By Mandy Sage
Women in Progress had its first major fundraising event on April 8, 2006 at the Ghanaian Embassy in Washington D.C. Organized by former WIP volunteer Emilie Kimball and her parents Phil and Kathy, along with the help of Brooke Olster and many other past volunteers, the fundraiser spread the word about Women in Progress while celebrating in Ghanaian fashion.
Guests enjoyed traditional Ghanaian food and drink, kindly provided by the Ghana Café, and were entertained by the Anasegromma of the Ghana dance and drumming group. In his speech, Ghanaian Ambassador Fritz Poku commented on the work ethic of 16 year-old Emilie Kimball, calling her "his hero." Emilie also spoke and hosted a small fashion show displaying some of the newest Global Mamas designs. And finally, WIP co-founder Kristin Johnson spoke on the continued growth and success of the organization, sharing some of the incredible statistics achieved by Women in Progress in the past three years. A short video on WIP was shown, giving guests a view of what life is like in Ghana and introducing them to a few of the Global Mamas. They were delighted by the grinning faces and touched by the success stories, evident by the outbursts of laughter and warm smiles throughout the audience.
Thanks to the kind donations of its guests, Women in Progress raised over $15,000 at this event. But the event was not just about raising funds, it was about opening hearts as well. "Not only did we raise money, but we also raised awareness that will continue to support WIP for years to come," said co-organizer Brooke Olster. "We should all be extremely proud of ourselves. I am amazed by the amount of positive responses we received for the work we contributed to in Ghana and how interested everyone was in learning more."
Proceeds from the event will go to buying a large amount of cotton calico fabric in bulk so that a better rate and assured quality is obtained. The calico will be placed in a revolving loan fund so members of the Global Mamas cooperative are able to buy better quality calico at a discounted price into the future.
By Kristen Gallagher
The power of the Internet, once again, has served Global Mamas well in communicating its mission. Tabeisa, and UK-based not-for-profit consortium, discovered Global Mamas online and was so impressed with the success of the co-operative that it decided to sponsor Global Mamas in helping it expand into the UK market. Tabiesa The expansion has the women of Global Mamas feeling optimistic and confident about the future of their sales and success.
Tabeisa, in partnership with the Ethical Fashion Forum, teamed up this fall to host the Design4Life competition, which aimed to bring ethical fashion design onto the streets. The competition, funded by the EU and the UK Department for Education and Skills, challenged fashion students, graduates, and designers based in the UK, Ireland, and Africa to design a cotton dress that fit the trends of European style. Nearing 100 entries, the various designs submitted were of high-quality and encompassed original batiks with unique style. London-based retailer, TopShop, was notified and was so excited about the fair trade fashion project that they agreed to sell the dresses of the winning designers.
The selection process for the winning garments was difficult for the panel of judges. The winning designers were Annegret Affolderback, a 31 year-old graduate from Middlesex University, and Julia Smith, 23 year-old graduate from the London College of Fashion. Tabeisa sponsored Smith and Affolderback to come to Cape Coast for two weeks in December to work with the batikers and seamstresses on putting into production the new winning garments. Although there were challenges to overcome, such as lack of supplies, and the overbearing heat, the two designers had a successful visit and Global Mamas is preparing for its first shipment to the UK marketplace.
By Kristen Gallagher
Every company wants it: characteristics that separate and distinguish itself from other companies. Global Mamas has made this a priority from the beginning and still strives to do so. The company sets itself apart from other NGOs in several ways, both large and small, but all being important to the success and growth of the company.
One difference is its ability to take a holistic approach to business expansion and success. The company focuses on continually creating new job opportunities, higher wages, and increasing profit margins. Many other NGOs lose sight of acquiring real, concrete results which Global Mamas strives to achieve each year through annually renewed objectives. One of the objectives for 2007 is to grow the Cooperative's raw materials revolving loan fund by finding a fair trade source for jersey cotton items in Africa.
Another key defiant to the company is its fair trade practices. Many NGOs and other fair trade organizations implement the fair trade principals at one specific, key area of the company (i.e. production). However, Global Mamas practices fair trade throughout a much larger portion of the business than that. Each Global Mama receives a fair trade certification to ensure that she is operating by the fair trade standards, paying her employees fair wages, etc. The practice and ideals of fair trade are highly respected and followed in the Global Mamas network and workplace.
