Prosperity Update

News and stories from Global Mamas

Celebrating 15 Years of Exceptional Impact!

  

How it All Began

Fifteen years ago, back in 2003, eight Ghanaian and American women put their heads together to solve a problem.  The Ghanaian founders were talented seamstresses and batikers living on an erratic income from week to week, never knowing if there’d be enough orders to meet their families’ needs – often there was not. Inconsistent work made long term planning an impossibility and short term finances an ongoing worry. In the local market, their handcrafted goods were competing with a flood of cheap secondhand garments from the western world and mass produced printed textiles from Asia.

Handcrafting: In addition to providing sustainable income, sales of Global Mamas’ products support

handcrafted techniques in an increasingly mass-produced world.

 

Global Mamas was Born

 With the number one goal of providing sustainable livelihoods to women in Cape Coast, Global Mamas was born-- so named by the Mamas themselves. With a shared love and respect for one another, working within a fair trade framework was the obvious choice for our community. Over the years we’ve stayed true to our original mission of creating a life of prosperity for African women and their families by creating and selling handcrafted products of the highest quality.  Each year we’ve continued to push ourselves to find new ways to make our impact more meaningful through capacity building, health care education, and most recently with our transition to organic fabric. But at the end of the day, it is our never wavering commitment to providing steady, reliable income that brings peace of mind and creates thriving families and communities for craftswomen in Ghana.

 Natural growth: With consistent orders many Mamas take on apprentices to create opportunities and meet demand.

Here’s to Another 15 Years!

We’re proud of the work we do and appreciate your recognition of the effort required to maintain our high level of transparency and professional integrity. Our exceptional impact in Ghana would not be possible without the ongoing support of the individuals, retail partners, volunteers, and donors that partner with us in sharing the work of the Mamas. Throughout our 15th year we’re excited to share more stories of Mamas like Deborah to bring home the impact that YOU make possible.

 

Deborah with apprentices Ruth and Grace.

The future of Global Mamas, and the powerful future of Ghana! 

 

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.

 

Ready, set, design!

Madison Oeff, intern

 

Our Global Mamas annual Design Competition took place throughout the month of June in Cape Coast, and it was a huge success. Sharing their personal style and talent, the Cape Coast Mamas could submit as many of their own designs as they had time to produce. At the end of the competition, there would be three categories of winners: an overall winner chosen by the design team, a People’s Choice Award winner chosen by the public, and a creativity award.

 

 

Submissions #6.JPG

Batiker Entries

 

The More the Merrier

The designs poured in. Purses, dresses, headbands, placemats, belts, oven mitts, rompers, and yards and yards of vivid batiks – the submissions received were fabulous. In our first Design Competition, only 8 Mamas submitted items. This year, we had 18 participants! In addition to the increase in participants, our total number of submissions skyrocketed; we had 64 items submitted in total. Seamstress Hannah Dodoo set the record by entering 11 of her designs into the competition. We’re so pleased with the increase in entries and hope they continue to rise in years to come!


And the Award Goes to...

The first awards were given to the overall winners chosen by the design team. For the seamstresses, the design team was looking for new ideas in the areas of children’s clothing, accessories, and household items. The seamstress overall winner was quality control member Elizabeth Acquah with her pink and orange children’s hooded top.

 

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Seamstress Elizabeth Acquah accepts her award

 

The focus for batikers was on prints that were authentically African. The batik overall winner was Elizabeth Ampiah with her diamond-shaped leaves pattern. These Mamas were given a cash prize and may be featured in our 2017 collection. When asked how she feels about being chosen as the winner, Elizabeth Acquah stood up and broke into a dance, saying, “I feel great!”

 

You Voted!

The next awards were chosen by our followers across the world. An online poll was launched where people were able to vote for their favorite product and batik pattern. These “People’s Choice Award” winners were Elizabeth “Esi” Arkaah for her children’s collared dress, and Cecelia Dick, for her orange and yellow interlocking chain pattern. These Mamas will have their designs featured in an online sale!

 

 Batiker Cecelia Dick wins the People's Choice award for batik design

 

Most Creative

Finally, a third honorable mention award was given out for exceptional creativity. Martha Rhule received this award for her leopard print design, and Abigail Okang received this award for her children’s flower headband. “It just came to me!” Abigail said. “The idea of a little baby wearing a cute flower headband.”

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Batiker Marthe Rhule's winning leopard print

 

Celebration for All

The culmination of the Design Competition was an awards ceremony for all of the participants. Everyone mingled and enjoyed refreshments and each other. Then, Cape Coast manager Patience Treve announced the winning submissions. In addition to other prizes, all winners were given 3 yards of their favorite Global Mamas fabric and will have their products sold in our Accra store. The awards ceremony celebrated not only the winning designs, but also the ingenuity of all of the Mamas. Patience put it perfectly at the end of the awards ceremony, “All of you are winners. Going through the effort to produce something for us that’s totally your own makes you a winner.”

