Prosperity Update

News and stories from Global Mamas

Winning Designs by the Mamas

Our annual Design Competition began in 2007 as a way to generate new product ideas. With so many talented makers involved in our organization we wanted to provide the opportunity to participate for any Mama or staff member interested in sharing their creative input. Each year winning designs are included in our catalog and the winner receives both recognition during our annual “Mama of the Year" awards in addition to a monetary prize.

Following the success of our 2007 competition, this event has become a tradition! In this year's Design Competition blog we wanted to focus on three winning Mamas from previous years that have their designs in our current collection. 

 

Martha Rhule: Designer of the Unity Batik

Martha Rhule became a Global Mamas batikers in 2010 after a friend introduced her to our organization so that she could have greater financial stability. Although both a talented batiker AND seamstress, Martha decided to focus on developing her expertise as a batiker. Today Martha is an accomplished textile artist that has trained multiple apprentices while producing consistently high quality work. She has also created multiple bestselling batik designs.

Martha won the Batikers Award in our 2010 Design Competition for her Pebble pattern, then the 2017 Design Competition for her Unity pattern (pictured here). Martha says the Unity design was inspired by some brickwork she noticed while sitting one day at her sewing machine. The actual layout of the batik shifted as she played with sampling the new design. At first the pattern was more spread out, but as she stamped the logos closer and closer together she preferred the outcome. In our 2019 catalog Martha's Unity pattern is prominently displayed in a diverse range of product, from women's dresses to pillow covers.

[SHOP MARTHA'S UNITY BATIK.]

 

Hannah Dodoo, Designer of the Button Basket

One of Global Mamas’ eight co-founding women, Hannah is an accomplished seamstress that draws inspiration from experiences abroad, including travel to the US and Germany where she learned to sew in 1976. Hannah won the Seamstress Award in 2016 for her Frontier Bag and won the 2015 Design Competition for her popular Button Baskets in our current catalog. 

As a creative individual with a passion for design, Hannah constantly finds herself brainstorming new product ideas. With her 2015 contest submission Hannah recognized our catalog could use more home décor which is how she landed on her Button Basket design. Hannah’s inspiration for the Frontier Bag evolved from her experience traveling and needing a secure way to carry and store her personal belongings. 

[SHOP HANNAH'S BUTTON BASKET]

Felicia Dede: Designer of the Felicia Earrings

Felicia has worked as both a jewelry assembler and quality control ‘champion’ for the Global Mamas Odumase Krobo Office. This team works with local beadmakers to produce our range of recycled glass jewelry and ornaments. Before joining Global Mamas in 2013 Felicia was a teacher at primary school in Krobo but wasn’t happy in the role.  Having studied visual arts at technical school when she heard of an opportunity at Global Mamas from a neighbor she decided to pursue her creative interests.

Although batikers and seamstresses have participated in the annual Design Competition for some years, getting the jewelry assemblers and beadmakers involved at our Krobo location is a more recent endeavor that we hope to continue. Felicia’s submission for the 2018 competition were these winning earrings that the design team paired with a coordinating necklace to be able to offer customers a matched set. Felicia says her inspiration for the earrings comes from one of her visual arts courses at school. 

[SHOP FELICIA'S RECYCLED GLASS EARRINGS]

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2019 Design Competition submissions are due 6/28/19 and final decisions on who our award winners will be happen the following Friday. We can't wait to see all the creative ideas that will be shared this season!

 

 

Meet the Mamas: Featuring New Global Mamas Batiker Dorcas Quianoo

Dorcas Quianoo, mother of three, is one of the newest Global Mamas batikers. 

When Global Mamas brings new Mamas into the ‘family’, we take the commitment seriously. This means we hire with intention and only when we know we have the capacity to offer long-term, regular work for a new partner.

During Fashion Revolution week we wanted to introduce Dorcas Quianoo, one of the newest batikers to join our Cape Coast team. She started with Global Mamas in summer of 2018 and has been a part of batik production for the new 2019 line which is online now! Batik designer Nick Ruffalo was able to get in a quick interview with her during a training earlier this spring.

N: Why did you want to do batik?

D: I wanted to learn hairdressing but the school was full; they only had room for batik and beadmaking so I learned both.

N: How did you get trained in Batik? How long have you been batiking? When did you start batiking for your own business?

