Prosperity Update

News and stories from Global Mamas

The Evolution of Bead making in West Africa

By Elizabeth Murphy

The Evolution of Bead making in West Africa

Bead making is an industry that has long been a part of the West African culture. In the ancient times, beads served a myriad of functions: some were used as a form of currency for goods between tribes, whereas others adorned chiefs and their wives to indicate their wealth and status. Even today, beads hold significance as they are not only a form of artistic expression, but they represent defining life moments, such as birth, marriage, and death. Although the specific history of bead making in Africa has been difficult to trace, archaeologists have discovered that beads in West Africa were derived from different materials, primarily stone, glass, clay, and metal. Moreover, the methods and material used to create beads varied among the many regions.


For generations, the techniques employed in the bead making process have been passed down. Oftentimes, whole villages were involved in the general production of beads. From grinding glass, to washing and stringing the finished beads, to selling them to the market, the community was a part of the industry. The Krobo and Ashanti people have long been responsible for crafting beautiful, vibrant glass beads. Today, beads from this region can be identified by distinctive attributes as being one of four main styles: clear/translucent beads, powdered glass beads, painted glass beads, and seed beads.


Making glass beads is no easy process. Despite the fact that different tactics are employed for each type of bead (powdered glass, seed bead, etc.) the initial steps are the same. To begin, a bead maker begins the process by creating the mould, which determines the shape of the bead. To create the mould, the bead maker first pounds the clay with a mortar and pestle until it is pliable. The clay is then rolled into cylindrical shapes where it is then divided into smaller sections, depending on the type of mould being made. Once the clay roll has been made, it is ready to be formed into a mould by taking the slab of clay and patting it flat with a paddle until it is 1 ¼ inches thick. A wooden peg is pressed into the wet clay to form depressions and is left to dry at room temperature for 3-4 days. The Moulds are then sun dried for another 3-4 days and coated in kaolin to prevent the molten glass from sticking to the mould during firing. Finally, the mould is placed in a preheated oven to dry. Next, the bead maker uses the Kiln, used to fire the mould and creating the desired bead. The moulds are inserted into the one opening in the front of the dome shaped kiln. The next steps are contingent on the types of beads that are made.


Today, the Krobo region is still well known for the manufacture of glass beads. In fact, Global Mamas jewelry is made in the small town of Odumase-Krobo, located in Eastern Ghana. They employ many Krobo local bead makers who have inherited their skills from past generations. The popularity of these beads and jewelry products in foreign markets speaks to the timeless West African traditions and it is certain that bead making will remain an important industry in the future.




Eli Kpotorfe – A Very Special Ingredient

By Elizabeth Murphy

Eli Kpotorfe – A Very Special Ingredient

Elizabeth "Eli" Kpotorfe is not a seamstress nor is she a batiker, but she is certainly one of the most esteemed members in the Global Mamas community. In a more unconventional way, she has asserted herself as a “Mama” through her cooking. Global Mamas volunteers from Cape Coast have been frequenting EliMax’s Spot for six years now and for good reason. Eli has recently been featured in the Global Mama’s cookbook, The Spice of Life, which includes an assortment of traditional Ghanaian dishes. Since working with Global Mamas, Eli has served a very diverse group of volunteers from Japan to Spain to the United States and, yet, her dishes universally satisfy each and every customer.


A native of the Volta region, Eli started cooking at a very young age. In time, she pursued her passion by working at small restaurants and bars to perfect her culinary skills. Many times, Eli found herself repeatedly cheated and unpaid and by 1992 she moved to Cape Coast where she sought work from her uncle’s friend. After two years, Eli made the decision to start her own small kiosk stand near the Elmina Beach Resort. However, soon after opening the stand, the government insisted that she had to obtain a license in order for her shop to remain open. With the help of a friend, she was able to attain the permit and it was then when she purchased the surrounding land. She invested everything she had into building her own restaurant and eating area that would be able to seat customers.


