Prosperity Update

News and stories from Global Mamas

WIP Receives Funding from The Australian High Commission

By Kristen Gallagher

WIP Receives Funding from The Australian High Commission

One of Global Mamas' many successes this season was that it received $9,500 in funding from the Australian High Commission for The Revolving Raw Materials Inventory Project. The application for direct aid for small projects was submitted in July of 2006 and the funds were received the following December. The funding received is being used to purchase new dyes and machines for the women of Global Mamas and although the benefits to the women will not be immediate, they will be sustained on a long-term basis. Within the one-year funding period, Women in Progress plans to expand the program to include 12 new business which will lead this project to directly improve the lives of 288 women and girls in the Cape Coast area.

 

The money received by the Australian High Commission will be used in two major ways: One of the uses is to purchase larger quantities of dyes used to create the garments sold. Before receiving funding, the batikers would have to buy dyes in small quantities, due to the fact that they dyes are very expensive. This would cause product inconsistencies because of the varying qualities of the dyes. Now that the women can purchase large quantities upfront, the products will be made at a much higher standard of quality and consistency. This will bring in higher product margins and create happier customers.

 

The second part of the funding will be used to purchase the much-needed knitting/overlocking machines for the Global Mamas seamstresses. Currently, it is very difficult for them to keep the entirety of their products at the highest possible quality due to the lack of these machines. Their only option is to find kiosks in the Cape Coast market that will overlock the raw edges of the apparel. These new machines will lead to more consistent quality, less product rejection, and more satisfied customers. Additionally, it will enforce the idea of responsibility for the Global Mamas, as they will be solely responsible for the maintenance and upkeep of their own machines. "Product efficiency and quality have improved immensely," says co-founder Kristin Johnson.

 

As the product quality increases, batikers and seamstresses are much more content with what they produce and have greater motivation to keep up the hard work.

 

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Global Mamas Expands to the UK

By Kristen Gallagher

Global Mamas Expands to the UK

Penetrating new markets is never easy, however it is not impossible, as any of the women of the Global Mamas Cooperative will tell you. Step by step, and connection by connection, GM has finally gotten its name, reputation, and unique style to the streets of the UK. With well-known retailers like TopShop, and not-for-profit Tabeisa's support, Global Mamas is celebrating its entry into this competitive market with confidence.

 

The first step for developing the Global Mamas brand in the UK was to obtain the IFAT (International Fair Trade Agreement) certification. IFAT does a spectacular job enforcing their standards of fair trade with companies that apply for the certification. "It is a certification with substance," says Renae Adam, founder of Women in Progress. "It is not a certification that can be obtained unless companies whole-heartedly use fair trade ethics and practices."

 

Beyond fulfilling the fair trade qualifications for IFAT, Global Mamas decided to implement its own Fair Trade Certification program, which is enforced internally. The women of Global Mamas receive this certification when they have proven to practice high-quality employment standards. For example, they must provide clean and comfortable working environments for their employees, such as seamstresses and assistants. They must also pay their workers fair wages so that they spend their days making a truly living wage.

 

Many companies in the UK are responding to fair trade organizations, such as popular TopShop, which has taken note of Global Mamas' ethical business practices and high-quality designs. TopShop has placed its first order of 400 dresses, 120 babies' dresses, and tote bags. Not only will this connection in the UK give Global Mamas great business, but it will also help spread the awareness of fair trade and its importance in the UK. To have such practices become not only trendy, but eventually the norm in the industry, would be ideal.

 

The Global Mamas website is also becoming more popular, as it is a link on the TopShop website which has thousands of people looking to shop on a daily basis. As Global Mamas progresses with the TopShop order, it continues to keep an eye out for new opportunities in the UK and other markets.

 

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Marian Barker: Rebounding from Robbery

By Emma Wood

Marian Barker: Rebounding from Robbery

Marian almost gave up on her batik shop when a thief broke in a few years ago and stole most of her hard-earned equipment. She soon found, however, that without her shop, she was struggling to support her adopted daughter. So when she heard about Global Mamas, Marian decided to return to batiking. At first she worked with another Global Mamas batiker to raise enough money to restore her shop, and was able to move back within a couple of months. Now Marian says she finally has a dependable source of income – her previous customers would often pay on bad credit or fail to pay the quoted price.

 

Now Marian's fabrics have even entered the world of London fashion. Last fall, UK-based charity Tabeisa, in conjunction with the Ethical Fashion Forum, held the Design4Life competition, challenging young designers to create dresses that reflected the latest European fashions while using the traditional African batik cloth. Marian supplied the fabric for two of the winning designs, of which Top Shop, a large British clothing retailer, bought hundreds to sell in different locations.