Lastly, the aspect self-sustainability of Global Mamas allows the employees of the company to stay focused on the company mission. Many similar organizations spend a large percentage of time and energy on receiving outside funding in order to continue operations. Global Mamas does not rely on outside funding, Company founders Renae Adam and Kristin Johnson pushed to develop strong revenue streams for the women, as well as a revenue sharing model.
In February, all 16 members of Women in Progress met for a roundtable discussion on how to improve the process for bringing in new members. The women developed a new process for growing the organization to 24 members by the end of 2005, as stipulated by a British High Commission grant currently funding WIP’s International Trade Program. The women also discussed ways to improve the apprentice program.
Facilitated by WIP volunteer Ellen Graves, a graduate student studying organization development at John F. Kennedy University in Pleasant Hill, CA, the members agreed that their top priority was to find talented women who face significant financial barriers. A candidate will attend an initial interview, where she will be evaluated on her financial need, determination to build a business, creativity and understanding of quality and timeliness.
WIP will conduct a site visit to assess the applicant’s work and financial situation. The candidate will produce a sample piece of work, which will be evaluated for quality and timeliness. All WIP members expressed enthusiasm about this new system, which will grow the organization, increase Global Mamas’ profits and improve the economic situation for more women in Ghana.
WIP members also talked about ways to improve their apprentice programs, especially teaching the girls to save for the future. The women discussed starting a “susu” program through the Progressive Women’s Credit Union. A “susu” is an informal institution through which customers can establish small savings accounts. A “susu” collector will visit the apprentices on a weekly basis to collect small sums for their own personal savings.
In February, Global Mamas batikers Elizabeth Ampiah and Emma Myers moved their Eli-Emma Batik and Tye-Dye business to a spectacular new beachside location just steps from the Cape Coast Castle. With the increased profits they earned as part of Women in Progress, Eli-Emma financed and orchestrated their move from a small, out-of-the-way location to a space in the heart of Cape Coast.
The facility includes a showroom, indoor workspace, storage and restroom facilities for visitors. Elizabeth and Emma expect their prime location to attract more tourists to their batik workshops and will allow them to produce larger orders and hire more employees.
Elizabeth and Emma financed the move with profits earned from their work for Global Mamas. Together with their husbands, they found the new space, negotiated the contract and organized the entire move.
The Eli-Emma expansion is an important example of how, with the help of Women in Progress, women are taking the initiative to to grow their businesses and change their lives.
Wright's husband is currently living in Nigeria. Left alone and with the responsibility of caring for three young children, Lydia is working hard to earn enough income to support herself and her family. Lydia has found it difficult to make ends meet year-round because her orders peak during the holiday seasons, but she has very little work the rest of the year. A lack of steady work also forced Lydia to terminate her apprenticeship program, which meant letting go three apprentices. Since joining Global Mamas only a short time ago, Lydia is excited to have already:
- Found constant work that allows her to earn increased income throughout the year.
- Increased her revenue 150% due to orders from Global Mamas.
- Expanded her business and moved to bring on additional employees.
- Opened an account with Progressive Women's Credit Union and saved 5% of earnings for future business investments.
- Purchased a new hand-powered sewing machine.
- Paid her daughter's admission fees of 950,000 cedis (~$105).
Women in Progress volunteers, Catherine Deane, Natalie Sturman and Gayle Pescud, created a series of design workshops for Global Mamas: Ideas Development, and Color Theory. The aim was to show the women how to gain inspiration from their surroundings and turn this into a completed design and to ultimately advance their own design and color skills. Each workshop was held twice a week for three weeks.
Natalie conducted the Ideas Development Workshop to show the basic method of creating new designs. The women learned how to create mood boards, a source of inspiration and style development, with pictures cut from magazines. The women sat together and clipped images, which appealed to them and arranged them on a poster. The effect was colorful and creative. There was much excited chatter when the women pinned their boards to the WIP office walls. Every board displayed a unique style, a sure sense of color, and an eye for design. The women were animated as they chatted about one another's selection and placement of images.