Her association with Global Mamas came about by chance. David Hollis, husband to Global Mamas co-founder Renae Adam, frequented EliMax Spot while attending a conference in Elmina in early 2003. Renae and Eli were introduced when setting up the WIP volunteer house just down the road. Eli admits to this day how much she treasures her friendship with Renae saying, “You can dream about so many things, but if you don’t have anyone to push you, to support you, you cannot go forward. Renae did this for me. She gave me confidence.” WIP also believed Eli’s restaurant would be an ideal venue for the volunteers to grab dinner after a long days work. And so, the trend began, and Eli officially began cooking for the volunteers.


Not only has Eli played a pivotal role in feeding the Cape Coast volunteers, but she has also been instrumental in helping the greater Global Mamas organization. She is responsible for introducing Wisdom Tamakloe, the current production manager and recently crowned ‘Staff Member of the Year 2009’, to Gayle Pescud, the former General Manager in Cape Coast. It was Gayle who would later offer Wisdom a position with the company. Moreover, Eli also hosted the Global Mama’s of the Year event at her restaurant where she served 60 people and helped facilitate one of the most memorable nights for Global Mamas.


Eli’s recipes have also been published in the Global Mamas cookbook “The Spice of Ghana Life”, which has been a hit among customers. From traditional meals like palava to more Western themed meals like grilled cheese, Eli has managed to add her own spin on the dishes as she combines local ingredients with her own special touch. The dishes are made each night strictly from her memorization. She offers a very reasonable price for all the meals - in fact it often leaves volunteers baffled as the quality rivals that of any high end restaurant in the United States.


The comprehensive skill set offered to the Global Mamas batikers and seamstresses is similarly offered to Eli. Over the years, a number of volunteers have had the opportunity to work with her restaurant business. Just this past summer Kelly Pierson, an intern, worke




Global Mamas of the Year: Cape Coast

By Melanie Popowich

Georgina Abra Afenyo (right) was delighted to receive the Global Mamas of the Year Award (Cape Coast) for 2009.
The much anticipated Global Mamas of the Year event was held this past March. It was such a pleasure to organize this event, but also a huge learning experience. No matter how many events you plan, each is so different and has to be handled carefully, especially with the laid back Ghanaian culture. Along the way, I learned that patience is key and if you want people to arrive at 6PM, you have to tell them to arrive at 5PM. (Similarly, if they tell you that the cost is 65 cedis, budget for at least 75).


The event was hosted at Elimax Spot outside of Elmina. Considering that Elimax owner, Eli, typically has five customers for dinner, hosting 60 people was a first for her! We quickly learned the art of improvising as we realized an hour before the women were expected to arrive that there was a serious shortage of tables and chairs. Fortunately, after a quick scramble, we were able to borrow chairs from the church across the street. Tables were a bit harder to come by and we became scavengers– using every available, partially functioning table we could find. We managed to find enough and drape them with the colorful Global Mamas table cloths. As the sun set, we lit over 100 candles and their soft glow only helped to accentuate the beautiful colors. It would be an understatement to say the restaurant looked amazing.


Staff members and a group of five drummers, led by Global Mamas night security man Appiah, warmly welcomed the women as they began to trickle in around six. The program commenced just after 7PM as grace was said before Eli's feast was served. Everyone enjoyed both the food and the company around the table as the drums played in the background. The women joined in to dance and sing – it was priceless!


Renae Adam, co-founder of Global Mamas, ushered the transition from dinner to the awards ceremony as she got everyone's attention by speaking a bit of Fante. The crowd hushed and the awards presentation began. The winners announced were as follows:


Initiative Award: Monica Eku (Batiker)
Innovation Award: Hannah Dodoo (Seamstress)
Leadership Award: Alice Korsah (Seamstress)
Staff Member of the Year Award: Wisdom Tamakloe
Global Mama of the Year Award: Georgina Abra Afenyo (Batiker)


After each name was announced the crowd went wild as they cheered loudly and clapped for each of the recipients. Georgina, the newly crowned Global Mama of the Year, said a few words that were filled with such gratitude. This brief description of the night does not sufficiently convey how memorable the night was to the staff and Mamas alike. It is most certainly a night that I will never forget.




The Start of Shea Butter: Testing a New Territory

By Elizabeth Murphy

Members of the Christian Mother's Association processing shea butter in Northern Ghana.

