Prosperity Update

News and stories from Global Mamas

The Eli Dress: All Day, Every Day

 Krista Zolton, Volunteer

Dreaming of a dress you can wear to virtually any occasion? Our Eli Dress, a bestselling style for 2017 is perfect for you! With a cowl neckline and A-line bodice, it’s a unique take on the traditional style. Dress it up for work, or down for a weekend getaway. Any way you accessorize, you’re sure to be styling.

Dress & bracelets (Global Mamas), slip-ons (Inkkas), clutch & leggings (People Tree), cardigan (I Love Lowie).

Keep it Casual

With a hemline sitting just below the knee, the Eli is easy to pair with any kind of shoe, whether you’re running errands on a Saturday morning or heading to the coffee shop to get work done. For a more casual look, try it with some of Inkka’s slip-on sneakers and a draped cardigan to fend off the A.C. in combination with your favorite Global Mamas accessories. 

Jacket (Nudiejeans), jewelry & dress (Global Mamas), tote (People Tree), sandals (Madewell). 

Signature Style for End of Summer Fun

With fall approaching, everyone’s trying to squeeze in the last drops of summer sun with weekend picnics in the park and family get-togethers.  Style your Eli Dress with a denim jacket for when it gets chilly after dark, but keep it colorful with our recycled glass jewelry for a look that’s as fun as the get-together you’re attending!

Dress & jewelry (Global Mamas), heels (Nisolo), tote (Raven & Lily), cardigan (People Tree).

Take it to Work

If you spend your days in the office, we can totally relate. Why save your Eli dress for just after-work hours?! Add a little leather (or pleather) to your outfit with a light cardigan and heels to acquire the right level of business casual for meetings with clients.

 

Shop the current Eli dress selection here, and keep an eye out next spring for all new colorways and prints!

The Eli Dress: All Day, Every Day

 Krista Zolton, Volunteer

Dreaming of a dress you can wear to virtually any occasion? Our Eli Dress, a bestselling style for 2017 is perfect for you! With a cowl neckline and A-line bodice, it’s a unique take on the traditional style. Dress it up for work, or down for a weekend getaway. Any way you accessorize, you’re sure to be styling.

Dress & Jewelry (Global Mamas), heels (Nisolo), tote (Raven & Lily), cardigan (People Tree).

Keep it Casual

With a hemline sitting just below the knee, the Eli is easy to pair with any kind of shoe, whether you’re running errands on a Saturday morning or heading to the coffee shop to get work done. For a more casual look, try it with some of Inkka’s slip-on sneakers and a draped cardigan to fend off the A.C. in combination with your favorite Global Mamas accessories. 

Jacket (Nudiejeans), jewelry & dress (Global Mamas), tote (People Tree), sandals (Madewell).

Signature Style for End of Summer Fun

With fall approaching, everyone’s trying to squeeze in the last drops of summer sun with weekend picnics in the park and family get-togethers.  Style your Eli Dress with a denim jacket for when it gets chilly after dark, but keep it colorful with our recycled glass jewelry for a look that’s as fun as the get-together you’re attending!

Dress & jewelry (Global Mamas), heels (Nisolo), tote (Raven & Lily), cardigan (People Tree).

Take it to Work

If you spend your days in the office, we can totally relate. Why save your Eli dress for just after-work hours?! Add a little leather (or pleather) to your outfit with a light cardigan and heels to acquire the right level of business casual for meetings with clients.

 

Shop the current Eli dress selection here, and keep an eye out next spring for all new colorways and prints!

Making of Summer 2017

Alice Grau, Creative Director

Photo Credit: Nick Ruffalo, Designer

Each of our collections originates from trend research-- anticipating how everything from high-fashion to streetwear trends will influence the clothes our customers might wish to buy in future seasons. We love getting creative with the shape, color, and prints of our product to interpret up and coming styles with our own bold, West African twist. 

 

Once our in-house designers and volunteers have developed a series of patterns we’d like to test for an upcoming season, we reach out to batikers near our Cape Coast office who are interested in helping produce samples. Mamas helping with samples receive a slightly higher price per yard for the added effort of going back and forth testing a new stamp, dye recipe, and layout.