 

Though Marian enjoys batiking, she dreams of opening an orphanage with the money she saves so that she can help other orphans who, unlike her daughter, she was unable to adopt.

 

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Ajumako: From Rags to Rugs

By Emma Wood

Sarah, Stella and Joyce displaying some of their products at their workshop in Ajumako

After two tro-tro rides and a taxi, anyone, no matter how well traveled, would be worn out; however, within a few minutes upon arriving at Ajumako-Ampiah – a small village on the outskirts of Ajumako – the community's friendly and energetic atmosphere instills itself upon us, and we begin to revive. Sarah, Stella and Joyce, the three full-time weavers, immediately come to greet us with a warm "akwaaba" and shy smiles. They take our unwieldy bags, heavy with rags, despite our objections and lead us to their workspace – the porch of a large, magenta house with green shutters. The owner has been kind enough to lend this porch, along with a room farther inside, to the girls for two years, until their business has grown enough to pay rent.

 

This charming site constitutes WIP's latest outreach project. At only two-and-a-half-months-old, it is still in its early stages of development, but the women are already grateful for the work. After the nonprofit organization Team Ghana approached WIP last February, WIP's founders, Renae Adam and Kristin Johnson, decided to look into the option of having the women of Ajumako-Ampiah to create items out of current Global Mamas scrap fabric left over from the sewing of batik apparel and accessories in Cape Coast. Team Ghana chose the location and the community representatives identified six female producers to start the project based on their leadership, sewing and English skills.

 

Although weaving is not a skill indigenous to the area, it is not difficult to teach and creates a means for WIP to recycle the many pieces of scrap fabric. Renae Adam spent several days in the village herself to acquaint the women with Global Mamas as well as to teach them how to weave the rags into a variety of products including placemats, coasters, baskets, doormats and rugs. The products are offered in the new Global Mamas 2008 wholesale catalog. Finished products are bought by Global Mamas on an accept/reject basis, providing the incentive to the women to perform quality control on site. This reduces waste and helps the business to become not only sustainable, but able to grow more quickly.

 

WIP's long term goal, like at the Cape Coast location, is to hand the business entirely over to the producers. According to Adam, Ajumako-Ampiah is the "first step into the franchise model of Global Mamas" and notes that "if this [project] is successful, this is a model we can use for future groups."

Since the project was launched, the women have received their first orders and fallen into a rhythmic work schedule. While they're still perfecting their technique, they seem to enjoy the work, giggling and talking softly among themselves as they knot the bright fabrics.

 

The thought of their infectious smiles, along with the ice cold water sachets they give us on our way out, almost makes the return trip bearable.

 

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Design Competition

By Pam Wyrowski

Design Competition

In August, Global Mamas orchestrated its first annual Design Dontest for its seamstresses, batikers and bead designers in order to introduce new products in the 2008 wholesale catalog. At the outset of the contest, the Global Mamas gathered for an informative meeting to learn about which Global Mamas products were best sellers in the US, UK and Australian markets. They then set off to design their own garments, batik textile designs and jewelry. Many women were incredibly excited about the contest as it was the first time they had the chance to offer their suggestions for the Global Mamas catalog.

 

The Global Mamas were given two weeks to submit their entries. The contest was a success with a number of entries: 1) seamstress: Esther Gyepi-Garbrah, Lydia Wright, and Hannah Dodoo; 2) batikers: Eli Ampiah, Emma Myers, Joyce Aboagye; and 3) bead designer Gladys Adimer. A panel of judges, including WIP’s founders, local Ghanaian workers, WIP volunteers and various retail customers, then evaluated the entries. The judges were thrilled with the quality of the competing entries and they chose at least one entry from each Global Mama and awarded each competitor with a new electric iron.

 

In conjunction with the 2007 Design Contest, Global Mamas also completed its first customer opinion survey to gain insight into potential jewelry pieces for the 2008 wholesale catalog. WIP volunteers narrowed down the list to the best 15 jewelry pieces and created an online survey to gather feedback from select retail customers. Global Mamas received valuable input from customers that helped to narrow down the offerings for the catalog and improve various pieces by slight design alterations.

 

With the addition of the design contest and the customer online survey, Global Mamas made important strides this past summer in trying to satisfy their retail customers as well as connect the local Global Mamas with their US customers. Global Mamas is proud of the steps taken and the product improvements that were made through the institution of these two projects.