D: I went to vocational school in Tema to learn batik. My father was working as a policeman in Accra, but he’s retired now in Moree [just outside of Cape Coast]. I started my own business right out of school in Accra where I worked for a few years. I was making batik to sell at market and making good money. I’ve been in Cape Coast now for 12 years, but I’ve been selling food for the past 6 years. It was difficult work. I would wake up early to prepare and come home late to wash dishes.

N: Why did you want to come to Global Mamas and leave your food business?

D:  I learned batik, so I wanted to use what I learned to work. The money is now better in batik. Before, the money in food wasn’t reliable; my income wasn’t enough to pay back the bank for borrowing money. I left food because I was tired; preparing and cleaning up took all my time. Batik is also hard work, but at least there is time to rest at the end of the day. I receive steady orders from Global Mamas. It’s difficult sometimes with rejects, but otherwise it’s nice.

For years Dorcas had her own business preparing and selling food, but the income wasn’t reliable.

 N: What is something you’ve been able to do in the past year that you haven’t been able to before? What accomplishment are you proud of?

D: I have begun saving to build my own workshop. Right now, I have a table under a mango tree. I want to expand.

N: Have you enjoyed your work? What is one thing you enjoy about working for Global Mamas?

D: It’s nice to be back in batik. When I receive rejects, I like that they call me and will discuss it with me.

N: Do you support anyone?

D:  I support my three children: 2 girls, 1 boy. The eldest girl is now a beauty technician. She can do manicures, makeup and hair. My younger girl is 6 years, and the boy is 4 years. I also help support my junior brother’s son, who is 3 years old. He will start school soon and I will help him.

 N: Do you have any employees? What are your plans for your future business?

D: No, I do not have employees, but I want to grow and hire them. My goal would be to grow to have 5-10 employees. It would be great.

N: What is one long term goal you hope to achieve with the help of orders from Global Mamas?

D: I want my kids to finish school and graduate college. I also want to buy land and build a house.

We’re so pleased to have Dorcas on board and look forward to sharing how she reaches her goals in coming years. Thank you for joining us in wishing her a warm welcome to our community!   

Getting used to Global Mamas quality standards has been a learning curve, but Dorcas appreciates being able to have conversations about changes that need to be made. She’s pictured here working on a new sample with Global Mamas designer Abi. 

Bringing Out the Best In Our Leaders with Busara Africa

Christiane Ahousassou started as a Quality Control Champion at our Cape Coast location but now oversees the full quality control team. She ensures consistently high quality product is distributed from our largest location.

Leadership Training with Busara Africa

With the financial support of the Embassy of France in Ghana, this past month Global Mamas leaders engaged in leadership trainings in collaboration with Busara Africa. Busara Africa is a regional consultancy firm based in Ghana that provides responsive leadership development services. Over the years our organization has gathered together an amazing team, and in addition to providing capacity building opportunities for the artisans, we also support the personal growth and development of our talented leaders and staff.

Technical Designer, Barbara Tetteh, who provides training to Global Mamas seamstresses as part of her position in Cape Coast, shares a thought with Accra Store Manager, Dorcas Baiden, during a brainstorming session at the leadership meetings in Accra. 

Supporting Global Mamas Leaders

Many of the leaders participating in these workshops have worked their way into a leadership role by developing skills and experience over time. Gladys, General Manager of our Krobo location, started with Global Mamas as a jewelry assembler but now manages the full jewelry assembly team, scores of beadmakers, and is responsible for ensuring multiple domestic and international orders are shipped out each month. Christiane, Cape Coast Quality Control Manager, began in quality control but now oversees the full team, guaranteeing all batik fabric and sewn products being made at our largest location meet specs before being delivered for wholesale orders.

 Without question, every leader on our team is passionate about the work we do providing opportunities for women in Ghana. Each one has clearly demonstrated a willingness to learn and over the years has shown tremendous growth through feedback from colleagues and hands-on experience. By offering the Busara trainings our intention is to provide these leaders with additional tools and techniques to better understand themselves, their colleagues, and how to kindly and effectively manage the employees and artisans they work with on a daily basis. 

 Jennifer Aheteku started as an office assistant at our Ashaiman office but has now been promoted to Inventory Manager. In this role she releases orders to batikers and seamstresses in addition to helping with HR duties such as managing vacation and sick days, and performance pay.