 

The stamp is traced from a master copy then carved by the Mama from a piece of foam (we actually use chunks of foam mattresses, commonly sold in Ghana). The pattern is transferred to the cotton by dipping the stamp into hot wax and placing it repeatedly on the fabric following the designer’s spacing specifications, communicated via hand drawings or digital renderings.

 

Once a pattern is established we use the palette of dyes available in local markets (mostly primary and secondary colors) to begin sampling color. This is a delicate matter that can take many attempts and for consistent results requires the precision of a scientist. Sometimes our designers develop a recipe using basic color theory, but at other times we stumble upon an “accident” color we love and have to work backwards to figure out how it was made! The dyes are mixed with caustic soda and sodium hydrosulphite to dissolve them to the point where they can be absorbed by the cotton fabric. Because of the chemicals involved in the process the Mamas wear masks and gloves at the appropriate steps. 

 

Sometimes batikers fold their fabric into a square to submerge it in the bucket, but here you can see Mary swirling the length of fabric into the dye bath. This prevents fold lines of lighter color where the fabric may not be consistently exposed to the dye. If a batik is brought in with irregular spacing or unsightly dye lines the quality control team deems it class 2 or 3 (as opposed to export quality: class 1). In both sampling and regular product, attention to this kind of detail is required to meet our quality standards. Although fabric may not make class 1, class 2 and 3 textiles are still used in various products. One of the best tools we have to make lower classes of fabric usable is to “overdye” them in a darker color which will cover any mistakes. This improved fabric can then be used for one-of-a-kind products in our Accra store. 

 

Here a fabric sample dries on the line and you can see the color transformation from the wet material at the top, to the dry material turning a bright apple green at the bottom. An added challenge of vat dyes are that they don’t show their true color in the actual dye bath (like indigo that starts out looking yellow and then shifts to blue once it's been removed from the dye). With each of these dyes there is a significant visual shift in color when the material is exposed to air. This means accuracy is vital in measuring the dry dyes into the bucket.

 

Here Becky, a design volunteer that spent time with us in Ghana earlier this year, admires fabric produced using two of her stamp designs. Although we sampled both patterns in our colorway for summer we decided to hold one print for our Fall collection.

Once the fabric has been batiked to the designers' specifications, the finished yardage is assigned to a local Global Mamas seamstress to be stitched into the desired product. Babs, our technical designer, will go over the product and review the pattern (in white above) with the Mama before sending it off with the freshly batiked cotton.

 

Here Jennifer is working on a sample for summer. Waiting on samples to come back to the office is always exciting as different prints in different products can have a surprising effect. Sometimes we decide to hold off on designs for later collections, while at other times we love one fabric so much we want to sample it in multiple colorways. Sometimes we realize we still haven’t gotten it *quite* right and more blank cotton is sent out into the world to try something altogether new.

 

 As any maker will know, our process is one of artistry, craft, science, and a little bit of luck! After months of planning and preparations it is always with pride that we share each new collection coming from the talented hands of the Mamas. These dresses are just a few of the bold and beautiful items you will find included in our Summer 2017 collection. New items for Summer: Arriving Online June 20th!

Ancient Shea & Modern Moringa: a Winning Combination

Sophia Khan, Volunteer & Renae Adam, Co-Founder 

 

A classic: our vanilla body butter and on the right, ripening shea nuts.

 

Rumor has it that Cleopatra took jars of shea butter wherever she went to keep her skin in tip top condition and it’s certainly true that it’s long been used for as a beauty product for hundreds, if not thousands of years across the African continent as well as being an ingredient in many modern beauty products too.

 

We took it upon ourselves to investigate, on the ground in Ghana, the stories of shea butter passed down through generations and to find out the role of shea today.

 

Suzzy Korsah, quality control expert at our Cape Coast office and shea butter lover!