When it comes to personal care, women want what is best. Every year the United States spends over 8 billon dollars on women's cosmetics and the figure continues to grow each year. This massive consumption speaks to the universal desire of women to take care of their skin and body. Consumers are beginning to understand the importance of using natural products, as it is healthier for the body. Global Mamas, recognizing the need for authentic, organic personal care products, saw an opportunity and chose to explore this new territory.


Northern Ghana is rich in both resources and opportunities. Women-based shea nut cooperatives are common in this region due to the abundant wild karite trees, which are the critical component to shea butter production. Many Africans refer to shea butter as “liquid gold”. In addition to containing antioxidants, vitamin E and minerals that work to moisturize and restore the natural beauty of skin, the shea butter also holds natural UV protection and reduces the appearance of wrinkles and stretch marks.


Poverty and market fluctuations, however, had been preventing these women from taking part in the actual transactions. These women tended to be among the poorest in the world. Global Mama's identified the state of the economy and decided to implement a poverty reduction strategy to overhaul the situation. The organization planned to assert itself as a quality producer of shea butter products while simultaneously helping to improve the livelihood of the women.


Global Mamas formed advantageous partnerships with Naasakle Ltd and the West African Trade Hub. Both would provide direct access to export markets in North America for women's cooperatives in the Northern Region of Ghana, while also helping to manage the training in production, quality control, and marketing initiatives. Global Mamas hopes that once the business model has been successfully replicated, the Global Mamas Shea Butter Export Program will be expanded to other shea butter producers in West Africa. In the meantime, over 500 women's lives have been positively impacted by the presence of Global Mamas in the Northern Region.


Global Mamas Slippery Slope Shea Butter is offered in several scents such as tropical, lavender and vanilla. Global Mamas Dandy Lion Black Soap is made with shea butter and cocoa pod ashes that give it a natural cleansing power, universally beneficial for all skin types. The line of shea soap, called Global Mamas Trunk Scrub, is also made without chemicals, preservatives, or color additives to uphold the tenet of producing quality products in a sustainable way. Global Mamas is excited about its new skin care line and is working hard to create superior shea butter products while bettering the lives of the women.




From the North Pole to the Equator – A long awaited trip to Global Mamas

By Leah Brickhouse

From the North Pole to the Equator – A long awaited trip to Global Mamas

Sweden sent us off to Africa with one of the coldest days in Gothenborg, -10C. Ghana welcomed us with open arms, to a balmy evening of 29C. That is how the adventure started for us - Tomas, the Fair Trade Educator / Photographer, and I, the Fair Trade Agent for Global Mamas in the "north pole", aka Scandinavia.


My first encounter with Global Mamas was at a Christmas market in Washington, D.C. four years ago. I fell in love with the colorful batiks, the women´s stories, and the mission of Global Mamas. After moving to Sweden, I started Sol Sisters - a socially responsible business focusing on fair trade, organic, and locally made products. Of course, when I moved to Scandinavia I brought Global Mamas with me and started promoting and selling their products. So, after a few years of involvement with Global Mamas, I thought it was time to travel and meet everyone in Ghana.


The fair trade movement has picked up a lot of momentum over the past two years of living here in Sweden. You can find fair trade products in all grocery stores and there is strong consumer push for more fair trade clothing in other stores. Tomas´ job is to educate people on what "Fair Trade" is, what it means for the producers, and why it is important to purchase fair trade products. He travels around Sweden presenting fair trade concepts at schools, unions, work places, and clubs. While he focuses on FLO (Fair Trade Labeling Organization) products, his interest in coming to Ghana was to gain experience with fair trade producers and organizations involved with fair trade around the world.


Our reception in Ghana was wonderful! The people were very warm and friendly. The weather was perfect - hot and sunny. Just what we needed after coming from the dark, cold winter of Sweden. I loved the fact that there where free range animals in the cities - sheep, goats, chickens, dogs, cats, pigs and more. Now, I know what happened to the chicken that crossed the road, she ended up in my dinner. The food was fresh and locally produced. One morning in the Volta region, near the waterfalls at Wli, we had a breakfast of fresh pineapple and bananas from the garden, and organic coffee from the village at the top of the waterfalls. The access to fresh, locally produced foods in Ghana was a lot easier and cheaper, than in Sweden.


