Prosperity Update

News and stories from Global Mamas

Making of Summer 2017

Alice Grau, Creative Director

Photo Credit: Nick Ruffalo, Designer

Each of our collections originates from trend research-- anticipating how everything from high-fashion to streetwear trends will influence the clothes our customers might wish to buy in future seasons. We love getting creative with the shape, color, and prints of our product to interpret up and coming styles with our own bold, West African twist. 

 

Once our in-house designers and volunteers have developed a series of patterns we’d like to test for an upcoming season, we reach out to batikers near our Cape Coast office who are interested in helping produce samples. Mamas helping with samples receive a slightly higher price per yard for the added effort of going back and forth testing a new stamp, dye recipe, and layout.

 

The stamp is traced from a master copy then carved by the Mama from a piece of foam (we actually use chunks of foam mattresses, commonly sold in Ghana). The pattern is transferred to the cotton by dipping the stamp into hot wax and placing it repeatedly on the fabric following the designer’s spacing specifications, communicated via hand drawings or digital renderings.

 

Once a pattern is established we use the palette of dyes available in local markets (mostly primary and secondary colors) to begin sampling color. This is a delicate matter that can take many attempts and for consistent results requires the precision of a scientist. Sometimes our designers develop a recipe using basic color theory, but at other times we stumble upon an “accident” color we love and have to work backwards to figure out how it was made! The dyes are mixed with caustic soda and sodium hydrosulphite to dissolve them to the point where they can be absorbed by the cotton fabric. Because of the chemicals involved in the process the Mamas wear masks and gloves at the appropriate steps. 

 

Sometimes batikers fold their fabric into a square to submerge it in the bucket, but here you can see Mary swirling the length of fabric into the dye bath. This prevents fold lines of lighter color where the fabric may not be consistently exposed to the dye. If a batik is brought in with irregular spacing or unsightly dye lines the quality control team deems it class 2 or 3 (as opposed to export quality: class 1). In both sampling and regular product, attention to this kind of detail is required to meet our quality standards. Although fabric may not make class 1, class 2 and 3 textiles are still used in various products. One of the best tools we have to make lower classes of fabric usable is to “overdye” them in a darker color which will cover any mistakes. This improved fabric can then be used for one-of-a-kind products in our Accra store. 

 

Here a fabric sample dries on the line and you can see the color transformation from the wet material at the top, to the dry material turning a bright apple green at the bottom. An added challenge of vat dyes are that they don’t show their true color in the actual dye bath (like indigo that starts out looking yellow and then shifts to blue once it's been removed from the dye). With each of these dyes there is a significant visual shift in color when the material is exposed to air. This means accuracy is vital in measuring the dry dyes into the bucket.

 

Here Becky, a design volunteer that spent time with us in Ghana earlier this year, admires fabric produced using two of her stamp designs. Although we sampled both patterns in our colorway for summer we decided to hold one print for our Fall collection.

Once the fabric has been batiked to the designers' specifications, the finished yardage is assigned to a local Global Mamas seamstress to be stitched into the desired product. Babs, our technical designer, will go over the product and review the pattern (in white above) with the Mama before sending it off with the freshly batiked cotton.

 

Here Jennifer is working on a sample for summer. Waiting on samples to come back to the office is always exciting as different prints in different products can have a surprising effect. Sometimes we decide to hold off on designs for later collections, while at other times we love one fabric so much we want to sample it in multiple colorways. Sometimes we realize we still haven’t gotten it *quite* right and more blank cotton is sent out into the world to try something altogether new.

 

 As any maker will know, our process is one of artistry, craft, science, and a little bit of luck! After months of planning and preparations it is always with pride that we share each new collection coming from the talented hands of the Mamas. These dresses are just a few of the bold and beautiful items you will find included in our Summer 2017 collection. New items for Summer: Arriving Online June 20th!