Leading Self, Leading Others, Leading the Organization

Busara trainers divided the training into three consecutive sessions: leading self, leading others, and leading the organization. In past months Global Mamas leaders have already gathered twice to cover the first two sessions and will complete the third in March. Through small group activities, presentations,  games, Global Mamas case studies, and lots of brainstorming, the group talked through many practical tools and techniques that could be useful within the specific framework of our organization and when applied directly to their everyday roles.

Topics Covered in “Leading Self”:

  • Emotional intelligence: expressing and controlling our own emotions, as well as understanding and appropriately responding to the emotions of others
  •  Using time management skills and learning how to prioritize effectively
  • Rethinking leadership: recognizing leaderships is not about title or position, but more about influencing others to achieve a shared goal
  • Managing boundaries: determining your own boundaries and recognizing others’
  • Managing pressure and stress
  • Maintaining trust and credibility, values and integrity

Topics Covered in “Leading Self”:

  • Utilizing effective delegation of tasks
  • Using effective communication
  •  Being self -aware and recognizing your personality and behaviors
  • Engaging in active listening
  • Creating a cohesive team through team building
  • Managing conflict and holding difficult conversations

Designer Barbara and Inventory Manager Jennifer participate in an exercise demonstrating the need for good collaboration and communication. This also illustrated the need for sharing clear expectations with employees— ‘blindfold expectations’ are those where it may be hard for employees to understand and accomplish the task expected of them.  

In this exercise participants were asked to select a certain number of traits that they identified as their ‘true values’. The two key traits consistently selected by Global Mamas leaders were ‘honesty and integrity’.

We’re Powered by Our Amazing People

Global Mamas could not have grown the way it has over the past 16 years without the engagement, passion, and dedication of the amazing leaders and staff that have put their energy behind our impact. As with any organization that has grown organically while doing its best to stay focused on its mission and values, there have been bumps and challenges along the way. These leaders hold us together and keep us moving forward. WELL DONE to the entire team; and we can’t wait to learn more from our third session with Busara Africa! 

"Global Mamas' leadership team's participation and engagement was amazing. They had the confidence to freely express themselves without fear, knowing very well that their boss was in the same training session with them. I must recommend; that was bold and reassuring."   Consulata Otieno – Leadership Trainer, Busara Africa (Shown on the left). 

 Special thanks to Busara Africa and the French Embassy in Ghana for their support.

Partners in Ethical Practice: Naasakle International

 

A meeting of one of the shea nut 'picker' co-ops in Damongo, Northern Ghana.

When Global Mamas works with outside partners we’re intentional about selecting organizations working in-line with our values. This means businesses operating with full transparency, following the principles of fair trade, and prioritizing the well-being of the people involved with their work. Aligning these values up front makes it easy to be on the same page while doing business.

Meet Naasakle International: Our Bulk Shea Suppliers

We’ve now proudly partnered with Naasakle International to source our bulk shea butter for 10 years. The business was founded in 2000 by Eugenia Akuete after returning to her native Ghana to care for her ailing mother. As a midwife, Eugenia’s mum frequently used shea as a part of her midwifery practice.In the process of nursing her mother back to health Eugenia rediscovered this nutrient-rich butter, commonly referred to in Ghana as “Women’s Gold.” After decades in the US and UK, Eugenia saw far too clearly how easily these hardworking women could be exploited. She decided to dedicate her life to propagating self-reliance by partnering with hundreds of cooperative members, offering them fair wages as well as training for both quality and personal finances/health.

Eighteen years on, Naasakle International is now headed by Eugenia’s daughter, Naa-Sakle, and supplies hundreds of tons of conventional and organic certified shea to cosmetics producers globally. During these wintery North American months when shea products are in such demand to soothe the skin, we wanted to highlight some of the reasons why we’re proud to help connect their co-operatives with our customers around the world.

Shea Nut processors in Damongo. Left to right: Tahiru Aminatu, Bamibanirba (Opportunity) Atongo, and Adam Howa.

 Putting People First

Naasakle purchases shea nuts from co-operatives of women in Ghana’s Northern Region surrounding Damongo, where the nuts natively grow.  In 2017 they sourced nuts from around 1500 women, but as of 2018 will be buying from around 5000. Their goal is to support as many women as possible, as holistically as possible, while being able to maintain steady, sustainable growth (sound familiar??)

