Prosperity Update

News and stories from Global Mamas

Quality Assurance - Bridging Ghana and the U.S.

By Andrea Schwartz

Quality Assurance - Bridging Ghana and the U.S.

Profile: Dorcas Baiden, Quality Control Manager with Global Mamas in Ghana

Andrea interviewed Dorcas Baiden, Quality Control Manager, about her role, a typical day, and what she enjoys most at Global Mamas. Dorcas taught pattern making, sewing, handicrafts, and batiking at a vocational school in Tema before joining Global Mamas in 2006.

 

"My day typically involves checking quality, preparing patterns, helping with office activities, and making sure staff are working on quality control issues. And if a Global Mama is finding something difficult, like a new pattern, I'll go and help them work it out in their workshop. It's very rewarding working directly with the Global Mamas.

 

I do this is because, if we don't get good quality products, we cannot send the shipment and it's a waste of time and money. If the quality is good, the Global Mamas are also paid on time and are happy. If it's bad, it delays everything. We are always working on it.

 

Global Mamas is a great network to belong to. We all know how to sew but in different ways and we are constantly learning from one another and teaching each other new techniques- it's a give and take, a collaborative environment.

 

I personally enjoy getting the quality to be perfect. It makes everyone happy when the quality is good. And I like paying attention to detail which is why I think I got the job. But it can be hard at times because we are always busy! Getting our work done on time is the challenge. The deadlines are tough sometimes.

 

I am proud that sometimes we get an order and we don't think that we can get it done on time, but we always try and do our best—there is a good sense of teamwork in our office in Cape Coast.

In future, I want to finish my education and become a poular, well-known designer: I love to sew!"

 

Profile: Amy Drier, Quality Control Officer with Global Mamas in the USA

 

Andrea interviewed Amy, by email, about her role on the receiving side of the shipment, and how it all comes together.

 

My connection to Global Mamas started about thirteen years ago. I had the opportunity to visit Kristin Johnson, co-founder of Global Mamas, while she was in the Peace Corps in Ghana back in 1995 and fell in love with the people and their beautiful country. The Global Mamas Women, as well as all the people involved in WIP, are an inspiration to me to be a strong and independent person.

 

I work for Global Mamas three days a week and my job consists of quality control and filling orders for wholesale clients which include hundreds of stores across the United States and a good handful of International clients. When we receive the large shipments from Ghana we unpack the entire shipment, and lay out the items for organization and inspecting. We inspect every piece of batik that comes through our office and our high standards have created continuous growth for Global Mamas.

 

This is how quality inspection works: When a shipment arrives, we inspect what seems like mountains of reversible dresses, piles of tote bags, and a virtual mountain range of dresses and shirts. I hold up my first article of batik and the "story" begins. I'm impressed with the meticulously packed boxes that come across the globe, arriving with unbroken fragile beaded goods and neatly packed clothes.

 

While inspecting, I think of the women who figured out how many yards of cloth were needed and who to send it to for batiking. I think of the women who batik the yards and yards of cloth and the women who cut and sew the cloth into something to show the world. Th

 

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The Bauxite Beadmakers of Abompe: A Lost Art Rediscovered

By Greg Coyle

The Bauxite Beadmakers of Abompe: A Lost Art Rediscovered

No one is entirely sure when bauxite beadmaking came to Abompe in Ghana's Eastern Region. Over the years, a story has developed that has become, for many, an acceptable surrogate for the truth. It goes like this:

 

In the early 1900s a farmer turned up an old bauxite bracelet and necklace. Fascinated by his find, he took it to the village chief, only to have it dismissed as unimportant. Still, the farmer persisted, asking everyone he knew, but learning nothing. Finally, vaguely remembering having as a boy seen something similar from a nearby village, he broadened his search. He soon learned that Abompe had, like its neighbor, once produced many beads of this kind for a variety of uses before it eventually died out.

 

The disappearance of the beadmaking art in Abompe is, like so many other degradations of culture, credited to the colonial powers of the time. Actively discouraged as lazy and fruitless, the practice fell out of favor and was over the ensuing decades all but forgotten.

 

Abompe is today the only community in Ghana producing the unusual, dusty-brown beads. Among the legion of skilled artisans working in the village many can claim to be third- and fourth-generation beadmakers.

 

George and Paulina Obeng, a husband and wife beadmaking team, learned the art from their grandmothers. Together, they boast more than 30 years of experience. George Obeng, the chairman of a newly formed beadmakers group, has become the real organizing spirit behind the artisans working with Global Mamas.

 

As Obeng describes it, "Now Global Mamas places their orders with me. I then hand out the work to the beadmakers because I know the people and what they can do, and I know how much time it will take."