Ancient Shea & Modern Moringa: a Winning Combination

Sophia Khan, Volunteer & Renae Adam, Co-Founder 

 

A classic: our vanilla body butter and on the right, ripening shea nuts.

 

Rumor has it that Cleopatra took jars of shea butter wherever she went to keep her skin in tip top condition and it’s certainly true that it’s long been used for as a beauty product for hundreds, if not thousands of years across the African continent as well as being an ingredient in many modern beauty products too.

 

We took it upon ourselves to investigate, on the ground in Ghana, the stories of shea butter passed down through generations and to find out the role of shea today.

 

Suzzy Korsah, quality control expert at our Cape Coast office and shea butter lover!

 

Shea Butter Use in Ghana

We start our research close to home by speaking with Mamas in the Global Mamas Cape Coast office where the majority of our batik apparel and accessories are produced. The Quality Control team told us that shea is known as ‘nkuto’ in the local language. Suzzy Korsah, senior QC staff member, says “Nkuto is powerful and is used for e v e r y t h i n g! In the olden days in the villages, shea butter was the only source of cream and it was used for everything from a skin moisturizer and hair pomade, to healing rashes and wounds. Women would take metal combs and put them in the fire, and dip in shea butter to comb through their hair. This would stretch their hair and make it soft, curly and beautiful.”

 

Rose Odoom, overseeing exports in the Global Mamas Accra office, reminisced, “We kept a large jar of shea butter in the house and everyone in my family used it twice a day after bathing to make our skin and hair very smooth and soft and protect from other sicknesses”. She said “the market sellers would get the shea butter from the North and my grandmother always knew how to pick the best quality shea butter by its fresh scent.”

Gladys Adimer, heading our Krobo office where all the Global Mamas beaded items are produced said that when she was a young girl, she learned the wonders of shea butter from her forefathers and foremothers. She exclaims, “It can heal so many things! When your arm or leg feels hot [swollen/inflamed], you use shea butter to massage and relax the muscle and then it feels normal.” She also remembers her elders “grinding some special leaves on a stone and mixing with shea butter to put on boils to make it break quickly and get the bad water out.”

Gladys adds, “Today if you go to hospital they advise you to use shea butter for your babies because it’s natural and other creams will give rashes”. Suzzy remarked, “I used shea butter on my son from when he was born.” She adds, “The real magic one is when your baby is suffering from a cold, you can put ‘small small’ shea under his nose and behind his ears so he can inhale it and it will help with his breathing and catarrh.” Gladys recalls her mother treating a baby’s cough by melting shea butter and giving a little to the baby for drinking or putting it on the forehead.” Suzzy also says that women having problems producing enough milk rub shea butter on their breasts to help stimulate milk production.

 

It is easy to see that this all-natural, affordable, “African gold” is still as popular as ever among young Ghanaian women, just as much as their mothers and great grandmothers. More recent scientific studies have more clearly defined other benefits of shea butter that our ancestors had the wisdom to uncover so many years ago. Such benefits include reducing the effects of aging, preventing stretch marks, healing scars, and having natural SPF.

 

All parts of the moringa, or "drumstick" tree have their uses. Moringa seeds reportedly have 7x more vitamin C than oranges, 4x the vitamin A in carrots, 4x the calcium in milk, and 3x the potassium in bananas! 

Moringa: An Introduction

Just when you thought our shea products couldn’t get any better we introduced antioxidant rich moringa into the mix! Emily Cunningham of True Moringa dives into the list of this miraculous plant’s many uses. She shares, “the moringa tree is native to India and was introduced to Ghana only a century ago. With the help of humanitarian groups such as the WHO and Peace Corps moringa trees have spread quickly. They’re a fantastic dietary supplement with leaves that contain more iron than spinach, more protein than eggs, and more vitamin A than carrots, gram for gram.” One method being used to spread the growth of this wonder-plant is by educating school-aged children and sending them home with moringa seedlings to plant and share with their parents. The hope is that the leaves of this “superfood” will start being included in their daily diet to provide added nutrition. 

