Prosperity Update

News and stories from Global Mamas

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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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 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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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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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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Global Mamas at Magic Kids

By Therese Edwards

Global Mamas was thrilled to be presenting their line of hand-made apparel for babies and kids for the first time at MAGIC Kids in Las Vegas, NV in August 2006. Global Mamas supplies the international marketplace with unique, high-quality, African made apparel and at the same time provides sustainable livelihoods for women and girls in Africa.

 

MAGIC International is the world's largest and most widely recognized trade show in the apparel industry and brings together a global audience of buyers and sellers of apparel and accessories for men, women, and children. With over 100,000 attendees and 3,300 exhibitors, attendance at the MAGIC show is key to gaining exposure and to finding new customers for any brand.

Global Mamas was pleased both to have a booth at the MAGIC Kids exhibition and also to be showcased in the MAGIC fashion show. MAGIC Kids features the most diverse collection of apparel, footwear, accessories and gifts for the childrenswear industry. Our exciting line of bright, colorful, hand-made children's clothing stood out among the crowd and attracted buyers from all over the globe.

 

Global Mamas receives rave reviews from its customers, which include children's clothing stores, zoos, museums, and gift shops. Judy Steele, owner of Wild Child Boutique in Evanston, IL has been carrying the Global Mamas line since it's inception. Steele noted, "Our customers purchase Global Mamas products first and foremost because of the bright colors and unique designs. That said, more and more of my customers are asking questions about where and how our products are made. It is a delight to offer them Global Mamas' products with the fair trade seal of approval."

 

"Global Mamas helped me pay advance rent on my house so I would not be evicted. My children can go to school again because I can pay for their school fees," says Gifty Saah, one of the Global Mamas. Elizabeth Ampiah of Eli-Emma Batik still can't believe her work is being sold so successfully in the US. "When I think of children in the USA wearing our monkey t-shirt or reptile cloth I feel so proud of our accomplishments," notes Ampiah.

 

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Krobo Dreams Become Reality

By Therese Edwards & Susan Kimber

Krobo Dreams Become Reality

At long last, our dreams of a second Global Mamas location were realized with the opening of our operations in Krobo in August 2006. Thanks to the hard work and diligence of many of our volunteers and Mandy Sage - who heads the Krobo location - we are now able to offer our international trade program and services to the talented bead workers of Krobo.

 

Bead making is one of the primary livelihoods in the Somanya/Odumase area of Ghana's Eastern Region. This industry has existed in the local economy for centuries and is still a primary source of income for many families. The technique used to make glass beads in hand made clay molds has been used in Ghana since at least the early 18th century, although today many bead makers have adapted their technique to use recycled glass. Krobo beads are widely known for their vibrant colors and high level of craftsmanship, but export opportunities for small producers, especially women, are extremely limited.

 

Most of the bead making businesses are small and family owned with the workshop located on the family compound. In many of the businesses, women play a major role in the bead production carrying out tasks from heating/forming the glass to designing/painting. Women also take the lead in doing the majority of the sale/marketing of the beads. These small bead-making businesses find themselves in a cycle of dependence on larger bead wholesalers. These wholesalers buy the beads from the producers in the house at low rates and then sell the beads to customers at higher rates, acquiring most of the profits. It is difficult for the small bead producers to break out of this cycle of dependency since they do not have the capital to produce larger quantities of beads or travel to larger markets to sell to the end customers at higher prices. The small-scale bead makers need a way to join forces with other producers to increase production capacity as a group, learn how to design and produce finished products, seek larger export customers and receive fair wages for beads produced.

 

By replicating the Global Mamas Co-operative model to the Eastern Region, WIP will be able to bring its services to an underserved community. By helping local bead makers and handicraft producers to expand their businesses and gain access to the global marketplace, WIP's programs create growth not only for the businesses in the Co-operative, but also for the community as a whole.

 

If successful with this expansion, WIP will be able to franchise our program to other communities so that they can model their operations after the successes in Cape Coast and Krobo.

 

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Fair Trade for Global Mamas

By Therese Edwards

Fair Trade for Global Mamas

In the fall of 2005, Global Mamas, underwent a thorough examination of our practices by the Fair Trade Federation (FTF) and we are happy to announce that we have been recognized as a fair trade organization and can proudly display the fair trade symbol on all of our products!

 

Global Mamas develops and supports almost 150 women in small businesses through export of their hand-made apparel and jewelry. Profits generated from sales go directly back to the women in Ghana and support the non-profit programs that help them to expand their businesses. To ensure that the women of Global Mamas understand what it means to be fair trade, a curriculum was developed by volunteers. Each Global Mama receives a personal session on fair trade and check ups are done regularly to ensure compliance and to answer any questions that crop up.

 

According to the FTF, sixty to seventy percent of the artisans providing fair trade hand-crafted products are women. Often these women are mothers and the sole wage earners in the home. Global Mamas mission is to help reduce the economic inequality of women by significantly increasing the revenues and profits of woman-owned businesses in Cape Coast, Ghana.

 

Fair Trade means an equitable and fair partnership between marketers in North America and producers in Asia, Africa, Latin America, and other parts of the world. A fair trade partnership works to provide low-income artisans and farmers with a living wage for their work and sets social and environmental standards for international companies to maintain. Fair Trade Federation (FTF) criteria are:

  • Paying a fair wage in the local context
  • Offering employees opportunities for advancement
  • Providing equal employment opportunities for all people, particularly the most disadvantaged
  • Engaging in environmentally sustainable practices
  • Being open to public accountability
  • Building long-term trade relationships
  • Providing healthy and safe working conditions within the local context
  • Providing financial and technical assistance to producers whenever possible
 

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