 

Ashaiman Payroll Mistake Rectified, Results in Dancing and Celebration

Pete Freeman, intern

 

On any given day, the Global Mamas’ Ashaiman site is alive with the whirring of sewing machines, clicking of computer mice and keyboards, and splashing of soon-to-be dresses dunked in cool dye and water. Ashaiman is a hub for a small group of full-time, directly employed seamstresses, batikers, and quality control staff. Unlike our Cape Coast location where the women are small business owners and work from their own workshops, in Ashaiman the Mamas come into a Global Mamas workshop. Here, the symphony of work-related activities is a steady buzz beginning as early as 7 a.m. and ending at 5 p.m. But in late May 2015, the usual commotion was overpowered by shouts of joy and dancing after a payroll mistake was discovered and rectified.

 

Recently, the Ashaiman site underwent a huge transition to performance-based pay. Under this new payroll method, a Mama’s salary is comprised of a base pay and performance pay. Base pay ensures that the Mama always receives a living wage. Performance-based pay incentivizes efficient, high quality work. [Read more about this process in our 2014 annual report here.] This transition from our previous fixed wage method has not only revitalized the Mamas’ commitment to fair trade entrepreneurship, but has also led to a renewed sense of community among the Mamas in Ashaiman. The Mamas radiate pride with their work and show increased happiness

 

However, in May of 2015, we discovered a problem with this system: some Mamas had earned more pay than they had received in their paycheck. The discrepancy was caused by the miscalculation of vacation and sick time and affected Ashaiman seamstresses and batikers. As direct employees, the Mamas in Ashaiman receive between 21 and 26 days of paid time off (depending on how long they have worked with Global Mamas). If a Mama does not use all of her earned vacation and sick time each year, they receive payment for these hours at their normal hourly working rate. So, for Mamas who take little vacation and are rarely ill, a sizable bonus is paid on their anniversary with Global Mamas.

 

After reviewing the implementation of this new payment method, we realized that our payroll system was only taking the base salary into account for the vacation and sick payout and not the larger portion of performance pay. Unfortunately, this mistake began early 2014 and carried on until May 2015.

 

 The payroll issue was quickly corrected in May 2015. By altering the pay calculator and providing back pay to the Mamas, everyone was compensated for our accounting mistake. Some compensation payments were small, while others were very large for the Mamas who had taken very little time off. After meeting with the Mamas in small groups to explain about the payroll discrepancy, we were greeted with a welcomed, but unexpected reaction upon receipt of their unexpected “bonus”. The Mamas danced around the room, shouting, “We are happy!”It is nice when a mistake on our part can end up bringing so much joy to the Mamas.

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.

 

 

2012 Global Mamas of the Year Awards, Cape Coast

By Sofia Kim (Volunteer, United States)

2012 Global Mamas of the Year Awards, Cape Coast

On Saturday, July 21, 2012, Global Mamas held a very special event at the Community Gardens: the Global Mamas of the Year Awards. Melanie and Wisdom presided over the event, and provided entertainment and excitement for all. Prior to the awards announcements, the group enjoyed jollof rice (a popular dish in Ghana), salad and chicken cooked by EliMax, which was a big hit! We did a small icebreaker exercise where we met the people sitting around us, as well as a 'shout outs' to recognize the accomplishments of the women over the past year (had a baby, expanded her shop, sent a child to school, etc).

 

The awards for 2012 were then announced. The award winners from the previous year, announced the winners for 2012. The awards went to:

 

Initiative: Agnes Cole Arthur
Innovation: Sabina Hasford
Leadership: Betty Baiden
Dedication: Jennifer Benedicta Ocran
Staff Member of the Year: George Nassah
Global Mama of the Year: Faustina Antwi

 

The mamas all offered positive feedback about the awards program and left with smiles on their faces. Betty Baiden said to one volunteer, "Thank you for providing us the energy to go and work harder and achieve more in the coming year."

 

A special thank you to Colleen Fulp & Lauren Sheridan for fundraising to make the event possible and for leading the planning committee!

 

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Global Mamas of the Year: Cape Coast

By Melanie Popowich

Georgina Abra Afenyo (right) was delighted to receive the Global Mamas of the Year Award (Cape Coast) for 2009.
The much anticipated Global Mamas of the Year event was held this past March. It was such a pleasure to organize this event, but also a huge learning experience. No matter how many events you plan, each is so different and has to be handled carefully, especially with the laid back Ghanaian culture. Along the way, I learned that patience is key and if you want people to arrive at 6PM, you have to tell them to arrive at 5PM. (Similarly, if they tell you that the cost is 65 cedis, budget for at least 75).