 

Among those with whom Obeng works Mercy Baah is one who has distinguished herself by her creativity. Baah has been creating bauxite beads for more than 20 years. Having learned from her grandmother, she is now passing the knowledge on to her own daughter and granddaughter. "I have given birth to 10 children," she says from the porch-cum-office of her home. "Eight are still alive, and I support all of them by making beads."

 

When asked about Global Mamas, she says, "Global Mamas has brought good changes. Because of them I have more orders." She offers a playful, toothless grin. "And I like more orders."

 

Recent Peace Corps efforts, spearheaded through 2008 by volunteer Suzanne Hadley, are seeking to spread the word about the work being done by Baah, the Obengs and the other beadmakers in Abompe. The hope is that increased visibility will bring visitors and new markets.

 

Growth in bead sales could put some pressure on Sam Ofori. Ofori is a bauxite miner in Abompe. In fact, and incredibly, he is the only bauxite miner in Abompe. A one-time tailor in Nigeria, he returned to Ghana some years ago to farm, falling into mining as a means for augmenting his income. He now supplies the entire village with the brown rocks from which the artisans fashion their beads.

 

As second jobs go, bauxite mining is a rigorous one. First, you have a four-hour hike, much of it at a steep pitch uphill. Second, once on site the next four to five hours are spent in the dark, 20-feet underground, hacking out bauxite with a hand-made spade. When he can convince a partner to join him, this second person will work on the surface, hoisting up the rocks in a battered metal can attached to a line of raffia. If alone, Ofori must climb up top each time the bucket is full and pull up the rocks himself, before climbing back down to resume diggin

 

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Traveling the Distance for Quality

By Alice Grau

Traveling the Distance for Quality

Ally Harris has been an employee for Global Mamas in the U.S. for over a year. This September she had the opportunity to come to Ghana and learn more about the how the complex production of Global Mamas batik apparel and accessories works. She worked closely with the Global Mamas staff in Cape Coast for three months to learn about the quality checking process and discuss the standards of quality that our United States and European customers have.

 

Ally also took the opportunity to visit many of the Global Mamas seamstresses and batikers in their shops and see the production up close and personal. "I was overwhelmingly impressed by the efficiency and high spirits of our talented Mamas, sometimes producing hundreds of yards of cloth or hundreds of sewn items within a few weeks. Being able to meet the women in person strengthened my belief in the accomplishments and future potential of Global Mamas", said Ally.

 

Ally was also introduced to the amazing group of summer volunteers who were helping Global Mamas on all aspect of the 2009 catalog. She said that each volunteer should feel proud of their own role in accomplishing such a beautiful line of products for this year. Ally left Ghana feeling terribly sad to say goodbye to her new friends and such a beautiful place. She add, "I feel so grateful that my connection to Ghana continues at home in Minnesota, as I sell products and tell our story to our US customers."

 

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Launch of GM store in Accra

By Alice Grau

Launch of GM store in Accra

On August 1, 2008 Global Mamas launched a new store in the Osu area of Accra. The store represents the creative talent and dedication of Matthew Sturm and Megan Collins who designed and launched the store in less than one month. It is due to their 12 hour work days and the help of some of the other summer volunteers that Global Mamas can offer this exciting new retail option to its customers.

 

Location was the key factor in preparing to launch the new store. Since tourists are the number one customer of Global Mamas products inside of Ghana, it was important to be located in Osu, a tourist hub. As a potential customer is walking in the area they are very likely to pass by the store and once they step inside, the amazing products can sell themselves. Renae Adam, Executive Director of Global Mamas says that she is hoping to "introduce the high quality of Global Mamas products to tourists in Ghana so that they spread the word when they go back home to their various countries and find new export opportunities for the organization".

 

With the richly colored walls and spot lighting that is reminiscent of a high-end boutique, the store has a very warm atmosphere. Customers can easily find themselves buried in the racks for an hour trying to find just the right gift or keepsake to take home. One of the most exciting aspects of the store is that a customer can find many one-of-a-kind options. "It is really rewarding to see tourists come in to the store and get so excited about the designs and products of Global Mamas", say Rosemary Odoom the sales person at the store.

 

Another opportunity that the Accra store presents is an outlet for imperfect merchandise that cannot be exported. As Global Mamas has grown, so too have the number of cast-off products. It is wonderful to have the opportunity to sell these products locally so that the organization can earn something back toward the cost of producing the items.

 

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VEG partner in Ho

By Haley Rhoden

VEG partner in Ho

Lady Volta Batik in Ho, Ghana was established to give seamstresses and batikers in the Volta Region an opportunity to earn a fair wage creating Global Mamas clothing products. Global Mamas is constantly working to expand its fair trade business throughout the country, and the cooperative in Ho has become one of its more recent partners. With the help of its sister organization, Village Exchange Ghana in Ho, the cooperative has already employed a handful of women, providing them with a wage and work environment that they otherwise, most likely, wouldn’t have received.