 

Experience the benefits of our 100% Ghanaian shea/moringa collaboration with the Made in Ghana Gift Box (right). Available online through True Moringa.

More than a Nutritional Supplement

Beyond using moringa leaves as a food additive, there are double benefits for moringa farmers as there's a demand for the oil that can be extracted from the moringa pods. Similar to shea butter, moringa oil is packed full of nutrients and medicinal properties and is quickly finding it's place in the cosmetic industry.

Since moringa oil is a relatively new phenomenon we sought feedback from Valerie Gueye, a public health specialist in Ghana. She says, "When our family relocated to Ghana from Senegal nine years ago, friends frequently asked me to bring them moringa powder as a dietary supplement. Out of curiosity I purchased a bottle of the oil at a local organic market and found it to be a light, non-greasy moisturizer. It is now part of my normal routine." After living in the West African region for nearly 20 years she considers herself lucky to have easy access to all-natural products like shea butter and moringa oil.  

A Beautiful Partnership

Just last year in collaboration with natural beauty blog Beauty Lies Truth and our friends over at True Moringa, Global Mamas developed our limited edition line of Global Beauty Butter. This natural plant-based moisturizer features the skin soothing effects of fair trade shea butter, cold-compressed moringa oil, and lemongrass oil. These ingredients are all 100% Ghanaian sourced ingredients. More than 70% of the retail price of Global Beauty Butter sold goes to directly empower our Mamas and fair trade partners through wages, training, and other benefits. Even bigger social bang for your buck, the profits from Global Beauty Butter sales are put into the Shea Helps Empower (SHE) Fund.

Sales of Global Beauty Butter have funded the extension of electricity to the CMA Shea Butter Cooerpative processing center which now powers their grinding machine and provides security lighting.

 Early in 2017, the SHE Fund released the first round of funding for the most pressing project identified by the skilled shea producers of the CMA Shea Butter Cooperative to improve the safety and efficiency of their cooperative’s production center. They used the funds to extend electricity to their building which they are now using to power their grinding machine and provide security lighting. The women have already determined their next SHE Fund project – repairing the foundation and roof of the shea production center and to date we’re 26% of the way there. You can treat yourself to the natural wonder of Global Beauty Butter and support this project at either Global Mamas or TrueMoringa.

Sustainable Impact with Ethical Fashion

Sophia Khan, Marketing Volunteer

Sometimes it feels overwhelming to make a difference as an individual in the face of large corporations and fast fashion advertising. However, the good news is that even seemingly small actions like choosing one brand over another can be significant. While in the grand scheme of things caring about clothes and fashion may seem superficial, voting for what you believe in with your consumer dollars can certainly make an impact.

We see evidence of this as Fashion Revolution enters its third year commemorating the Rana Plaza garment factory collapse, and the conversation around the true cost of fast fashion gains momentum.  The annual #WhoMadeMyClothes campaign encourages consumers to ask for greater transparency in the supply chains of clothing brands, and to seek out sustainable options that align with their values.

Learn more about Fashion Revolution and their Transparency Index here.

At Global Mamas we strive for complete transparency in how we produce each item in our catalog. For the last 14 years, not only have we been able to tell you who stitched your clothes or assembled your jewelry, but we can also tell you who printed your fabric, made your beads, and checked the finished product in quality control.

We take pride in making the human connection between producers in Ghana and customers around the world. Having the global community recognize the importance of working in this way—with respect for producers and consideration of environmental impact -- is what Fashion Revolution is all about. 

Theresa Tawiah (left) is on the team that makes your jewelry in Krobo. Suzzy, "Quality Control Champion," reviews batik swatches with batiker, Aggie. 