 

 For shea nut pickers, this business is their primary source of income, and by selling directly to Naasakle they cut out the middlemen at market that typically take a cut of the money. To establish a fair price for the nuts Naasakle does a market survey, collecting price points from surrounding areas, and adds a premium when necessary to achieve fair prices, historically, that premium has been  an additional 20%.  There are no binding agreements that pickers HAVE to sell to them, and if a woman thinks she can find a better price for the nuts, she is welcome to do so. If she wants to save the nuts and thinks the price will be better later in the year, she can also wait! As part of the Global Shea Alliance, Naasakle uses scales to weigh their purchases and engages in consistent, transparent buying practices with transactions that are clearly documented— something that should be the norm but is not common with other buyers.

 

 After partnering with certain pickers for some 9-10 years, many of the original women are growing older and Naasakle has created a retirement plan so that they can stop work without feeling financial strain. Other benefits for pickers beyond premium payments includes training organic practices and sustainability as well as an education fund, and a savings program. Together with local community members, Naasakle has started building warehouses (using local labor and readily available materials) that belong to the women-run co-ops. Here pickers are welcome to store other commodities, but the intention behind these structures is to allow the nuts to be safely stored, giving women the freedom to decide if and when the market is right for them to sell.

 

Keeping Jobs Local

 Rather than taking the shea processing off site once the nuts have been purchased, Naasakle keeps it local, providing additional jobs in communities where there is a need for employment. One of their main processing centers is in Damongo and employs 27 women who process nuts in the traditional way. Processors wages are a 20% premium on area averages, just as the pickers receive a 20% premium on their nuts.

 

 Instead of buying butter from the processors by the kg the processors are paid as employees. Naasakle pays their taxes, contributes to retirement funds, offers paid sick leave, production bonuses, and Christmas packages. They’ve also set up savings programs, invited  doctors in to provide health trainings, and pay for national health insurance policies for the employee and up to 5 dependents (many of these matriarchs care not only for their own children, but grandchildren, nieces, nephews, etc) –alleviating financial strain.

 

 More Than “Just Business”

 For those of you that buy our bulk shea because you love the product, we hope learning a little more of Naasakle’s story and the conscientious way in which they choose to do business makes your purchase that much ‘sweeter.’  We are proud to partner with sister organizations that also go above and beyond in their business practices, by providing additional resources and support to women in Ghana.  We look forward to supporting them in expanding opportunities for families in the North in coming years.

 Click here to read individual stories from the Mamas in Damongo.

 

Fair Trade Zone Progress: Land is in Sight!

This month for Giving Tuesday (November 27th) our attention remains focused in on the Fair Trade Zone (FTZ), a campus style facility we are creating in Ghana’s Eastern Region to provide sustainable income opportunities for 200 craftswomen. Our vision is to create a model environment for ethical production following the principles of fair trade which incorporates eco-friendly construction, a preschool facility for the Mamas’ children, in addition to many more educational and capacity building features.

 

 

Building the Fair Trade Zone with a modular design will allow us to grow in coming years. 

 

Buying Land in Ghana is Complicated

If you’ve been following us for more than a minute you’ll know the FTZ dream has been in progress for many years. We originally started looking for land near our current Ashaiman office back in 2011, and actually had a group of Ghanaian and international architecture students dive right into the initial design-- never dreaming of the complications that would arise from “simply” acquiring land, a work still in progress 9 years later.

 

Architectural students presenting plans for the Fair Trade Zone to the Mamas back in 2011.

 

 Over the years we’ve become familiar with many of the pitfalls of buying land in Ghana as we persist in reaching our goal. A major complication is due to land being passed down between tribes and families, meaning ownership is not always clear. Multiple families may be claiming the same area, and in places where a plot hasn’t been registered, or ownership is vague, it’s hard to re-register it in a new name. This vagary ends up leaving gaps for corruption to sneak in, with individuals trying to sell land that may not be theirs to sell.