 

The cooperative tries to target young women with little or no education, since they are often the ones that experience the greatest amount of difficulty in finding work. The constant, year-round business from Global Mamas provides the workers with a steady, dependable income and also, a sense of pride in the fact that their work is going towards helping other young women like themselves. Julie Nguyen, the Peace Corps volunteer that currently works with the women says that "you can just see the positive attitude that this job opportunity gives these women", she continues, "the relationship with Global Mamas has been beneficial in that it has given us a continual stream of products to work on".

 

The expanded efforts of Global Mamas in the Volta Region are proving to be beneficial for all parties. As orders continue to grow for the organization, it is helpful to have the additional services of the qualified team of batikers at Lady Volta. The quality of products that is coming from the cooperative has been extraordinary and Global Mamas is happy to have them.

 

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Fair Trade Center Launches in Krobo

By Emily Henke

Fair Trade Center Launches in Krobo
In January of 2008, Global Mamas helped to launch The Madizu Fair Trade Center, located in Odumase-Krobo. Thomas Amuzu and Gladys Adjimer are the owners and managers of the company and they have been contracted to assemble Global Mamas beaded products.

 

Inside the Fair Trade Center countless different beads are covering almost every table surface. Eight women are seated around a table enjoying conversation and busily stringing the beads into bracelets and necklaces while another woman is making the strands at a separate table. Thomas looks onto each woman's work before taking a seat by the doorway. Although they are working hard, each of the women have a smile on her face.

 

For the past three years, Thomas has been developing the Fair Trade Center in Krobo for Global Mamas. While originally one of the bead makers himself, he now oversees a group of up to ten women. Thomas' work experience before joining Global Mamas includes farming, tro-tro driving, and fashion designing. None of these jobs however, provided a continuous income. Although occasionally, his monthly salary would be higher than that of Global Mamas, there were months when Thomas would not make any money at all. Now, Thomas feels he has "tested all of the waters" and finds that working for Global Mamas is "far, far better". He has high hopes for the Fair Trade Center and feels he is able to grow and progress now that he has found financial security.

 

Gladys also sees the benefit of working for Global Mamas as she now earns 90% of her income making beaded products. She is also able to employ two part-time workers as well as save money to put toward her mother's medical bills and support her brother.

 

The center also benefits the women they employ. Each woman is paid based on an hourly wage and earns more than minimum wage with the opportunity to receive a raise for exceptional improvement of their work. Thomas and Gladys believe this strategy will improve their business and give incentives for continuing hard work from their employees. The work is progressing and Thomas and Gladys see that over time this business can grow and be a great resource of sustainable employment in the area.

 

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Global Mamas of the Year

By Megan Collins and Emily Henke

Global Mamas of the Year

Julie has been batiking for nine years and became a member of Global Mamas three years ago. She went to batiking school in 1999 for six months while raising three children. Julie prides herself as being a mother first and a batiker second. Batiking allows her to work from home while her children are at school. When she has extra time, Julie creates her own designs and sells the fabric in the local market. Her goal for the future is to acquire more workers in order to expand her business. Julie recently spoke about her work with Global Mamas at the UN Conference on Trade and Development in Accra during the fashion forum session. Julie was voted Global Mama of the Year – Cape Coast by her colleagues because she continuously produces high quality cloth, in large quantities, and on time. "Working with Julie is a pleasure; we know we can rely on her to produce high quality work every time, she keeps good records and she's always laughing" said WIP's quality control manager Dorcas Baiden. For going above and beyond in her efforts, Julie was astonished to learn she had won a microwave oven.

 

Krobo Global Mama of the Year: Gladys Adjimer
The first annual Global Mama of the Year Award for Odumase Krobo was held on 10 June 2008 at the Madizu Fair Trade Company. The meeting was well attended by bead makers, bead sellers, bead assemblers of Madizu Fair Trade Company, and Global Mamas volunteers/employees. Renae Adam, co-founder of Global Mamas, gave the history of the organization as well as giving amazing statistics for the growth of the Global Mamas beaded products. All were enthusiastic hearing their accomplishments and excited to expand on these in the next months. A phenomenal response from all was welcomed as they pledged to take on the challenges they face as they learn more about the market they have entered. Last, but certainly not least, the Odumase-Krobo Global Mama of the Year was announced. All would agree that Gladys Adjimer, co-manager of the Madizu Fair Trade Company, was very deserving of the award. Gladys has worked extremely hard and has gone above and beyond for the Madizu Fair Trade Company and the women they employ. Gracefully accepting the award and offering an acceptance speech, Gladys was all smiles to take away a new set of pots and pans for her kitchen.

 

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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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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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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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