So, let’s get back to how you can make an impact on today’s fashion industry…PURCHASING POWER! If collectively, we are choosing to spend our dollars with ethical brands, the industry at large will have to change to keep customer loyalty. To influence big brands the change might be gradual, but for small brands like Global Mamas, your impact on our sustainability is acutely felt. This Fashion Revolution week, as you wear our batiks and share the stories of the Mamas, we wanted to give you some concrete numbers to show the influence of your purchases in 2016:

•      300+ Mamas were directly supported in communities across Ghana.

•      Although 85% of the Mamas have only a high school education, they made on average 3x the minimum wage.

•      100% of the Mamas’ school aged children attended school—237 kids!

•      Mamas sent an additional 117 kids (that were not their own) to school.

•      46% of producers were able to save for the future after covering daily expenses.

Martha Rhule supports her nieces Katrina and Lucy as they study Accounting and Business at Cape Coast’s Polytechnic School, in addition to contributing to the education of their 2 brothers.

After 3 years of saving her wages from working with Global Mamas, in combination with her husband’s income as a truck drive, Vida Donkoh was able to build her own home. Now that she no longer pays monthly rent she puts any extra money in the bank to go towards her children's education.  

While these are just a few examples, each Mama has a story about how this work has changed her life. As their children are able to progress through school, the impact of fair trade on the future of these families and communities in Ghana is undeniable. And that comes back around to you! Your support, your spending, your dollars.

With such an amazing community of ethical fashion producers growing up across the world, in Ghana and beyond, there has never been a better time to know who made your clothes while staying in style. This Fashion Revolution week we support and encourage you to continue making change by initiating the conversation, “Who made your clothes?”

 

From Bottles to Beads – Behind the Scenes with our Beadmakers in Krobo

Sophia Khan, Marketing Volunteer

 

Odumase Krobo in the Eastern Region of Ghana is renowned for its glass beadmaking and is home to the historic Agomanya bead market. It’s also where you will find the Global Mamas Krobo Bead Cooperative. This talented group uses techniques passed down from generation to generation to craft a wide variety of beads that are transformed into jewelry for audiences across the world.

 

Based in a shady outdoor workshop in Odumase Krobo, brother and sister team Grace and Moses recycle piles of old glass bottles into the beads their region is famous for. The pair have been making beads for many years as their family trade, but they’ve been partnering with Global Mamas for the past ten. In 2016 this talented duo were chosen as the Global Mamas’ “Mama and Papa of the Year” for their extremely high quality beads-- less than 1% have quality issues which is very low for this delicate art.

 

Preparing the Glass Powder

The first stage in the bead-making process is the physically demanding job of crushing the recycled glass into small pieces using what looks like a large pestle and mortar. The glass is further refined by going through the process a second time, then the fine powder is sieved to remove any larger pieces.

 

Recycled bottles are gathered and Moses grinds them into a fine powder. 

 

Filling the Clay Moulds

Next, Grace and Moses prepare the clay moulds used to shape the beads-- which in this case will be small flat discs that we use in a rainbow of colors throughout our jewelry pieces. The hole for threading the beads is preserved by inserting a small piece of cassava leaf stalk into each indention, then the ends are trimmed with a razor blade.

Small pieces of stalk are inserted into the mold so that the finished beads have a hole.

 

Once all the moulds are filled Moses adds ceramic pigment to the glass powder and mixes it thoroughly to color the beads. He then fills the moulds with the colored powder, tapping each tray to make sure there are no gaps before brushing away the excess powder with a feather-- you may have noticed that many tools used in the bead-making process are resourcefully made from things found all around in nature!

Colored pigments are added to the glass powder then the moulds are meticulously filled.

 

Firing the Beads

Grace piles the filled moulds onto a board and takes them over to Moses who places them carefully in the kiln using a long-handled spatula. The kiln is heated with a wood fire to reach a high enough temperature to melt down the glass powder.

  Keeping a safe distance the filled moulds are placed in the kiln.

After anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes, Moses removes the fired beads from the kiln and leaves them to cool. The dyes which started out as pale pastels darken to their final bright hues through the course of the firing.