A Final Home for the Fair Trade Zone

 At the request of the Mamas in our Krobo office, we shifted our land search from the very expensive Ashaiman/Tema area to the more affordable area of Krobo. In that area we have had three very promising plots of land that we thought were viable, but all ended in complications due to a lack of clarity around who actually owned the land. Although we didn’t put any money down on these attempts, we’ve sacrificed a great deal of time and resources in the lengthy investigation process.

 Finally, we are mere steps away from buying five acres of land in Krobo (near Krobo Mountain on the road to Akuse) from the rightful owners. After years of court battles, the Aklomuase family won a Supreme Court case that awarded their family with hundreds of acres of land around the Krobo Mountain area.

 

Summer 2018: Members of the Fair Trade Zone Planning & Design Team with chiefs from the Aklomuase family.

 

 We agreed on the price and location (site plan) and signed a Contract for Sale. The family encouraged us to move some stones to the land (to look as if we were starting to build something) and put up a huge signboard to let everyone in the area know that Global Mamas intended to secure the land. The idea was to see if anyone would come forward claiming to own the land, and up until now, no one has made such claims. According to our lawyer, that is a VERY good sign. We have now paid a 50% deposit on the land.

 

 Putting up the sign for the Fair Trade Zone: August 2018!

Next up is getting the indenture (the deed) and site plans signed and approved and submitted to the Lands Commission to register the land in the name of Global Mamas. Once registration is complete, we will make the final payment and the deal is done! We expect this all to happen before the end of the year (YES, THIS YEAR!)

 

Funding Next Steps with Giving Tuesday 

Of course, once we have the land we face the next adventure - building on it! We are close on acquiring funds from a local organization for an initial structure, a three room building with a covered, open-air space for batiking. But, we will still need to make this building a home. For that we need your help. We have to get connected to the local water system (for the batikers), and to the power grid (for the seamstresses), and we need to get the space organized for a staff of 60. This means sewing stations, batiking stations, quality control tables, storage, bio-gas toilets, and more.

 If you are interested in helping toward this endeavor, keep an eye out for our Giving Tuesday campaign at the end of November. You can donate directly to the fundraiser, or start your own to get your friends and family to help out too.

 

How Technology Shaped the Fall 2018 Collection

Abby Smith, Marketing Volunteer

Fashion and technology, both dynamic forces in our modern world, are constantly changing. This season at Global Mamas, in light of production challenges and the need for increased productivity, batik designer Nick Ruffalo led the way in spearheading a new process to fuse the two together.

 The Old Manual Process

Research for new textile and product design begins about one year in advance of the season, to give the design team and producers plenty of time for idea development and sampling. Sketching, color and print testing, and garment sampling are all time-consuming, manual processes. Each year around 15 to 20 batik designs are sampled in up to ten different colorways. Next is the marriage of product and pattern, turning the new textiles into actual products from our current catalog, or new items that will be introduced the coming season. Requests are put in for specific batik and pattern combinations, with one garment being sampled in an array of new batiks. According to Nick, there can easily be 15 print and color combinations in one style, with samples that are not selected becoming one-off pieces for sale in our Accra store. With over 200 products, this can lead to an enormous number of samples.

 

Batik designer Nick Ruffalo and Creative Director Alice Grau narrowing the Spring 2019 collection

When samples don’t turn out as the team expected, modifications on selected pattern and product combinations are requested for additional sampling rounds. As this process of sampling and modification continues, the collection becomes more focused. Nick describes this part of the process as a “meticulous puzzle”: in its completion, the entire line is a cohesive collection of best-selling styles, emerging trends, harmonious patterns and colors, as well as strategically placed accent colors. Through a series of long meetings, constant editing and tweaking is done until the entire collection is finalized by the design team.

Addressing Challenge with Technology

Although the team knew the switch to organic fabric this year would be a transition, several unforeseen obstacles arose forcing a shift in the typical production calendar. Before committing to the new organic cotton, it was sampled with the batik process in small batches. However, unexpectedly when produced in larger quantities removing the wax became more complicated. This meant lost yardage, do-overs, time spent trouble-shooting alternative techniques, and additional fabric being brought in from our new supplier in India. In the meantime orders for the new products made with organic cotton continued arriving from wholesale partners abroad which meant there weren’t enough Mamas available to begin sewing and batiking samples as early in the design process as they would normally occur. Since most of the process in the past required progressive cycles of physical sampling, the design team needed to figure out how to expedite these stages with limited resources. Their answer? Technology.