 

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Global Mamas Krobo Bead-Making Co-op Continues to Grow

By Stephanie McCulley

Global Mamas Krobo Bead-Making Co-op Continues to Grow

In August 2006, Global Mamas expanded to Odumase-Krobo in the Eastern Region to begin producing marketing fair-trade, recycled glass Ghanaian beads and beaded products. With a $16,000 grant from the British High Commission, Global Mamas was able to pay for the Co-operative’s start-up costs. And, with only three beads makers and three bead designers, the Global Mamas Krobo Bead Co-operative was born.

 

With the continually increasing order levels for beaded products made by the Krobo Global Mamas Co-operative and the new wholesale bead market, seven additional bead makers joined as members. The hand-made, recycled beads will soon be available in a variety of colors and styles and will be featured in the wholesale bead catalogue expected to be finished by the end of October. "By extending our offering to an entirely new wholesale market, bead stores who will buy handcrafted beads in bulk, we can help a lot more people through the project", says Renae Adam, WIP’s Executive Director.

 

A new assembly center was also launched and has grown to 10 young ladies doing the bead product designs. The Fair Trade Center is run by co-founders Thomas Amazu and Gladys Adimer and their goal is to empower young women in the area through income generation opportunities. Adam adds, "By partnering with the Fair Trade Center, we can be sure the Krobo Global Mamas Bead Co-op will be able to handle the rapid growth of orders for our beaded products."

 

The fair-trade, recycled glass beads being produced in the Krobo area of Ghana require both skill and patience. To learn more about the traditional bead-making process, please visit the "Handcrafting" section at Global Mamas.

 

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Global Mamas Receive Fair Trade Certification at Annual Meeting

By Kristen Gallagher

Global Mamas Receive Fair Trade Certification at Annual Meeting

Make way for more fair trade! The women of the Global Mamas Cooperative in Cape Coast came together at the Cape Coast Hotel this April to address current progress, challenges, and upcoming projects. The highlight of the day was an "awards ceremony" to present Fair Trade Certifications to the 17 women whom have earned them.

 

Global Mamas' internal Fair Trade Certification was put into practice to ensure that fair trade principles are being embraced at the grassroots level of each of the member enterprises in the Cooperative. The Fair Trade Certification ensures that the business owners are providing fair wages to their employees, offering hygienic working conditions, taking care of the environment, providing opportunities for male and female employees within the business, and maintaining transparency in the financial practices of the business. In order to receive the certification, the women are interviewed, quizzed and observed in their businesses practices by Global Mamas' staff and trained volunteers.

 

The following women proudly accepted becoming a Global Mamas certified fair trade employer: Aggie Cole Arthur, Alice Horsah, Bessie "Adwaa" Cramer, Betty Cato Cudjoe Charlotte Bart-Plange Eli Amphia and Emma Myers, Florence Thompson, Giffty Saah, Grace "Araba" Koufi, Judith Arthur, Kate "Aba" Tay, Lydia Write, Molly Linda Gyan, Opheeia "Kukwa" Arthur, Rebecca Odoom, and Victoria "Obayaa" Koufi. The women gleamed with smiles and were cheered by colleagues as they were presented with their certifications.

 

Volunteers are helping to roll out the Global Mamas internal Fair Trade Certification Program in Krobo, where the Cooperative concentrates on bead making and product assembly. McKenzie Coffee, Kate Franks, and Meredith Ryder-Rude are 3 volunteers currently staying in Krobo and proceeding to help the women understand the value and necessity of fair trade practices. "If you consider the working conditions in a place like Ghana, you can really appreciate those who strive to treat their employees as well as they can in such conditions," tells WIP's Peace Corps volunteer Meredith "Murph" Ryder-Rude.

 

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Global Mamas Sources Raw Materials in Africa

By Kristen Gallagher

Global Mamas Sources Raw Materials in Africa

The first success was finding a manufacturer in Ghana to supply the calico, the 100% woven cotton fabric used to produce Global Mamas clothing and accessories. In the past, Global Mamas only bought small quantities of calico from various factories in Ghana, but as demand for products continues to increase, Global Mamas needed to find a local textile factory that would produce the calico in larger quantities instead of providing it as an "overrun" of their other wax print textiles. The challenge was to find a textile factory that would be a reliable source of high quality calico and to ensure the factory manufactured the textile according to fair trade principals.

 

There appeared to be hope when Global Mamas thought it had found a great supplier. But unfortunately, the factory did not follow through on its commitments and Global Mamas was in serious need of fabric. Finally, in the early months of 2007, Global Mamas had its first successful order of a large supply of calico from GTP (Ghana Textile Print), which now produces the material in generous amounts for Global Mamas. "GTP and Global Mamas have a great relationship and I hope it continues in the future," says Renae Adam, Executive Director of Global Mamas. "Finding a local, reliable manufacturer is good for us and good for Ghana as we can fuel Ghana's textile industry. We can also support other African producers as the cotton used for the calico in primarily grown and processed in West Africa."

