Prosperity Update

News and stories from Global Mamas

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?”

 

Workshops for Financial and Physical Health

By Sæunn Gísladóttir

This week the Mamas and staff at our Cape Coast office received two short-term volunteers from Chicago, Ellen Rogin and Terri Winters. Ellen is the New York Times bestselling author of Picture your Prosperity, a book that offers a motivational plan for women who want to take control of their financial planning, and Terri is a registered nurse. The two held workshops in their areas of expertise, working with the group to create inspirational “Prosperity Pictures,” examining Cash Flow Management, and assisting with breast cancer screenings.

 

Terri (left) with Patience, Global Mamas People Development Manager (middle), and Ellen (right).  

Ellen led the workshop participants in creating their “Prosperity Pictures.” These boards are visualizations of where the women aspire to be five years now. After searching through magazines for their desired images, the Mamas shared their collages with the rest of the group and discussed how they were feeling, using adjectives like “excited” and “happy”, expressing confidence that in time they can achieve their dreams. Ellen emphasized the importance of how your attitude has a direct impact on what shows up in your life.

 

Workshop participants are pictured here, enjoying some music while searching for images they’d like to include on their Prosperity Pictures.

The Cash Flow workshop was also very popular. Ellen led the workshop which involved improving performance by imagining it. She shared financial planning techniques from her book then went over the Mamas’ business cash flow. She asked workshop participants to work on a spending plan (writing down everything they spend), and to save 10% of their income to achieve their long term goals for themselves and their families.

Ellen further encouraged positive thinking. Towards the end of the workshop she praised Global Mamas for the impact the NGO is making and pointed out that today there are more women opening businesses in Ghana than men.

In addition to providing training for financial “health” and well-being, Terri facilitated education on breast cancer screenings, in which 32 Mamas and employees participated.  The screenings involved a manual examination also utilized a newly developed screening using a breast cancer detection device.

Workshop participants pose happily with their Prosperity Pictures after the workshop.

 

Thanks so much to Terri and Ellen for sharing their expertise and contributing to the financial and physical health of our community! We love having volunteers share their skill sets with us in Ghana! 

 

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.

 

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.

 

Changing Focus: Setting SMART Goals

By Kristin Johnson

At the beginning of 2014 Global Mamas made a new year’s resolution:

This will be the year that the Mamas set and achieve longer-term goals.

                                             

Long-term planning does not come naturally in Ghana. The cultural norm is to focus on the short-term - plan for today to get to tomorrow. This short term focus makes sense when dealing with poverty, health care challenges, and the general instability of life in a developing nation. But even as the Mamas have begun to realize financial security through the steady orders provided by Global Mamas, they have still struggled to achieve the personal and business goals that require longer term planning.

Over the past decade, we have seen that the more successful a woman is, the more pressure she receives to help support her extended family and community with immediate needs. This drains her business and her bank account of the resources needed to achieve longer term personal and business goals. The one exception to this trend is how committed all of the Mamas are to investing in the education of their children, which definitely is a long-term goal. So even though it makes sense that the Mamas struggle with achieving their dreams that require longer-term planning, it doesn’t mean that we can’t try to shift the trend.

Using the SMART goal format to set appropriate goals.With the support of our talented volunteers, Patience and Anna Rose, managers of the Global Mamas capacity building program, developed and implemented a program focused on setting and achieving SMART goals. SMART refers not only to the fact that the Mamas are talented and intelligent individuals, but also that the goals are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time Sensitive. The key components of the program included:

  •     Bringing the women together in small groups so that they can support each other and hold each

        other accountable. Each small group has given themselves names like Glorious (shown above)

        and Arise & Shine.

  •     Developing a clear plan of shorter terms goals that would lead to the achievement

        of the big dream.

  •     Celebrating successes as they occurred along the way.

   

From the beginning we were amazed by the great response from the Mamas, who said they very much needed the morale support offered by the program to achieve their dreams. Forty of the Cape Coast Mamas are now actively engaged in the SMART goal program. Their goals include personal ones like sending their children for post-graduate education or buying land. Others have set business goals that include training new employees, purchasing an electric sewing machine or buying fabric in bulk to get better pricing. And one successful Mama has achieved her goal, which was to bring electricity to her house [in Ghana a home owner has to pay the electric company to connect their home to the grid]. For this Mama the process was so successful that she has set a new goal – to buy an electric sewing machine by June 2015. Based on its success, Global Mamas will continue the SMART goal program into 2015.

 

 

Global Mamas Interest-Free Equipment Loan Program

Interest Free Loans - Knitting Machines

As the first of a series of programs to celebrate Global Mamas’ 10 year anniversary, we launched an interest-free equipment loan program in December 2013.  This program was custom-tailored based on feedback from the Mamas to provide them with the equipment most needed to increase productivity.  As most Mamas are paid per item made, this increased productivity means the Mamas can bring home more earnings to support their families.

Sergers (known as knitting machines in Ghana) were selected as the focus of this loan program.  Knitting machines are an essential tool used by the Mamas to create seams and edging on clothing, bags and other Global Mamas items.  However, many of the Mamas lack access to these crucial machines, requiring them to spend valuable time waiting in the market to use public knitting machines.  Our hope is that through the purchase of their own knitting machines, the Mamas will be able to save time and improve the quality of the items they make in their shops.

Knitting Machines in 2013

To implement this loan program, we engaged in an formal application process with the Mamas and selected only participants with strong financial records. We also ensured that they continue to follow the World Fair Trade Organization’s fair trade principles.  A contract was then entered into with each participating Mama, stating she repay the interest-free loan through deductions from her regular payments from Global Mamas.  As a result of successful development and implementation of this first equipment loan program, each of our participants received a new knitting machine at the end of 2013!