 

Print mapping 2019 print/color combinations of the bestselling Eli Dress.

Print Mapping: Saving Time & Resources

This year Nick used Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator to “print map” the early rounds of sampling, narrowing the sample selection digitally rather than having them physically produced. After translating the hand-drawn batik patterns into the program, Nick can apply the design to print map layouts for any of the Global Mamas products. With the patterns and products in place he can easily manipulate the color to any combination the team might request saving incredible amounts of time and resources narrowing down the vast array of combinations in the early stages of sampling (although it will never completely replace physical sampling completely).

“I’ve been advocating for us to use this for a long time,” Nick says of this technological shift. Suspecting it might be applicable to the process, he taught himself how to print map some time ago and quickly realized its numerous benefits. Using print mapping this season Nick had more time to concentrate on the actual design as less time was spent training batikers on new patterns that may not even make the catalog.

Continuance in the Future

Next season, Nick is looking forward to continuing with print mapping and anticipates this process will allow the team to start production even earlier. This will set off a chain reaction—allowing retailers to receive more product earlier in the season and provide higher turnover for the new line. With this creating a less hectic work environment, Nick would love to use the time he saves to work with more batikers and help them advance their skills. He identifies collaboration as one of his favorite parts of the design process and hopes to work with more Mamas next season.  

Fall 2018 fabrics and samples as modeled by staff and friends of the Global Mamas Accra store. 

2018 Global Mamas Summer Design Competition

Abby Smith, Marketing Volunteer

Innovative History

Global Mamas is a creative community at its very core. The design competition began in 2007, as an effort to always focus on those roots and keep us all challenged in our creativity and ingenuity. This event provides the perfect venue for members of the Global Mamas family, outside the design team, to bring their fresh ideas forward.  The tradition has continued each year, and more often than not, winning submissions are put into production for the catalog. The new Atiwa print for 2018? Design competition winner. The Frontier Bag that gets your stuff from A to B? Design competition winner. Unity print? Keepsake print? The Button Baskets? You guessed it—all design competition winners.

Continuing the Tradition

Celebrating the 2018 Design Competition Winners in Cape Coast

 In previous years the design competition was limited to the producers and staff in Cape Coast, because that is where our design team is based. But, our teammates at other locations have been asking to participate and the the improved internet it has become much easier to open up the competition to be organization wide. As a result this year Mamas in Cape Coast, Ashaiman, and Accra submitted ideas for new batik and sewn items, while Mamas in Krobo developed new jewelry and ornament samples.

Contestants had no limit to the number of submissions and were given one month to ideate and create. To help participants develop products in line with international trends, summer volunteers researched and presented global fashion trends for upcoming seasons. This year many entries were inspired by this trend research, resulting in lots of bows and ruffles on submissions...as well as bright and bold patterns!

Hannah Dodoo, one of the six founding Mamas, is a regular participant and her submissions have won on several occasions. This year she submitted six pieces and cites the competition as a driving force for innovation and creativity. "My favorite part about the competition is that it encourages me to create new things," Hannah says. 

Blue Ribbon Winners

This year’s winners with summer volunteers and contest coordinators, Abby and Ali. 

Judging the competition this year proved difficult for our design team. We had 22 batik submissions, 11 sewing submissions, and over 20 bead submissions. We asked our Instagram followers to help us choose a batik submission to be dubbed our “Fan Favorite” winner. Over 200 people voted and chose Christina Pufaba’s ‘Stripes’ pattern as their favorite batik! The outcome was 11 prize winners. Each award includes a certificate and a monetary prize; the items are also then considered for inclusion in our Ghana stores and our wholesale catalog. Next year, we hope even more Mamas and staff will participate and that the design competition will be one of many outlets for creative expression throughout the organization.

Here are our winners with their designs this year!

