Prosperity Update

News and stories from Global Mamas

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.

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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.

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 (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.

Building Prosperity: Planning the Fair Trade Zone

Paige Affinito, Intern

With an average annual growth rate of 66%, Global Mamas faces the rare challenge that demand has outstripped production. Because our production falls short and orders go unfilled, expansion in sales has slowed organization’s overall pace of growth. To address this problem, Global Mamas initiated plans for a new production facility with the potential to increase current production output by 54%. The vision for the Fair Trade Zone (FTZ) is to revive the Ghanaian textile industry by employing 200 women full-time in a comfortable, beautiful production center that cultivates an atmosphere of learning, healthy living, and team work.   

In Summer 2013, an international team of architecture students led by Architecture Sans Frontières (Architecture Without Borders) United Kingdom, a nonprofit focused on making international development issues integral to architecture, worked with Global Mamas, gathering ideas and potential designs for the FTZ.  Volunteers Adjoa Akowuah, Emily Wright, Kofi Ofosu-Ennin, and Lisanne de Beun traveled between our Ashaiman and Cape Coast sites observing the workspaces, solicited feedback from seamstresses and batikers, and researching materials that could be used to build theeco-conscious and self-sustaining production center.

Soon, simple cardboard cutouts and ink sketches began to resemble the ideas and hopes behind the Fair Trade Zone.  For example, a major concern for thebatikers is the size of their workspace and the fact that they have nowhere to change into their work clothes. The architects were sure to open up this space in their design and include a changing room.  

In October, the team was ready to present all their hard work and final conceptual design. With a space specifically made for a childcare center, the center fosters comfortable working environments for mothers. Separate batiking and sewing areas ensure the potent fumes from dyes will not disturb seamstresses. Recycled waste and local, sustainable materials serve as the foundations for the nearly self-sufficient site.

                       

We now have the details and initial design behind the project, but there is still much to do before lifting the Fair Trade Zone frompaper into reality.Next,Global Mamas must draw up a budget and detailed costing plans for all elements of the design.Before this can be done; however, we must face the constraints of buying land in Ghana. The organization is just now beginning to look for a temporary location to rent from the Ghanaian Ministry of Trade and is looking to purchase land in the Ashaiman/Tema area to make transit easy for employees that area already based at our current Ashaiman location.

Global Mamas opens Fair Trade Textile Workshop in Prampram

By Liz Lampman

The Prampram staff outside of the workshop with their first finished products

Just five minutes outside of the seaside village of Prampram, a cluster of freshly scrubbed buildings is perched on a rise of sand above a little lagoon and the Atlantic ocean. Upon entrance, visitors gasp and remark on its resemblance to Paradise. This little haven is not a new resort; here, two seamstresses and two batikers are in their second week of work at Global Mamas' newest production site.

 

Christy and Be batik in the courtyard, stamping, dying, washing, and rinsing patterns and colors in two to six yard lengths. At this point, they're working on color and stamping consistency to be sure that their products match the high quality output of other Global Mamas batikers. Christy and Be both have experience batiking, but they talk about how these patterns are much more precise than the batiking they do at home. They've also learned how to cut their own stamps, which is Be's new favorite part of her handicraft.

 

Inside, T.T. goes from room to room checking the sewing and knitting machines and assisting the seamstresses Eunice and Charity. As the resident knitting machine expert, T.T. comes on Mondays to help with maintenance of the equipment. Eunice and Charity are working on Batik Button Baskets, and they eagerly examine a newly arrived sample of Batik Storage Bins. The seamstresses have many years of experience, but they explain that they've mostly made custom dresses so it's challenging to learn how to make these new products. Both Charity and Eunice own their own businesses in Prampram and they will continue to take on orders even though they work from 8 to 5 for Global Mamas. Eunice simply said that she has four children and that she has to work to take care of them. In fact, in the next room, her eight month old daughter Rosemary takes her afternoon nap on a cushioned bench. Everyone likes the working space; it's clean, quiet, and comfortable.