 

Shea Butter Use in Ghana

We start our research close to home by speaking with Mamas in the Global Mamas Cape Coast office where the majority of our batik apparel and accessories are produced. The Quality Control team told us that shea is known as ‘nkuto’ in the local language. Suzzy Korsah, senior QC staff member, says “Nkuto is powerful and is used for e v e r y t h i n g! In the olden days in the villages, shea butter was the only source of cream and it was used for everything from a skin moisturizer and hair pomade, to healing rashes and wounds. Women would take metal combs and put them in the fire, and dip in shea butter to comb through their hair. This would stretch their hair and make it soft, curly and beautiful.”

 

Rose Odoom, overseeing exports in the Global Mamas Accra office, reminisced, “We kept a large jar of shea butter in the house and everyone in my family used it twice a day after bathing to make our skin and hair very smooth and soft and protect from other sicknesses”. She said “the market sellers would get the shea butter from the North and my grandmother always knew how to pick the best quality shea butter by its fresh scent.”

Gladys Adimer, heading our Krobo office where all the Global Mamas beaded items are produced said that when she was a young girl, she learned the wonders of shea butter from her forefathers and foremothers. She exclaims, “It can heal so many things! When your arm or leg feels hot [swollen/inflamed], you use shea butter to massage and relax the muscle and then it feels normal.” She also remembers her elders “grinding some special leaves on a stone and mixing with shea butter to put on boils to make it break quickly and get the bad water out.”

Gladys adds, “Today if you go to hospital they advise you to use shea butter for your babies because it’s natural and other creams will give rashes”. Suzzy remarked, “I used shea butter on my son from when he was born.” She adds, “The real magic one is when your baby is suffering from a cold, you can put ‘small small’ shea under his nose and behind his ears so he can inhale it and it will help with his breathing and catarrh.” Gladys recalls her mother treating a baby’s cough by melting shea butter and giving a little to the baby for drinking or putting it on the forehead.” Suzzy also says that women having problems producing enough milk rub shea butter on their breasts to help stimulate milk production.

 

It is easy to see that this all-natural, affordable, “African gold” is still as popular as ever among young Ghanaian women, just as much as their mothers and great grandmothers. More recent scientific studies have more clearly defined other benefits of shea butter that our ancestors had the wisdom to uncover so many years ago. Such benefits include reducing the effects of aging, preventing stretch marks, healing scars, and having natural SPF.

 

All parts of the moringa, or "drumstick" tree have their uses. Moringa seeds reportedly have 7x more vitamin C than oranges, 4x the vitamin A in carrots, 4x the calcium in milk, and 3x the potassium in bananas! 

Moringa: An Introduction

Just when you thought our shea products couldn’t get any better we introduced antioxidant rich moringa into the mix! Emily Cunningham of True Moringa dives into the list of this miraculous plant’s many uses. She shares, “the moringa tree is native to India and was introduced to Ghana only a century ago. With the help of humanitarian groups such as the WHO and Peace Corps moringa trees have spread quickly. They’re a fantastic dietary supplement with leaves that contain more iron than spinach, more protein than eggs, and more vitamin A than carrots, gram for gram.” One method being used to spread the growth of this wonder-plant is by educating school-aged children and sending them home with moringa seedlings to plant and share with their parents. The hope is that the leaves of this “superfood” will start being included in their daily diet to provide added nutrition. 

 

Experience the benefits of our 100% Ghanaian shea/moringa collaboration with the Made in Ghana Gift Box (right). Available online through True Moringa.

More than a Nutritional Supplement

Beyond using moringa leaves as a food additive, there are double benefits for moringa farmers as there's a demand for the oil that can be extracted from the moringa pods. Similar to shea butter, moringa oil is packed full of nutrients and medicinal properties and is quickly finding it's place in the cosmetic industry.

Since moringa oil is a relatively new phenomenon we sought feedback from Valerie Gueye, a public health specialist in Ghana. She says, "When our family relocated to Ghana from Senegal nine years ago, friends frequently asked me to bring them moringa powder as a dietary supplement. Out of curiosity I purchased a bottle of the oil at a local organic market and found it to be a light, non-greasy moisturizer. It is now part of my normal routine." After living in the West African region for nearly 20 years she considers herself lucky to have easy access to all-natural products like shea butter and moringa oil.  