 

Deborah Asmah Sewing Winner (100 GHS Prize)

 

Hannah Dodoo Sewing Runner Up (50 GHS Prize)

 

Elizabeth Arkaah Sewing Fan Favorite (25 GHS Prize)

 

Agnes Cole Arthur Batik Runner Up (50 GHS Prize)

Not Pictured: 

Josephine Anakwah, Batik Winner (100 Ghs Prize)

Grace Osabutey, Batik Runner Up (50 Ghs Prize)

Christina Pufaba Batik Fan Favorite (25 Ghs Prize)

 

 

Meet the Interns: Global Mamas Summer 2018

Each year in Ghana we welcome interns to our Cape Coast office to share their particular talents as they relate to the work we do.  We're always inspired by their creativity and passion, and in return hope to share with them some insight into the impact and intricacies of our organization! This year we've asked these lovely ladies that have just arrived to share a little about themselves, in addition to their favorite garment from the new 2018 collection. AKWAABA (welcome) to Ali, Abby, and Erika!

 

 

Meet Abby: Summer 2018 Marketing Intern

I’m Abby, a rising junior from the University of Notre Dame. At school, I’m majoring in Marketing and Economics, as well as pursuing a minor in Collaborative Innovation. Global Mamas’ fair trade business model is what first attracted me to their company, their mission of prosperity for every Mama making me fall in love. As the president of a women’s hall with a community of 270 women, empowerment of women is very important to me, and working toward achieving that goal is something I try to accomplish in everything I do. Recently, I’ve become very interested in ethical supply chains within the apparel industry. Informed consumerism and transparent business operations are two qualities I would like my future career to include. Having been in Cape Coast for a little over one week, I’ve seen these qualities in every aspect of Global Mamas and it’s something about the company for which my admiration has continued to grow.

 

For my new 2018 product pick I selected the Verona Dress in Fissure Black. While I am constantly fascinated by the elaborate patterns and colors that the Mamas batik, my personal style is more simple and minimalist. What I love most about this piece is that it’s almost oxymoronic: the colors are simple but the batik gives a new level of intricacy to a striped pattern that I’ve never seen before. One other thing I love is the cut of this dress-- I can’t resist a good fit and flare. I’m always on the hunt for simple and unique garments to spice up my wardrobe, and this piece makes the perfect prey.

 

 

Meet Erika: Summer 2018 Business/Finance Intern

I’m Erika, a rising junior majoring in Management and Finance in the Kelley School of Business at Indiana University. In lieu of spending a semester abroad, I was looking for an opportunity to spend my summer interning at a company whose mission matched my values. As a self-supporting student, I am grateful to experience the independence and additional freedoms that result from being employed and financially secure. Global Mamas provides women in their community the incredible gift of prosperity, which is far more valuable than a simple salary. Being a Mama equals care that extends above and beyond a paycheck and provides an avenue for these women to learn other useful skills such as financial management, bookkeeping, or wellness. My admiration for Global Mamas grows with every new Mama that I meet, whether at the office or on a site visit. Their intelligence, creativity, and craftsmanship never cease to amaze me!

 

 My favorite new Global Mamas product is the Coastal Skirt in Chroma Mustard. Whether I’m meeting friends to study together at a coffee shop or walk around the Farmer’s Market on Saturday mornings, this skirt keeps my outfits cute and casual.          

   

 

Meet Ali: Summer 2018 Marketing Intern

Greetings from sunny Cape Coast! My name is Ali Mefford, and I am one of the Global Mamas summer interns. While I am originally from Edwardsville, Illinois I now spend most of my time in Bloomington, Indiana attending Indiana University. Now entering my junior year, I have set my sights on pursuing a major in marketing and a minor in fashion design. I first heard about Global Mamas in my freshman year of college through the Alternative Breaks Program(ABP) and Global Mamas became instantly appealing to me as it connected both my love of sustainable and fair-trade fashion with my desire to make a positive impact on this world. This past year when I discovered an internship program IU offers with Global Mamas I applied as soon as the application became available.  After undergoing a competitive interview process, I was selected to take be a part of this incredible opportunity and so far have been having the adventure of a lifetime!

For my new favorite product pick, I chose the Eli Dress in Fisheye Wine. I am a major sucker for all things that are either maroon or wine toned, so when I saw this dress it immediately became my favorite. Not only is the cut of this dress flattering on many body types, but it also pairs so well with many of our amazing accessories.  From adding a wine colored twist headband for a really matched look, to making a bold statement with a Manye stacking bracelet, there are endless options for styling this dress. 

Keeping it Green with Global Mamas

Developing the Moringa Filtration System

 Batikers in Ashaiman testing the new moringa filtration system together with Mae-ling Lokko of the Ghana-based company Willow.