 

This idyllic location has been more than a bit of work, but its gotten off to a great start in under 3 months. Tim and Lydia Richardson arrived in Ghana in August, shortly after their wedding; they are volunteering with Global Mamas for two years and their dedication and hard work have been key to this new adventure for Global Mamas. They look forward to taking on volunteers with bright ideas and innovative energy.

 

All the production here will be completed on site with Global Mamas-owned equipment; this will reduce the cost of production by centralizing materials and by providing immediate feedback and quality control. Eventually, Prampram will be the largest production location of batiked products. The plan is to construct a large facility nearby for the employment of nearly 200 batikers, seamstresses, and quality control personnel. In conversation with Christy and Be they talked about limited opportunities in Prampram; many leave for work in Tema or Accra. Be also explained that many young people need work to stay in school, but as of now, they have difficulty doing so in Prampram. So while this is a different model than the one used in Cape Coast, it will create jobs and stability in the community and also provide opportunities for women to work towards economic independence.

 

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Esther Gyepi-Garbrah Invited to Speak at Fair Trade Conference in United States

By Melanie Popowich

Esther Gyepi-Garbrah being introduced as one of the panelists at the 2010 Fair Trade Futures Conference

Esther Gyepi-Garbrah is no ordinary seamstress- she is an exceptional woman with an exceptional story. She was invited to speak at the Fair Trade Federation annual conference held in Quincy, Massachusetts this September. Despite many obstacles, Esther has become one of the most successful Global Mamas and is one of the most deserved women to be selected to speak at such a remarkable event.

 

Esther began her career as a seamstress with no materials of her own; she was equipped with only a borrowed machine and worked out of her bedroom. Because money was hard to come by, Esther soon applied for a loan. Unfortunately, she was quickly swept up in the vicious cycle of paying off only the interest rate for her loan and fell victim to a loan default and declaring bankruptcy. Esther recalls this as one of the most trying times in her life, as she was "running after the wind." Her dreams of managing a successful shop of her own were fading.

 

When Esther’s dreams seemed unattainable, Renae Adam, the founder of Global Mamas, made a proposition that would alter Esther’s life forever. The proposal was simple: make ten dresses instead of one. Esther managed to complete the order and she was immediately compensated. For the first time in Esther’s life, there was money in her pocket and she felt the freedom of financial independence. In time, Esther cemented her relationship with Global Mamas and continued to complete orders, which allowed her enough revenue to pay back her loan. Her store, My Redeemer Liveth Fashion, has thrived and she has even started a very successful apprentice program. Esther does not simply teach her apprentices, but she also equips them with a machine once they graduate from her program. She believes that because she had such a hard start, she feels compelled to make it easier for the others. She learned the value of a support system through Global Mamas and makes a concerted effort to provide the same support to her employees.

 

Esther is a woman whose deep faith has compelled her to give back, especially in the wake of success. Her motto is simple, "anytime I have more, I have to give." The death of her niece, Grace, prompted Esther to start her own NGO. It has officially been registered by the Ghanaian government and its mission is to provide free vocational training for seamstresses and batikers in the most deprived areas of Ghana, primarily the villages. She identifies with the struggles of the village people and believes that they face far greater limitations when it comes to schooling and jobs. One day, she hopes to build factories that will employ and teach skills to many of these women and men.

 

From the 10th through the 12th of September, Esther brought her story and experience to the Fair Trade Futures Conference. She and co-founder Kristin Johnson were featured in a seminar on "Navigating Relationships with Producers Over Time" during which they were well received with supportive feedback from current customers. Esther and Kristin also had the opportunity to provide insight on some of the audiences tougher questions such as how to negotiate pay with producers and how to ensure that producers are well represented in the companies decisions.

 

The highlight of Esther’s weekend came Sunday morning when she joined three other producers on the main stage as living examples of "What does Fair Trade Seek to Achieve?". Esther shared her moving story with a room full of hundreds of people. Afterwards she had the opportunity to answer questions from the audience as well as speak with individuals who sought her out in person. Esther had conversations with customers, students, other prod

 

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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 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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