Gayle facilitated the Color Theory Workshop. She discussed the properties of color and how the mixture of different primary colors can create different secondary colors. This concept is extremely important to the batikers as they mix dyes to generate the exact color that is required for Global Mamas batik cloth. The women also learned about complementary relationships and harmonious color schemes, which is also an important concept as Global Mamas expands its product line. Global Mama, Gifty Saah, was further trained to carry out future trainings with new women entering the cooperative.
Gifty Saah started her career as a teacher, but lost her job when her family was evicted from their home in1997. When her family (husband and two children) found a new residence, she was unable to find a suitable job, so she began rejuvenating used t-shirts with bright batik and tie-dye designs for tourists. Gifty loves batiking because she can produce original, artistic goods and, given the opportunity, creativity flows from her heart. She launched "Giftex Impex" and operated her business in the back of a woman's house in exchange for training her children in batiking. However, after five years her family was evicted again and her husband also lost his job. They were forced to live in substandard living conditions and she worried about the environment's effect on her children. She did not give up and began door-to-door sales to find more reliable customers at restaurants and hotels. The income from these smaller local sales was still not enough to support her family to her expectations. As a member of Progressive Women's Credit Union, Gifty found Global Mamas and has:
- Increased revenue nearly 10 times as a result of batiking cloth for Global Mamas apparel.
- Kept careful records so she can follow through on a plan she created for growing her business.
- Saved over 40% of her profits that she will use for future business expansion.
- Learned computer basics Quickbooks so she can manage her orders, inventory, cashflow, vendors, bills & supplies
- Was able to receive a loan through the Pelican Group to help her purchase additional materials in advance of new contracts and client orders.
- Brought on 1 full-time worker and 3 new apprentices.
- Redeemed an old debt of 5M cedis (~$556).
- Paid for utilities that were previously shut off.
- Paid the school fees of her three children that had previously been sacked from school due to nonpayment.
- Paid advance on part of a community house that is satisfactory for her children.
By Emilie Kimball
In May, WIP volunteers Sarah Austen, Sarah Casanolia, and Kiley O'Brien helped to set up and organize a website which would promote four cultural workshops run by the Ghanaian women members of WIP. The workshops include learning to Batik, learning the Kpatsa dance and the use of the "talking drums," learning how to prepare traditional Ghanaian cuisine, and a glimpse of a Ghanaian fishing village and insight into a fisherman's way of life.
Sarah Casanolia visited several hotels in the Cape Coast and Elmina area as well as in Accra, in order to introduce WIP's expeditions to a broader crowd to attract more attention. She left posters explaining what Ghana Expeditions had to offer in exchange for advertising the hotel on the new website. Sarah Austen and Kiley O'Brien focused on designing and writing interesting content to put on the website to interest the tourist masses.
Participation in these traditional African workshops generates income for the local women and helps tourists expand their knowledge of many aspects of the Ghanaian culture. These workshops last about a half a day (3-4 hours) and are run by motivated women such as Antoinette who leads the drumming and dance workshop. In 1999 she received the Art and Critics and Reviewers Award which is given out by the National Theatre in Accra.
Sarah Austen, Sarah Casanolia, and Kiley O'Brien created the website to generate more awareness of the Ghana Expeditions aspect of the WIP program. Check out the website now at http://www.ghanaexpeditions.com
In March, WIP accepted two new seamstresses, Charlotte Bart-Plange and Hannah “Mansa” Darbah. The women were selected through an application process agreed upon by the WIP members at their February meeting.
Charlotte Bart-Plange, a native of Cape Coast, began sewing almost 25 years ago. She worked out of her home and struggled to find consistent business to keep her afloat.
Charlotte once had apprentices, but had to let them go when she didn’t have enough business. Charlotte worked hard and succeeded in securing ten permanent clients, and was able to move into her own store three months ago.
With her new profits sewing men’s shirts for Global Mamas, Charlotte hopes to bring on more employees. “They will help me expand my business,” says Charlotte.
Mansa, owner of “When Jesus Says”, has been a seamstress in Cape Coast for the last seven years. She opened her own shop three years ago. She runs a successful business, but knew that she could do more.
Mansa has begun sewing Global Mamas’ new yoga bags. She will take on more projects as the clothing line expands.
With her new profits, she plans to expand her business in several ways. She would like to move to a new store, take on new apprentices and employees and buy a new electric sewing machine.
“I am so happy,” says Mansa, of her new work with Women in Progress.