 

Loving the Product

Finally, Grace rinses off the beads in cold water, adding a handful of sand to smooth off any rough edges. She threads them onto a string and the finished orders are packed up and sent to the Global Mamas office, where a team of bead assemblers transform them into a wide variety of bracelets, necklaces, and earrings as a colorful accent to your wardrobe!

Grace removes the fired beads from the mold and files off the rough edges with sand.

These colored discs are specifically used to make products like our catch of the day bracelet. In addition to our ready made jewelry creations, customers can purchase bags of our beads to incorporate into their own crafty projects!

 

Grace and Moses, proud to be making your jewelry!

Thanks for supporting the fair trade, handcrafted way.

 

 

A Pan-African Solution

Alice Grau, creative director

As a fair trade organization, Global Mamas makes fair trade and ethical behaviors the core of everything we do. We have created long-term, respectful relationships with the Mamas and usually stay with the same raw materials suppliers long-term, too.

While our products are handmade in Ghana, our dream is a fully African supply chain, with all raw materials sourced from Ghana or further afield on the African continent.

Cotton growing in Tanzania, and the Kiboko workshop in Nairobi, Kenya. 

Global Mamas has been talking about this since way before I joined back in in 2009: It’s something that our founders wanted to have happen from the beginning, but there was always a lack of availability for materials like cotton fabric or zippers.

Until now.

After two years of work, we’re excited to announce that we’ve created our first fair trade organic cotton one-pieces and t-shirts made fully in Africa! These pieces are made from GOTS certified cotton grown using environmentally sound practices by a Tanzanian company called Sun Flag. Global Organic Textile Standard, GOTS, is a rigorous standard that verifies compliance at each step of production.  From Tanzania the jersey fabric is then sent on to Kiboko Leisure Wear, a World Fair Trade Organization (WFTO) certified production facility based in Kenya where the fabric is carefully stitched into durable t-shirts and one-pieces for children and babies.

 

Global Mamas founder Emma Myers batiks the lion motif.

Once the fabric is turned into garments in Kenya, the plain white cotton pieces are then sent over to us in West Africa to be adorned with whimsical batiked creatures by the Mamas in Ghana! We even created two new designs to celebrate, stay tuned for those to launch in April.

Join us in celebrating a leap forward in supporting prosperity for women in Ghana and across Africa!

 The Kiboko team outside their office in Kenya, and the finished Lion one-piece.

Celebrating Fair Trade Month

Amelia Brandt, volunteer

Happy Fair Trade Month from all of us at Global Mamas!

For us, Fair Trade Month is all about celebrating our accomplishments, especially those that exemplify the heart behind our values as a fair trade organization. For example, one of our values is as follows: “We are innovators dedicated to quality, creativity, and continuous improvement.” This value was brought to life by Mamas in Cape Coast as we solved a unique quality challenge.  

The Challenge

As a social enterprise, our ability to create prosperity for women in Ghana depends on our ability to provide customers with high-quality, fair trade products. Last year, we partnered with a group of Mamas in Cape Coast to explore the financial challenges we face when seamstresses and batikers bring in products that aren’t quite the level of quality we need for export. Mamas receive a slightly lower payment for these “less-than-perfect” products, which are then sold at a discount in our store in Accra.

 

However, even though we sell these products in our store, we must still ask Mamas to remake the products needed for export. We told Mamas how much we invest in paying for lower classes of products and how the growing surplus of these products was having serious financial implications for the organization.

 

The Solution

In the spirit of transparency and problem-solving, we asked for their feedback on the best way for us to continue to succeed.

 

The Mamas provided a variety of recommendations to help create what they call “first class” products more consistently, from cutting around errors in a batiking pattern to keeping bright and dark batiks separate when drying.

 

The Mamas then set goals for delivering export-quality items. Global Mamas staff members were truly inspired when seamstresses set a goal to produce 99.5% of their items in the top class of quality, planning to control quality with more careful sewing. For batikers, since there are some quality challenges that are out of their control, the goal was set at 90%. Mamas dubbed the program First Class, First Time to reflect their goal.