 

While the search for a local woven cotton producer was like a wild goose chase, trying to find a local supplier for Global Mamas' jersey fabric wasn't much easier. After making attempts to manufacture t-shirt items with a local Ghanaian factory, the deal fell through, along with a hefty deposit made for fabric purchase. The efforts to locate other reliable and ethical manufacturers in Ghana didn't present any results.

 

Things took a positive turn when Adam made a crucial connection at a conference put on by the West Africa Trade Hub. She befriended the directors of Cool Ideas, the South African agents for Edun (the socially responsible clothing company created by Ali Hewson and Bono). Global Mamas received multiple samples from South African jersey cotton manufacturers and selected Prestige Clothing out of Durban to produce Global Mamas line of jersey cotton garments. Global Mamas is happy to support Africa's growing economies by sourcing its raw materials in South Africa and also still being able to take advantage of duty-free exporting of this apparel to the USA under AGOA (African Growth and Opportunities Act).

 

The future looks great for Global Mamas in terms of continued growth and improvement. By Fall of 2007, Global Mamas expects to have its own private labeling done on the jersey cotton apparel from South Africa. Organic products are also on the lookout for the company's possible changes. "We would love to be able to afford to produce our clothing using organic materials sourced from African manufacturers," says Adam. "As we continue to grow, I think it will become an option for Global Mamas."

 

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Home Décor Line Launched at Chicago Trade Show

By Firoozeh Mofakhami

Home Décor Line Launched at Chicago Trade Show

In January 2006, WIP participated in the Chicago Bi-Annual Home Décor and Gift Show, taking a defining step to exponentially increase sales in the U.S. market through the new home décor line. This Chicago trade show is one of the top five most important shows in the U.S. and has enabled WIP to gain a strong foothold in the Midwest region. During her stay with WIP, British interior designer Catherine Deane developed products made for home decorating from the different batiked fabrics. Included in this line are curtains, pillows, tablecloths, napkins, oven mitts, and duvet sets.

 

Though the home décor line was perfected on paper, the actual products had not yet been developed. However, the Ghanaian women along with the directors in both the Ghana and the U.S. office approached the challenge with a no fear attitude and the resolve to work incredibly hard to produce the line and ship it to Chicago-all within two weeks of the trade show!

 

Former WIP volunteer Amanda Sage, who continues contributing her time and energy to WIP in the U.S., set up the booth and prepared to spread the WIP story. The show was a huge success-Amanda noticed that the buyers "find admiration in the organization, and for some of them, it is their first exposure to fair trade. I was thrilled by the reaction of so many people who were just aghast by the quality, price point, and the story behind it all."

 

Fueled by the success of the Chicago trade show, WIP looks forward to attending trade shows in London and Paris (where there is a considerable fair trade market) this March.

 

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Roundtable Discussion Highlights 2005 Successes

By Women in Progress

Roundtable Discussion Highlights 2005 Successes

Women in Progress held their annual roundtable discussion on January 24, 2006. All 24 women business owners in the Global Mamas cooperative, in addition to WIP's staff and both founders, were present.

 

The meeting began with praise for all of the women and a complete rundown of all of WIP's successes in 2005. WIP currently helps 24 businesses with exporting fair trade products to the US, which increases wages for nearly 120 women and girls (including their employees and apprentices). Everyone was thrilled to hear that 2005 had seen US$125,000 in sales, of which US$50,000 was paid directly to the women in labor costs. In addition, two of WIP's main retailers include the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C., and the San Diego Zoo in California, the most prominent zoo in the United States.

 

The forum also provided the opportunity to openly discuss any concerns and also to review the past year and draw attention to any products or processes that could be improved. While WIP currently pays 40% of its profits directly to the women in the Global Mamas cooperative, the directors introduced the topic of quality-based incentive compensation in order to hear the women's opinions on how to improve overall product quality. Both founders, Renae Adam and Kristin Johnson, truly take pride in open communication policy of the organization and encourage the women to have a voice in all matters. The women also discussed the strengths and weaknesses of WIP's current operations. Batikers are now better able to prepare the fabric for the seamstresses so that product development can run more efficiently as a whole. To further improve operations, the women will begin meeting monthly to discuss solutions to quality problems. This will create an environment of cooperation where the women can draw from one another's expertise.

 

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