Prosperity Update

News and stories from Global Mamas

2008 Global Mamas of the Year Awards

By Emily Henke and Alice Grau

Lizzy Kumah at her bead stand in Odumase-Krobo

On May 22, 2009 Global Mamas kicked off the 2008 awards season at Odumase-Krobo to recognize outstanding members of the Global Mamas network. The O-K Annual Meeting took place at 1 pm at the Madizu Fair Trade Company. The meeting was well attended by bead makers, bead assemblers, and Global Mama volunteers and friends. Thomas Amuzu, MFTC manager, gave a brief recap of the last year and discussed topics concerning bead dyes and quality. The Odumase-Krobo Global Mama of the Year Award went to Lizzy Kumah for her outstanding quality, dependability, and dedication to the betterment of the project. This year we also decided to present an "Above and Beyond" award to Juliana Matey for her amazing work on educating other beading villages on the eco-friendly use of dyes, especially the brown and black dyes. Juliana has willingly taken her job a step further and demonstrates to others the importance of seeing the entire picture. The festivities were continued with light refreshments and a showcase of the groups’ musical talent.

 

The following Friday, the 29th of May at 9 am the Global Mama of the Year Ceremony took place in the Cape Coast office. With many new volunteers present to bring up the energy, we were in for an exciting day. The meeting was opened by Patience Essibu, the locations Capacity Building Manager and then some highlights from the year were covered by Wisdom Tamakloe, the Production Manager and Alice Grau the General Manager. While some tasty European chocolates and Fan Ice treats circled the room, Patience presented the awards. For 2008, three individual were acknowledged for adding value to the group in special ways. Kate "Aba" Tay (Seamstress) was recognized for her "Top Quality", Georgina Afenyo (Batiker) for going "Above and Beyond" and Molly Djan (Seamstress) for being the "Most Reliable". Each of these women was given a certificate signed by the Executive Director and General Manager as well as a lovely necklace and brooch. After a beautiful solo from one of the quality control staff members, Patience presented the Cape Coast Global Mama of the Year Award was presented to Esther Gyepi-Garbrah (Seamstress). Esther was recognized for her dedication to the organization, her beautiful quality, her commitment to sharing her success with other women and always seeking ways to grow as a business woman; notably her recent start-up of an NGO in Elmina, Ghana. Esther was awarded with a signed certificate as well as materials to support the beginning of her NGO.

 

Overall it was a successful year for all of the Global Mamas sites throughout Ghana. After seeing women from all areas of the network step up in their various roles we are looking forward to the exciting prospects of 2009. Here’s to another great year!

 

___________________________

 

Second Saturday Warehouse Sale: A Growing Success

By Alexandra Harris

A customer shops at the Global Mamas’ Second Saturday sale in Minneapolis, MN.

About one year ago, the Global Mamas wholesale distributor in Minneapolis, MN thought of a creative way to invite the local community into the Global Mamas experience: The Second Saturday Sale. This clearance sale provides an opportunity for the distributor to free up storage space by selling excess stock. On these days the front half of the warehouse is opened up to the public and items that are discontinued or are otherwise in excess are sold at greatly discounted prices. The event has gained popularity among the Minneapolis community and has been such a success that several artists who have studios in the building have started opening up their space to the public for Second Saturdays as well!

 

The success of these events has afforded for the Global Mamas warehouse to purchase nicer retail presentation tools such as waterfall racks so that the space can be more presentable for Second Saturdays and other such events. This can only be to the greater benefit of the organization as word spreads about this exciting opportunity. Recently an advertisement for this event was placed in a local paper that targets a younger crowd that has interest in art, music and fashion. This will hopefully attract the patronage of a new customer base that will not only benefit Global Mamas but also the artists of the Minneapolis community.

 

___________________________

 

Traveling the Distance for Quality

By Alice Grau

Traveling the Distance for Quality

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

 

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

 

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

 

___________________________

 

The Bauxite Beadmakers of Abompe: A Lost Art Rediscovered

By Greg Coyle

The Bauxite Beadmakers of Abompe: A Lost Art Rediscovered

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

___________________________

 

Launch of GM store in Accra

By Alice Grau

Launch of GM store in Accra

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

___________________________

 

Global Mamas Expands to the UK

By Kristen Gallagher

Global Mamas Expands to the UK

Penetrating new markets is never easy, however it is not impossible, as any of the women of the Global Mamas Cooperative will tell you. Step by step, and connection by connection, GM has finally gotten its name, reputation, and unique style to the streets of the UK. With well-known retailers like TopShop, and not-for-profit Tabeisa's support, Global Mamas is celebrating its entry into this competitive market with confidence.

 

The first step for developing the Global Mamas brand in the UK was to obtain the IFAT (International Fair Trade Agreement) certification. IFAT does a spectacular job enforcing their standards of fair trade with companies that apply for the certification. "It is a certification with substance," says Renae Adam, founder of Women in Progress. "It is not a certification that can be obtained unless companies whole-heartedly use fair trade ethics and practices."