The majority of the population tavels by shared public transportation in the form of buses, cars, shared taxis, tro tros (converted trucks and buses), bush taxi´s, shared motorcycles, and shared bicycles. We often had to wait for a bus, taxi, or tro tro to fill up before it would leave. There were often no set departure schedules and time was never an issue. You just seemed to get to where you were headed "on time". Travel appeared to be stress-free with little or no need to arrive at a specific time - life just seemed to work out as it was supposed to.


During our 15 days in Ghana we traveled to Accra, Cape Coast, Elmina, Edumafa, Mankassem, Krobo, Hohoe, Wli, Ho, and the famous Akosombo Dam. We interviewed many of the members of the network in Cape Coast, Krobo and Accra, and we were lucky to see the birth of a new production site in Edumafa. My first time entering the Global Mamas office, meeting with the staff and eventually the members of the cooperative, was an emotional experience. I was moved to tears of joy and relief, at finally being able to meet the real people I had been in contact with, and about whom I had read stories and sold their products over the past few years. The pictures and voices were now alive, and these individuals have inspired me even more.





Moving on up: One Former Apprentice's Success through Global Mamas

By Alice Grau

Moving on up: One Former Apprentice's Success through Global Mamas

Since its inception, Global Mamas has created over 250 new jobs in Ghana by helping women-owned businesses expand their operations. One of the most exciting aspects of this growth is seeing individuals develop with the organization. At the Cape Coast location we have seen more than 45 batik and sewing apprentices' transition to paid positions and three women who started out as apprentices now have their own businesses within the Global Mamas network.


Louisa Esi Dadzie is one of those women. Louisa went to school at the Girls Vocational Institute and studied batiking in the classroom for 3 years. While still in school she was taken on attachment as a junior at Eli-Emma Batik workshop. Louisa proved to be an asset to the shop and thereafter was given more responsibility such as opening the workshop in the morning and access to the workshop to do her own work without charge. She took her job and benefits seriously and worked hard to save up enough money to open her own shop. That dream came true in July of 2007.


Since opening her shop, Louisa, now 26 years of age, has worked to gain a client basis. She currently does batik work for one school as well as many individual clients. You can find her skills represented among the Global Mamas products in this years Stickman and Aztec prints.


The skills that she has learned have provided her a good life and she recognizes that she can share that with others, so Louisa has taken her very first apprentice. Her shop has also provided enough income for her to purchase a cellular telephone, help take care of her mothers needs as well as start her education again at Cape Coast Polytechnic. Louisa Dreams of being a fashion designer.


Louisa says she is proud to be a member of Global Mamas and she wants the customers to know that she loves them and is grateful for their purchases.




Global Mamas Launches a Pet Line!

By Global Mamas

Your dog can support fair trade too!

2010 is around the corner and Global Mamas has exciting news to share. Global Mamas is expanding its line of products to include our four legged friends! Global Mamas will be launching a wonderful fair trade line of pet products in 2010. These playful products will include bright batik dog backpacks and dog bandanas, all-natural Sudsy Mutt Shea Butter Shampoo Bar and recycled water-sachet-lined feeding mats. We are actively seeking new retail partners who will be a good fit for these products and hoping to showcase this product expansion in pet-friendly media. The focus is to expand Global Mamas and create more job opportunities for existing and future Global Mamas. These efforts will also allow Global Mamas to reach an entirely new customer base and include our four-legged friends in the fight to end poverty.




First Anniversary of Accra Store

By Maki Kawamoto

Maki Kawamoto (JICA Volunteer) with Fafali Tamakloe (Sales Representative) in the colorful Global Mamas store located behind Koala in Osu, Accra, Ghana.

On August 1, 2008 Global Mamas launched a new store in the touristic Osu area of Accra. One year later we are very excited to share our great success with you.


From the very beginning, when the volunteers Matthew Sturm and Megan Collins spent over 12 hours a day designing and setting up the store, it has been meticulously developed. Maki Kawamoto, our JICA volunteer who currently manages it, has streamlined the ordering and inventory processes and is continuously analyzing sales and rearranging products and racks as well as ensuring that the store is supplied with a wide variety of products to meet all tastes.