A Beautiful Partnership

Just last year in collaboration with natural beauty blog Beauty Lies Truth and our friends over at True Moringa, Global Mamas developed our limited edition line of Global Beauty Butter. This natural plant-based moisturizer features the skin soothing effects of fair trade shea butter, cold-compressed moringa oil, and lemongrass oil. These ingredients are all 100% Ghanaian sourced ingredients. More than 70% of the retail price of Global Beauty Butter sold goes to directly empower our Mamas and fair trade partners through wages, training, and other benefits. Even bigger social bang for your buck, the profits from Global Beauty Butter sales are put into the Shea Helps Empower (SHE) Fund.

Sales of Global Beauty Butter have funded the extension of electricity to the CMA Shea Butter Cooerpative processing center which now powers their grinding machine and provides security lighting.

 Early in 2017, the SHE Fund released the first round of funding for the most pressing project identified by the skilled shea producers of the CMA Shea Butter Cooperative to improve the safety and efficiency of their cooperative’s production center. They used the funds to extend electricity to their building which they are now using to power their grinding machine and provide security lighting. The women have already determined their next SHE Fund project – repairing the foundation and roof of the shea production center and to date we’re 26% of the way there. You can treat yourself to the natural wonder of Global Beauty Butter and support this project at either Global Mamas or TrueMoringa.

Fair Trade Day 2017: Being an Agent for Change

Agents for Change

Each year World Fair Trade Day provides an opportunity to refocus on what we’re doing, and why we’re doing it. On a broad scale, the fair trade movement is made up of individuals around the globe joining together to promote ethical trade relationships as a tool to create lasting social change. From businesses like Global Mamas that are committed to working within the principles of fair trade, to consumers such as yourselves that vouch for our ethical business practices by purchasing our products, we are all “agents for change”.

 Beyond Global Mamas staff, producers, and committed customers, we’re privileged to work with an additional elite crew that believe in the power of fair trade: our volunteers! Each year individuals from across the globe offer their time and talents to take their impact to the next level. Many work with us for a season before continuing on their journey, but others, like Jane Graham have been coming back to visit us for years. 

“Feather”- a new batik Gina and Jane were working on this Feburary as a potential fabric for the Global Mamas Spring/Summer 2018 collection. 

Jane Graham, Volunteer

As the head of a visual arts department at a school in Connecticut, Jane first volunteered with Global Mamas in 2008 and has returned each year to put her creative talents to use developing new batiks for our catalog over Spring Break. During this year’s visit our textile designer Nick took ten minutes to jot down more of her story.

How was the connection made with Global Mamas?

Jane originally travelled to Ghana to volunteer her time teaching at a school in the Volta region. After a visit to Cape Coast castle she stumbled across the Global Mamas store/office that was, at the time, located nearby. She thought it was an interesting concept and stocked up on gifts for family and friends back home. Thanks to a grant supporting service work provided by her school she’s been able to make it an annual visit.  Why does she do it, year after year? She says, “I love the philosophy of Global Mamas, and that it is actionable fair trade…creating income for women, which is fundamental to development. The process of developing fabrics is exciting, fun, and gratifying”. 

Gina and Jane, now good friends after years of collaborative batik development!

Of the friendships that have developed over the years, are there any Mamas in particular that you’ve grown close to?

Immediately Gina Afenyo, a batiker near our Cape Coast office came to mind. Like Jane she is a teacher, instructing girls at a local high school in the art of batik when she is not producing her own textiles for Global Mamas. Understanding the importance of education, Gina encourages all of her employees and apprentices to go back to school—even though it means she sometimes has to work alone! Early on Gina and Jane met in the Global Mamas office and the two women clicked. Ever since the pair have been collaborating each spring on developing new designs for our line. Gina also introduced Jane to Grace, a talented seamstress that crafts customized garments for Jane on each of her visits back to Ghana.

Do you have a favorite product or print?