 

Mamas receive a 10% bonus for each month they reach the goal. In May of this year 28 seamstresses and seven batikers were thrilled to receive a bonus. Batiker Aggie Cole was so thrilled with her bonus that she danced around the Cape Coast office to everyone’s enjoyment. Aggie has been a Mama since 2005 and is the proud batiker of our ever popular Elephants print.

“If everyone can produce First Class, First Time, it’s more profitable for the women.
We can use the money we used to spend paying Mamas for lower-quality products to
reinvest in the organization, which is good for everyone!”
- Patience Treve, People Development Manager

Quality Control Champions

At our Cape Coast and Ashaiman offices, we have quality control (QC) teams who are responsible for ensuring product quality prior to exporting. They have deep knowledge and passion for our products, as well as an eagle eye for details.

To support the Mamas in their First Class, First Time goals, we saw an opportunity to elevate their responsibilities to help the Mamas succeed. Each QC Champion is now responsible for forming a relationship with specific Mamas. This way, when a Mama delivers her products to the QC staff, she knows she’s always working with the same person. The QC Champion will know her strengths and challenges, share the results of her monthly quality report, and offer specific advice on how to improve.

  “I like First Class, First Time.

It gives me a goal... to get the bonus and to do better work.”

– Martha Rhule, Cape Coast batiker

Thanks to the Mamas and quality control teams working so hard to make the First Class, First Time program a success, product rejects have dropped by 77%. Their efforts were recognized on Wednesday, October 5 by the U.S. accounting firm Eide Bailly with an honorable mention for its Resourcefullness award, which includes a $2,000 cash prize! The prize is being invested in our equipment loan fund for Mamas; this round of funding will be used to purchase water storage tanks for batikers.

 

Safety Equipment Training in Cape Coast

Katie Eilert, intern

It’s not every day that the Global Mamas staff gets to practice wielding a fire extinguisher! Quality Control workers and Mamas gathered at the Cape Coast office for safety equipment training that included a presentation by the Ghana National Fire Service. The informative training was held as part of the World Fair Trade Organization’s biennial auditing process, and it supplied Mamas with the safety tools necessary to protect their health while working.

 CC_PatienceTreve_1_GlobalMamas_sm.jpg

The WFTO auditing process ensures that Global Mamas and its producers are in compliance with the fair trade principles embedded in our mission. The safety training especially emphasized the 8th principle of fair trade, which focuses on providing good working conditions for employees and ensuring their wellbeing.  Carrying out our aggressive plan to improve our workplace safety, both in-house and with the Mamas, would not have been possible without the generous support of n. dowuona & Co.

We regularly supply our staff and the craftswomen with protective gear and encourage its use, but as part of the training we did another thorough dispersal of gear. Batikers received face shields and goggles (in addition to the gloves we already provide). Although the dye that adorns the fabric with beautiful swirls and shapes is safe in its final form, it isn't ideal to breathe the fumes every single day in its raw form. Rubber boots also protect their legs from stray wax splatters, which can burn skin.

Overall, Cape Coast manager Patience Treve said she feels extremely proud that the Mamas understand the safety equipment’s critical benefits and use it consistently while they work. Every so often, she pays impromptu visits to the women’s workshops to ensure that they are actually utilizing their new masks, boots, and gloves, and she has been impressed with just how many are making their health a priority.

ACC_??&Vida_1_GlobalMamas_sm.jpg

 (Mamas Faustina & Marama in Ashaiaman)

“The Mamas, they really love it,” she says, and some have remarked on how it has positively impacted their work. Even when Ghana’s rainy season brought flooding to her home and workspace, batiker Agnes Cole Ada was able to weather the harsh elements with the help of her rubber safety boots. She could still continue her work and meet all of her deadlines on time.