 

Beyond fulfilling the fair trade qualifications for IFAT, Global Mamas decided to implement its own Fair Trade Certification program, which is enforced internally. The women of Global Mamas receive this certification when they have proven to practice high-quality employment standards. For example, they must provide clean and comfortable working environments for their employees, such as seamstresses and assistants. They must also pay their workers fair wages so that they spend their days making a truly living wage.

 

Many companies in the UK are responding to fair trade organizations, such as popular TopShop, which has taken note of Global Mamas' ethical business practices and high-quality designs. TopShop has placed its first order of 400 dresses, 120 babies' dresses, and tote bags. Not only will this connection in the UK give Global Mamas great business, but it will also help spread the awareness of fair trade and its importance in the UK. To have such practices become not only trendy, but eventually the norm in the industry, would be ideal.

 

The Global Mamas website is also becoming more popular, as it is a link on the TopShop website which has thousands of people looking to shop on a daily basis. As Global Mamas progresses with the TopShop order, it continues to keep an eye out for new opportunities in the UK and other markets.

 

___________________________

 

Ajumako: From Rags to Rugs

By Emma Wood

Sarah, Stella and Joyce displaying some of their products at their workshop in Ajumako

After two tro-tro rides and a taxi, anyone, no matter how well traveled, would be worn out; however, within a few minutes upon arriving at Ajumako-Ampiah – a small village on the outskirts of Ajumako – the community's friendly and energetic atmosphere instills itself upon us, and we begin to revive. Sarah, Stella and Joyce, the three full-time weavers, immediately come to greet us with a warm "akwaaba" and shy smiles. They take our unwieldy bags, heavy with rags, despite our objections and lead us to their workspace – the porch of a large, magenta house with green shutters. The owner has been kind enough to lend this porch, along with a room farther inside, to the girls for two years, until their business has grown enough to pay rent.

 

This charming site constitutes WIP's latest outreach project. At only two-and-a-half-months-old, it is still in its early stages of development, but the women are already grateful for the work. After the nonprofit organization Team Ghana approached WIP last February, WIP's founders, Renae Adam and Kristin Johnson, decided to look into the option of having the women of Ajumako-Ampiah to create items out of current Global Mamas scrap fabric left over from the sewing of batik apparel and accessories in Cape Coast. Team Ghana chose the location and the community representatives identified six female producers to start the project based on their leadership, sewing and English skills.

 

Although weaving is not a skill indigenous to the area, it is not difficult to teach and creates a means for WIP to recycle the many pieces of scrap fabric. Renae Adam spent several days in the village herself to acquaint the women with Global Mamas as well as to teach them how to weave the rags into a variety of products including placemats, coasters, baskets, doormats and rugs. The products are offered in the new Global Mamas 2008 wholesale catalog. Finished products are bought by Global Mamas on an accept/reject basis, providing the incentive to the women to perform quality control on site. This reduces waste and helps the business to become not only sustainable, but able to grow more quickly.

 

WIP's long term goal, like at the Cape Coast location, is to hand the business entirely over to the producers. According to Adam, Ajumako-Ampiah is the "first step into the franchise model of Global Mamas" and notes that "if this [project] is successful, this is a model we can use for future groups."

Since the project was launched, the women have received their first orders and fallen into a rhythmic work schedule. While they're still perfecting their technique, they seem to enjoy the work, giggling and talking softly among themselves as they knot the bright fabrics.

 

The thought of their infectious smiles, along with the ice cold water sachets they give us on our way out, almost makes the return trip bearable.

 

___________________________

 

Global Mamas Krobo Bead-Making Co-op Continues to Grow

By Stephanie McCulley

Global Mamas Krobo Bead-Making Co-op Continues to Grow

In August 2006, Global Mamas expanded to Odumase-Krobo in the Eastern Region to begin producing marketing fair-trade, recycled glass Ghanaian beads and beaded products. With a $16,000 grant from the British High Commission, Global Mamas was able to pay for the Co-operative’s start-up costs. And, with only three beads makers and three bead designers, the Global Mamas Krobo Bead Co-operative was born.

 

With the continually increasing order levels for beaded products made by the Krobo Global Mamas Co-operative and the new wholesale bead market, seven additional bead makers joined as members. The hand-made, recycled beads will soon be available in a variety of colors and styles and will be featured in the wholesale bead catalogue expected to be finished by the end of October. "By extending our offering to an entirely new wholesale market, bead stores who will buy handcrafted beads in bulk, we can help a lot more people through the project", says Renae Adam, WIP’s Executive Director.