Jane loves the reversible aprons; “I’ve bought so many and now everybody I know has a Global Mamas apron! They’re great”. The weekend bag is another favorite. For batik designs, one of the first stamps she helped develop Sailing” remains dear to her heart and is still available in some of our kids garments if you’re curious to see it.  

What are some unexpected challenges of working in Ghana?

Electricity and the lack thereof have been an ongoing challenge—some years there’s full power and others it’s very off and on. The open sewers were something that she found surprising and it took time to get used to. She says, “[Over the years] there has been so much development in Ghana and yet still so much that needs developing.”

Turning batik designs into reality: Jane’s initial sketch on the left with Gina’s batiked interpretation in different colorways on the right.

Besides affecting your wardrobe, how does Global Mamas make a difference in your life?

People are intrigued about Jane’s work in Ghana and she often finds herself engaging in conversations about it. Other opportunities have come up over the years to bring the stories and batiks of the Mamas back to her community in Connecticut. She regularly sells Global Mamas products through events at the school—reinvesting a portion of the profits into more product, with the rest of the money going towards funding service learning opportunities.

One year Jane used a custom textile stamped with her school logo (a batik design crafted by Gina) to make aprons for her art classes. These aprons were available for parents to purchase with the profits again going toward her end goal of bringing more work to the Mamas and raising money for service learning initiatives.

Pretty in pink! Testing out  patterns in different colorways helps us visualize their potential to be used in garments, home goods, or accessories.

Global Change, One by One

As the Akan say, “kakra kakra’, or little by little, change is made. Jane is proud of her work with Global Mamas and being part of an organization making a difference. This World Fair Trade Day we’re sharing her story with gratitude, in addition to some of the beautiful textiles that are the outcome of her time in Ghana this spring. We feel such love and gratitude for the many volunteers that have worked with Global Mamas over the years, but we also want to come back around to recognizing we ALL are agents for change. As you wear our garments, share photos of the Mamas on social media, or engage in conversations with family and friends about why there’s even a need for fair trade. This World Fair Trade Day we thank you ALL for joining us in believing there’s a better way to trade.

Converting Your Wardrobe: An Ethical Fashion Primer

Saeunn Gisladottir, Marketing Volunteer

Each year the Fashion Revolution grows and it’s exciting to see increasing numbers of consumers wanting to move away from fast fashion and begin making more conscious choices about where they spend their dollars. Like you perhaps, they’ve started looking into who made their clothes, and what their purchases are contributing to—one-sided profits for big business executives at the top of the supply chain, or a fair and steady income for the actual makers and their families.

Ethically you may be on board with the slow fashion model, but as you start looking for options you may find yourself coming up short. The expense may start feeling prohibitive, or you may feel your options are limited. 

After spending all week thinking about the Fashion Revolution we thought we’d share some tips we’ve found useful in transitioning our own shopping habits over time.

Start Small

Deciding you want to become more aware of your buying habits as a consumer doesn’t mean emptying out your closet and restocking it with ethically produced products. Wear what’s in your wardrobe, love what you have, then when you need to replace something, or purchase a piece for an event or special occasion, search the fair trade labels you know, check out the suggestions of your favorite bloggers (ideas below!) and see what you can come up with.

Other alternatives might be checking your local thrift stores, favorite vintage shop, or online secondhand retailers like ThredUp that place a huge variety of gently used garments at your fingertips. Buying used garments gives them an extended life before they end up in a landfill and may allow you to wear brands whose fit you enjoy but ethics you don’t want to support directly. As your collection shifts, eventually your fast fashion pieces will become redundant and be replaced by more ethically conscious pieces …but this doesn’t have to happen in a day!

 

Start small! Kickoff your commitment to an ethical wardrobe with your jewelry.

Rethink Your Strategy

In fast fashion when you’re looking at a garment and find yourself thinking “That price is just TOO good to be true!”…chances are, it IS too good to be true. Unfortunately, more often than not, someone further up the supply chain is feeling the financial impact of your savings. Making the shift from shopping rock bottom prices, to buying from ethical fashion labels that are ensuring a fair living wage to their producers means that the price tags you’re shopping will, inevitably, look a little different.