The training gave Patience herself a hands-on look at safety at the office as well. After filling a bowl with fuel and lighting it outside, she was handed a fire extinguisher and quickly learned how to use it to put out the flames. The demonstration provided not only valuable tips and proactive resources, but also quite a bit of fun and excitement for the day!

As for the WFTO audit process, the next step will be implementing and sending to auditors a weekly checklist on office supplies that are out-of-date or in need of replacement. Auditing is just one way that Global Mamas stays true to our mission of fair trade in action. It also allows managers, Quality Control staff, and Mamas alike to stay in the loop on the important principles of fair trade and workplace safety -- in the loop, but out of harm’s way.

Shea Helps Empower

Amelia Brandt, volunteer

We’re excited to announce a new product to the loyal followers of Global Mamas: a special-edition shea butter skin care product, Global Beauty Butter! The product is created in partnership with Ghanaian shea skin care formulator Ele Agbe and natural beauty blog Beauty Lies Truth, a champion of products that are clean, green, effective, and fair trade.

What’s more, the process of creating this product is featured in a VICE/Live Nation TV documentary on fair trade shea butter, to be released sometime this June. For now, here’s what you need to know about Global Beauty Butter:

Superfood for Your Skin

Global Beauty Butter is our first skin care product containing moringa, a superfood rich in antioxidants that also has significant skin care properties, including preventing dryness, evening skin tone and minimizing fine lines.

                                          

Especially Empowering

The shea butter in Global Beauty Butter is sourced from Ghana’s Northern Region, which is more economically disadvantaged than the areas closer to the coast, where most of our offices and production sites are located. We wanted to find a special way to honor our commitment to the craftswomen who gather and process the shea nuts. Thus, we’re launching the Shea Helps Empower (SHE) Fund, which supports specific, group-driven projects to improve the CMA Shea Butter Cooperative’s workplace and local community.

 

How the SHE Fund Works

The SHE Fund sources its funding from the profits of Global Beauty Butter. More than 70% of the retail price of each Global Beauty Butter goes to empowering the women at the CMA Shea Butter Cooperative, in addition to the women of Ele Agbe and Global Mamas.

We’ll administer the fund, leveraging more than a decade of experience as a fair trade nonprofit empowering women in Ghana. The women of CMA have already identified their priorities: improving their shea production center by adding access to electricity, conducting roof repairs, and building a security wall.

100% Sourced in Ghana

While all of our products are made in Ghana, this is our first product to be made of components entirely sourced from Ghana. The moringa in Global Beauty Butter is produced in Ghana by the social enterprise True Moringa, and the product is scented with Ghanaian lemongrass essential oil, produced locally by the social enterprise Ghana Permaculture Institute. The product is packaged in recyclable plastic sourced from Ghana, too.

 

“Lights Out” Production

Hailey Hinshaw, intern


Power outages are part of daily life at Global Mamas and all across Ghana. While Ghanaians have experienced periods of “lights out” before, it’s gotten substantially worse within the last year. Due to a variety of factors including failing power plant equipment, a dysfunctional dam, and a lack of funds, Ghana fails to produce enough power to meet its energy needs. These outages can have drastic effects on Global Mamas as electricity is essential to almost every step in the production process. In many areas, power outages can be sporadic and lengthy, creating even greater uncertainty and delays within our production timetables.

 

Ghana’s nation-wide power outages can drastically affect every part of Global Mamas’ production, from sewing to quality control to administrative functions. However, seamstresses generally suffer the most. When we first give the fabric to our seamstresses, they need light, an iron, and a sewing machine to produce quality products on time. There are box irons the Mamas can use during a power outage; however, these irons are heated by charcoal.  The Mamas risk ruining the newly batiked fabric with this charcoal residue or even a spark that could burn a stain into the fabric. If this happens, the products are not up to standards and they are rejected by Quality Control.

 

Even if the fabric can be successfully ironed and cut, the Mamas go on to sew their products with hand powered machines – if they have one. Deborah, a seamstress at Global Mamas, expressed how physically tiring the hand machines are. She said it requires more strength and more time to work on a hand machine, so you can’t produce as many products as you would on an electric machine.

