quickly learned how to use it to put out the flames. The demonstration provided not only valuable tips and proactive resources, but also quite a bit of fun and excitement for the day!

As for the WFTO audit process, the next step will be implementing and sending to auditors a weekly checklist on office supplies that are out-of-date or in need of replacement. Auditing is just one way that Global Mamas stays true to our mission of fair trade in action. It also allows managers, Quality Control staff, and Mamas alike to stay in the loop on the important principles of fair trade and workplace safety -- in the loop, but out of harm’s way.

Shea Helps Empower

Amelia Brandt, volunteer

We’re excited to announce a new product to the loyal followers of Global Mamas: a special-edition shea butter skin care product, Global Beauty Butter! The product is created in partnership with Ghanaian shea skin care formulator Ele Agbe and natural beauty blog Beauty Lies Truth, a champion of products that are clean, green, effective, and fair trade.

What’s more, the process of creating this product is featured in a VICE/Live Nation TV documentary on fair trade shea butter, to be released sometime this June. For now, here’s what you need to know about Global Beauty Butter:

Superfood for Your Skin

Global Beauty Butter is our first skin care product containing moringa, a superfood rich in antioxidants that also has significant skin care properties, including preventing dryness, evening skin tone and minimizing fine lines.

                                          

Especially Empowering

The shea butter in Global Beauty Butter is sourced from Ghana’s Northern Region, which is more economically disadvantaged than the areas closer to the coast, where most of our offices and production sites are located. We wanted to find a special way to honor our commitment to the craftswomen who gather and process the shea nuts. Thus, we’re launching the Shea Helps Empower (SHE) Fund, which supports specific, group-driven projects to improve the CMA Shea Butter Cooperative’s workplace and local community.

 

How the SHE Fund Works

The SHE Fund sources its funding from the profits of Global Beauty Butter. More than 70% of the retail price of each Global Beauty Butter goes to empowering the women at the CMA Shea Butter Cooperative, in addition to the women of Ele Agbe and Global Mamas.

We’ll administer the fund, leveraging more than a decade of experience as a fair trade nonprofit empowering women in Ghana. The women of CMA have already identified their priorities: improving their shea production center by adding access to electricity, conducting roof repairs, and building a security wall.

100% Sourced in Ghana

While all of our products are made in Ghana, this is our first product to be made of components entirely sourced from Ghana. The moringa in Global Beauty Butter is produced in Ghana by the social enterprise True Moringa, and the product is scented with Ghanaian lemongrass essential oil, produced locally by the social enterprise Ghana Permaculture Institute. The product is packaged in recyclable plastic sourced from Ghana, too.

 

Cape Coast Diabetes Education and Prevention Workshop

Patience Treve, People Development Manager

In our continued effort to present more trainings and workshops related to health issues that are important to the Mamas, our Cape Coast office hosted a diabetes workshop and screening on April 20th, 2016. Chief Dr. Justice Arthur from the District Hospital led the screening, which served 40 Mamas and 9 of our quality control staff.

During the workshop, Dr. Arthur described diabetes as a complex disease with a variety of causes. The attendees were informed that those with diabetes have high blood glucose and that it is a disorder of metabolism—the way the body uses digested food for energy. He also said diabetes develops when the body doesn’t make enough insulin or is not able to use insulin effectively, or both.

Dr. Arthur explained the roles of insulin, the pancreas, and beta cells in the bodies’ ability to process glucose. He covered the different types of diabetes, focusing on type 1, type 2, and gestational diabetes. The attendees also learned about the complications of diabetes, including heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, blindness, dental disease, and amputations. This greater understanding of both the causes of the disease and its implications was an eye opening experience for the Mamas.

After the talk, all of the attendees were screened and informed of their health status. Those that had any indications of diabetes were advised by Dr. Arthur to exercise more, eat plenty of vegetables, and avoid eating late in the evening. All of those who attended felt that the information shared was very beneficial and that having the screening was great resource. Patience, People Development Manager in Cape Coast, said of the workshop: “All the mamas now know their sugar level so they have moved from sweets things to fruits and yoga exercises as it will protect the body from sicknesses.” Health workshops like these are an important element of the Global Mamas mission of achieving prosperity and we hope to continue and expand them in the future.