If you’re shopping on a budget, what this may mean is only buying pieces you really need and will use to their full extent. Buying a dress for a higher cost, but that you will wear more frequently than a cheaper option, will pay off in the long run.

In addition to helping your pocketbook, purchasing garments in smaller numbers also has a positive environmental impact. In her book To Die For: Is Fashion Wearing Out the World,  Lucy Siegle suggests the thirty time rule: not buying anything unless you can imagine yourself wearing it thirty times. This certainly poses a challenge to society’s shopping norms and goes against all the advertising—but we know you can do it!

According to the Center for Textile Recycling the average US Citizen throws away 70lbs of textiles per year. Slow fashion has a positive humanitarian and environmental impact!

Find Your Pricepoint

As with any market, within the ethical shopping sphere there are brands with garments available for a range of price points. Price is impacted by how a business functions, the size of their style runs each season, the distance they’re shipping, import/export taxes, the materials they’re using, etc.…there are a vast number of unseen variables going into how they determine their retail price. With a growing number of socially conscious fashion businesses located around the world we truly believe you have financially accessible options—though it may take time to find them.

If there’s a brand you truly love but you can’t find anything in your price range, another option to consider is joining their mailing list to be alerted to special offers and upcoming sales. The producers have already been paid in full when fair trade items go on sale which means the artisans you’re trying to support aren’t being directly penalized by your savings.

  Before products ship from Ghana the Mamas have already been punctually paid in full for their work-- a business practice integral to the principles of fair trade.  

Where to Begin Searching

With an abundance of information on the internet, it can be hard to know where to start when looking for the right label to shop. One verification consumers can feel confident in is the World Fair Trade Organisation’s (WFTO) Guaranteed Product Label. This label is an internationally recognized status attained by WFTO members after an extensive external audit. With this label consumers know that Guaranteed Members like Global Mamas and People Tree are 100% fair trade and fully dedicated to a transparent and accountable supply chain.  

Other businesses are members of regional ethical trade organizations like the Fair Trade Federation (FTF) that focuses on North America. Although these members have not had in-country audits with their producers (as with the WFTO Guarantee), each year they reaffirm their dedication to the principles of fair trade and a board reviews their business practices. You can browse the FTF partner list here

Fashion Revolution and Ethical Consumer have also partnered up to publish a Fashion Transparency Index which ranks companies according to their level of transparency based on self-declared answers on a questionnaire and publicly available information about their supply chain. The index is a research and communication tool, not an auditing measure, and it surveys 100 of the biggest global fashion companies.

If you want to dig deeper in your search there are additional independent brand-ranking organizations such as KnowTheChain, Rank A Brand, and Project Just, where you can learn how the brands you already shop rank on different issues. Keeping in mind that no data is perfect it can be good to compare a few different rankings to get a more accurate picture.

Fashion Revolution's 2017 Transparency Index shares information about the supply chains of 100 popular brands. 

Bloggers Lead the Way

Rather than “reinventing the wheel”, another great resource are the wonderful fashion bloggers that specialize in ethical clothing. They can inspire you with creative outfits and tips on how and where they’ve gone about finding solutions that work with their lifestyle. Some great blogs to check out are listed here to get you started, including The Peahen and Sustainably Chic.

Shopping ethically will take a bit more time and work, it is nevertheless a decision you will not regret. Read more about the real individuals who made your clothes through resources like our “Meet the Mamas” page and we guarantee it will immediately validate  going the extra mile to curate your wardrobe.

 

Some useful sites for ethical shopping (though not always FTF or WFTO members):

The Good Trade- Online publication for ethical shoppers based in LA 

Better World Shopper- Providing environmental and social impact of a wide variety of businesses 

The Ethical Fashion Forum's Directory List

Dress Well Do Good - Brand suggestions from a pair of ethical bloggers

Sustainable Impact with Ethical Fashion

Sophia Khan, Marketing Volunteer

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, Marketing Volunteer

 

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.