 

To keep orders moving on time, the Mamas get creative. Sabina, a seamstress in Cape Coast, said that on days without power, “there’s no sitting idle.” All of the Mamas work hard and use every resource at their disposal. If they have a large order to complete, they often go to other seamstresses’ shops to use their hand or pedal machines. Sometimes they may even transport their own machines to other shops that have electricity to complete an order. Mamas also call upon each other for assistance. If one Mama is finished, she will sew with another Mama to help get her order finished on time. Sometimes this extra help is enough and sometimes it’s not. If the Mamas aren’t able to complete their orders it can causes shortages at our US warehouse leading to back orders and out of stock products.

 

After products are sewn, they return to the office to be checked by Quality Control. QC workers make sure the products are sewn correctly, that all the loose strings are cut, and there are not any stains or irregularities in the fabric. The tasks performed by QC workers do not require electric machines, but they do require good lighting. When the power is off and Global Mamas is scheduled to ship out products the next day, the workday does not stop. In fact, it often lengthens. It’s not uncommon to see candles, lanterns and even phone lights (until they run out of battery) out on the tables to help the QC workers work as quickly and efficiently as possible.

 

As soon as products have been passed through Quality Control, they are ready to be shipped. But sales and administrative functions also suffer when there’s no power.  Patience, Cape Coast Office Manager, was asked about the effect of power outages on her work. She simply said, “Huge!” Without internet, it’s difficult to communicate the details and status of orders to customers, and all email correspondence is halted until the next business day. You can see how difficult it is to stick to a production schedule when so many other factors come into play.

 

Without power, the challenges are great. But in the midst of it all, the Global Mamas seamstresses and staff have become a family. They are willing to help each other whenever possible because, as Alice put it, “they know that if I am experiencing it, then everybody is experiencing it.”

World Fair Trade Week in Milan

Madison Oeff, intern

World Fair Trade Week, hosted by the World Fair Trade Organization (WFTO), takes place in Europe every other year. For this celebratory week, the WFTO names one city the “Global Capital of Fair Trade.” Milan, Italy had the honor of hosting the fair trade festivities this past May. Artisans, farmers, retailers, consumers, and advocates gathered to share their fair trade experiences and innovations. For the first time ever Global Mamas attended the conference with the goals of networking with our global partners and to gauge the European consumer response to our products. Maria Jose Vidal and volunteer Robin Ross represented Global Mamas at the conference and determined it to be a success.

Many events took place during World Fair Trade Week, including an international symposium, fashion show, cooking events, and a fair trade expo. The 2015 expo, called Milano Fair City, invited producers from all over the world to show their fair trade goods. Milan is one of the major fashion capitals of the world – what better place to display our products? First open to wholesale buyers and then later to the general public, thousands of consumers had the opportunity to see and purchase Global Mamas items.

Milano Fair City expo was a great way to spread awareness of the Global Mamas’ brand, especially to European consumers. Seeing Europeans interested in and purchasing our fashion was very exciting! The expo acted as a stepping-stone for us to increase European recognition of Global Mamas. Kristin Johnson, Global Mamas Co-Founder noted, “It was wonderful to meet many of our existing retail partners in person for the first time. We also developed relationships with new buyers, who provided great feedback about our products and prices.” We believe our products will be well received, and we’re excited about our future European endeavors.

People from all over the globe convened in Milan for World Fair Trade Week. Meeting and networking with so many diverse fair trade advocates was a huge opportunity for Global Mamas. This fair trade forum allowed Global Mamas to share strategies and ideas for the future with people engaged in similar work. “Fair trade is all about helping each other, learning from others,” Maria said. Participating in World Fair Trade Week definitely made a positive impact on Global Mamas’ international networking and exposure, and we look forward to seeing our partners and fair trade friends at future events.