Store customers range from tourists walking in the area, who, after passing by the store get captivated by the huge variety of our colorful products, to expatriate mothers running into each other at the store before attending their kids' friend's birthday parties. Volunteers from international organizations also stop by the store to buy presents for their relatives. "Our customers love the unique designs and bright colors of our products" says Rosemary, who was recently promoted to Store Manager; "many tell us they are able to point out a Global Mamas print when they see it out on the street."


The store has also become our 'fashion laboratory', where we are able to test and perfect new samples through our customers' feedback, analyze the potential of new styles through sales, and then launch a new product line containing only the best sellers. Something as simple as a comment from a customer can improve the lives of many women in the program.


We are also very pleased by the amazing welcome our slightly rejected products (those that did not meet standards for export) have received among our store customers. According to one of our customers "the quality of Global Mamas products is so high that in most cases the difference is not noticeable." Since all proceeds go directly to the women who produce the products as well as the non-profit programs that assist the women with business development, it has been wonderful to have the opportunity to sell these products locally and at least earn back the investment made to produce the flawed products.


The steady growth of the store sales in this past year has translated in the creation of jobs and increased the income and standard of living for many women and their families in Africa; to all of you, THANK YOU!




New Cultural Workshops

By Alice Grau

Global Mamas has launched two cultural workshops in Accra for tourists

For several years Global Mamas has been offering a handful of half-day cultural workshops in Cape Coast for around US$15.00: Batiking, Drumming/Dancing, Fishing Village Excursion, Ghanaian Cuisine, and Traditional Head Wrapping & Beauty. Our recent addition is a 3-hour workshop in Odumase-Krobo for Bead Making. Since Global Mamas opened a retail store in Accra in August of 2008, we have had many requests from customers about offering cultural workshops in Accra. With the help of dedicated volunteers, Global Mamas recently launched two new cultural workshops in Accra.


Bethany Shackelford (Bellingham, Washington USA) worked with tour guide Gifty Boateng Owusu to develop and launch the Accra Market & Spice Tour. The tour is a close-up view of Ghana’s vibrant markets. Tourists walk the many passageways of Makola Market in the heart of Accra and hear folktales and legends of Ghana’s rich culture. Participants learn about peppe, funeral cloth, and everything in between.


Global Mamas has also been fortunate to receive a JICA volunteer, Maki Kawamoto (Hiroshima, Japan), for two years to help manage the Global Mamas store in Accra. In addition to streamlining the ordering and inventory processes in the store, Maki has taken it upon herself to launch the Accra Drumming & Dancing Workshop. Through her own passion for music and dancing, she identified two of Ghana’s esteemed female dancers and male master drummer and developed a half-day workshop for tourists. Participants learn the history of drumming and dancing as a significant part of Ghana’s culture and get a chance to participate. The Drumming & Dancing Workshop is offered at the Du Bois center in Accra. A stroll through the museum is a great way to wrap up the day.


Both new workshops were recently tested on a large scale with 33 students from Semester at Sea. The group docked in Tema Harbour and spent their first day in Accra learning about Global Mamas’ non-profit initiatives and participating in the workshop. For more information about the workshops, visit




Launch of Trade for Change

By Alice Grau

The colorful home page of Trade for Change, now the most comprehensive online retailer of Global Mamas products

In an effort to better serve its growing number of retail partners, the Global Mamas shopping site was converted to a wholesale site in 2009. As a result, Trade for Change was launched to continue the online retail sales of Global Mamas products to consumers, and generate more orders and additional income for the Global Mamas network of fair trade producers in Ghana. Trade for Change is owned and operated by Global Mamas and all proceeds go directly to the women who produce the products as well as the non-profit programs that assist the women with business development. Trade for Change is now the most comprehensive online retailer of Global Mamas products. Sharing the Global Mamas mission, Trade for Change works to increase the sales of Global Mamas fair trade products which in turn creates jobs and increases the income and standard of living for women and their families in Africa.


Global Mamas would like to thank Eliana Berlfein for the creation of the Trade for Change design and David Hollis for the all technical aspects in developing and launching the website. We hope you visit the new site at and spread the word about this new site.