 

A new assembly center was also launched and has grown to 10 young ladies doing the bead product designs. The Fair Trade Center is run by co-founders Thomas Amazu and Gladys Adimer and their goal is to empower young women in the area through income generation opportunities. Adam adds, "By partnering with the Fair Trade Center, we can be sure the Krobo Global Mamas Bead Co-op will be able to handle the rapid growth of orders for our beaded products."

 

The fair-trade, recycled glass beads being produced in the Krobo area of Ghana require both skill and patience. To learn more about the traditional bead-making process, please visit the "Handcrafting" section at Global Mamas.

 

___________________________

 

Design Competition

By Pam Wyrowski

Design Competition

In August, Global Mamas orchestrated its first annual Design Dontest for its seamstresses, batikers and bead designers in order to introduce new products in the 2008 wholesale catalog. At the outset of the contest, the Global Mamas gathered for an informative meeting to learn about which Global Mamas products were best sellers in the US, UK and Australian markets. They then set off to design their own garments, batik textile designs and jewelry. Many women were incredibly excited about the contest as it was the first time they had the chance to offer their suggestions for the Global Mamas catalog.

 

The Global Mamas were given two weeks to submit their entries. The contest was a success with a number of entries: 1) seamstress: Esther Gyepi-Garbrah, Lydia Wright, and Hannah Dodoo; 2) batikers: Eli Ampiah, Emma Myers, Joyce Aboagye; and 3) bead designer Gladys Adimer. A panel of judges, including WIP’s founders, local Ghanaian workers, WIP volunteers and various retail customers, then evaluated the entries. The judges were thrilled with the quality of the competing entries and they chose at least one entry from each Global Mama and awarded each competitor with a new electric iron.

 

In conjunction with the 2007 Design Contest, Global Mamas also completed its first customer opinion survey to gain insight into potential jewelry pieces for the 2008 wholesale catalog. WIP volunteers narrowed down the list to the best 15 jewelry pieces and created an online survey to gather feedback from select retail customers. Global Mamas received valuable input from customers that helped to narrow down the offerings for the catalog and improve various pieces by slight design alterations.

 

With the addition of the design contest and the customer online survey, Global Mamas made important strides this past summer in trying to satisfy their retail customers as well as connect the local Global Mamas with their US customers. Global Mamas is proud of the steps taken and the product improvements that were made through the institution of these two projects.

 

___________________________

 

Global Mamas Sources Raw Materials in Africa

By Kristen Gallagher

Global Mamas Sources Raw Materials in Africa

The first success was finding a manufacturer in Ghana to supply the calico, the 100% woven cotton fabric used to produce Global Mamas clothing and accessories. In the past, Global Mamas only bought small quantities of calico from various factories in Ghana, but as demand for products continues to increase, Global Mamas needed to find a local textile factory that would produce the calico in larger quantities instead of providing it as an "overrun" of their other wax print textiles. The challenge was to find a textile factory that would be a reliable source of high quality calico and to ensure the factory manufactured the textile according to fair trade principals.

 

There appeared to be hope when Global Mamas thought it had found a great supplier. But unfortunately, the factory did not follow through on its commitments and Global Mamas was in serious need of fabric. Finally, in the early months of 2007, Global Mamas had its first successful order of a large supply of calico from GTP (Ghana Textile Print), which now produces the material in generous amounts for Global Mamas. "GTP and Global Mamas have a great relationship and I hope it continues in the future," says Renae Adam, Executive Director of Global Mamas. "Finding a local, reliable manufacturer is good for us and good for Ghana as we can fuel Ghana's textile industry. We can also support other African producers as the cotton used for the calico in primarily grown and processed in West Africa."

 

While the search for a local woven cotton producer was like a wild goose chase, trying to find a local supplier for Global Mamas' jersey fabric wasn't much easier. After making attempts to manufacture t-shirt items with a local Ghanaian factory, the deal fell through, along with a hefty deposit made for fabric purchase. The efforts to locate other reliable and ethical manufacturers in Ghana didn't present any results.

 

Things took a positive turn when Adam made a crucial connection at a conference put on by the West Africa Trade Hub. She befriended the directors of Cool Ideas, the South African agents for Edun (the socially responsible clothing company created by Ali Hewson and Bono). Global Mamas received multiple samples from South African jersey cotton manufacturers and selected Prestige Clothing out of Durban to produce Global Mamas line of jersey cotton garments. Global Mamas is happy to support Africa's growing economies by sourcing its raw materials in South Africa and also still being able to take advantage of duty-free exporting of this apparel to the USA under AGOA (African Growth and Opportunities Act).

 

The future looks great for Global Mamas in terms of continued growth and improvement. By Fall of 2007, Global Mamas expects to have its own private labeling done on the jersey cotton apparel from South Africa. Organic products are also on the lookout for the company's possible changes. "We would love to be able to afford to produce our clothing using organic materials sourced from African manufacturers," says Adam. "As we continue to grow, I think it will become an option for Global Mamas."

 

___________________________