Fashion Can be a Dirty Business

The fashion industry is notoriously known for it’s negative environmental impact, and at Global Mamas we’re constantly having to balance out the work we do—that we know is creating a positive impact in the lives of hundreds of women-- with the industry we’re a part of. In addition to environmentally sound practices that are a required of us as guaranteed members of the World Fair Trade organization, each year by our own initiative we continue to proactively look for ways to make earth-friendly improvements to our methods.

How We Work to Improve our Environmental Impact

 To date 60% of the Global Mamas product line is made of upcycled or recycled materials-- from repurposing old plastic and bottles, to crafting patchwork accessories from excess fabric scraps. Just in the past year we’ve experimented with using fungi to grow our own batik stamps (in place of using bed foam), in addition to developing a new filtration system using agri-waste from moringa processing as a flocculant to create a more sustainable process for small-scale batikers to filter used dye water. Our BIGGEST achievement this year of course, has been making the transition to organic GOTS certified cotton which eliminates unnecessary chemicals for farms and farmers at the ground level.

  Are You Familiar With These Eco-Friendly Innovations We Employ?

1)  The beads for our jewellery and ornaments are made from recycled glass bottles– we have an agreement with the UK and US embassies in Ghana to make sure we have a steady supply! The beadmakers also make beads from broken bead pieces and window panes that would otherwise go to waste.

 

 2) We’ve developed a range of products, from dog leashes to handbags that enable our seamstresses to use as many of the leftover scraps of batik as possible—saving them from ending up in the burn pile. Our African animals decorations are sewn using small pieces of fabric left from cutting out garments and stuffed with even smaller scraps.

 

3. The lining of many of our bags and accessories, in addition to our aprons and baby bibs are made from recycled cotton flour sacks, sourced from local bakeries in Ghana.

 

4. As well as using local products to make our shea butter beauty range, the packaging for our shea butter soap is made from recycled water sachet wrappers. Water sachets, locally referred to as “pure water” are filtered drinking water that’s commonly and cheaply sold in Ghana—and plentifully found lying around the streets.

We love the creative challenge of working in an eco-friendly manner and being able to share it with our customers. We hope we’ve inspired you to find new ways to reduce, reuse and recycle in your everyday life!

New ornament samples—stitched and filled with batik fabric scraps!

 

Celebrating 15 Years of Exceptional Impact!

  

How it All Began

Fifteen years ago, back in 2003, eight Ghanaian and American women put their heads together to solve a problem.  The Ghanaian founders were talented seamstresses and batikers living on an erratic income from week to week, never knowing if there’d be enough orders to meet their families’ needs – often there was not. Inconsistent work made long term planning an impossibility and short term finances an ongoing worry. In the local market, their handcrafted goods were competing with a flood of cheap secondhand garments from the western world and mass produced printed textiles from Asia.

Handcrafting: In addition to providing sustainable income, sales of Global Mamas’ products support

handcrafted techniques in an increasingly mass-produced world.

 

Global Mamas was Born

 With the number one goal of providing sustainable livelihoods to women in Cape Coast, Global Mamas was born-- so named by the Mamas themselves. With a shared love and respect for one another, working within a fair trade framework was the obvious choice for our community. Over the years we’ve stayed true to our original mission of creating a life of prosperity for African women and their families by creating and selling handcrafted products of the highest quality.  Each year we’ve continued to push ourselves to find new ways to make our impact more meaningful through capacity building, health care education, and most recently with our transition to organic fabric. But at the end of the day, it is our never wavering commitment to providing steady, reliable income that brings peace of mind and creates thriving families and communities for craftswomen in Ghana.

 Natural growth: With consistent orders many Mamas take on apprentices to create opportunities and meet demand.

Here’s to Another 15 Years!

We’re proud of the work we do and appreciate your recognition of the effort required to maintain our high level of transparency and professional integrity. Our exceptional impact in Ghana would not be possible without the ongoing support of the individuals, retail partners, volunteers, and donors that partner with us in sharing the work of the Mamas. Throughout our 15th year we’re excited to share more stories of Mamas like Deborah to bring home the impact that YOU make possible.

 

Deborah with apprentices Ruth and Grace.

The future of Global Mamas, and the powerful future of Ghana!