 

The event was hosted at Elimax Spot outside of Elmina. Considering that Elimax owner, Eli, typically has five customers for dinner, hosting 60 people was a first for her! We quickly learned the art of improvising as we realized an hour before the women were expected to arrive that there was a serious shortage of tables and chairs. Fortunately, after a quick scramble, we were able to borrow chairs from the church across the street. Tables were a bit harder to come by and we became scavengers– using every available, partially functioning table we could find. We managed to find enough and drape them with the colorful Global Mamas table cloths. As the sun set, we lit over 100 candles and their soft glow only helped to accentuate the beautiful colors. It would be an understatement to say the restaurant looked amazing.

 

Staff members and a group of five drummers, led by Global Mamas night security man Appiah, warmly welcomed the women as they began to trickle in around six. The program commenced just after 7PM as grace was said before Eli's feast was served. Everyone enjoyed both the food and the company around the table as the drums played in the background. The women joined in to dance and sing – it was priceless!

 

Renae Adam, co-founder of Global Mamas, ushered the transition from dinner to the awards ceremony as she got everyone's attention by speaking a bit of Fante. The crowd hushed and the awards presentation began. The winners announced were as follows:

 

Initiative Award: Monica Eku (Batiker)
Innovation Award: Hannah Dodoo (Seamstress)
Leadership Award: Alice Korsah (Seamstress)
Staff Member of the Year Award: Wisdom Tamakloe
Global Mama of the Year Award: Georgina Abra Afenyo (Batiker)

 

After each name was announced the crowd went wild as they cheered loudly and clapped for each of the recipients. Georgina, the newly crowned Global Mama of the Year, said a few words that were filled with such gratitude. This brief description of the night does not sufficiently convey how memorable the night was to the staff and Mamas alike. It is most certainly a night that I will never forget.

 

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Global Mamas of the Year

By Megan Collins and Emily Henke

Global Mamas of the Year

Julie has been batiking for nine years and became a member of Global Mamas three years ago. She went to batiking school in 1999 for six months while raising three children. Julie prides herself as being a mother first and a batiker second. Batiking allows her to work from home while her children are at school. When she has extra time, Julie creates her own designs and sells the fabric in the local market. Her goal for the future is to acquire more workers in order to expand her business. Julie recently spoke about her work with Global Mamas at the UN Conference on Trade and Development in Accra during the fashion forum session. Julie was voted Global Mama of the Year – Cape Coast by her colleagues because she continuously produces high quality cloth, in large quantities, and on time. "Working with Julie is a pleasure; we know we can rely on her to produce high quality work every time, she keeps good records and she's always laughing" said WIP's quality control manager Dorcas Baiden. For going above and beyond in her efforts, Julie was astonished to learn she had won a microwave oven.

 

Krobo Global Mama of the Year: Gladys Adjimer
The first annual Global Mama of the Year Award for Odumase Krobo was held on 10 June 2008 at the Madizu Fair Trade Company. The meeting was well attended by bead makers, bead sellers, bead assemblers of Madizu Fair Trade Company, and Global Mamas volunteers/employees. Renae Adam, co-founder of Global Mamas, gave the history of the organization as well as giving amazing statistics for the growth of the Global Mamas beaded products. All were enthusiastic hearing their accomplishments and excited to expand on these in the next months. A phenomenal response from all was welcomed as they pledged to take on the challenges they face as they learn more about the market they have entered. Last, but certainly not least, the Odumase-Krobo Global Mama of the Year was announced. All would agree that Gladys Adjimer, co-manager of the Madizu Fair Trade Company, was very deserving of the award. Gladys has worked extremely hard and has gone above and beyond for the Madizu Fair Trade Company and the women they employ. Gracefully accepting the award and offering an acceptance speech, Gladys was all smiles to take away a new set of pots and pans for her kitchen.

 

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A Ghanaian Women's Perspective: “What can a woman do to make her dreams come true?”

by Esther Gyepi-Garbrah

Esther Gyepi-Garbrah

Nothing comes on a silver platter regarding emerging as or being a successful woman. There are many significant and pertinent key words that lead to a tremendous number of women becoming successful. In my opinion, adhering to these certain key words as a guideline determines the tendency to succeed or substantially emerge as a successful woman. They are as follows: Education, Target, Enterprise, Dedication, Efficiency, Focus, Strategy, and Management. These are the paramount qualities for a woman’s establishment or venture. Furthermore, the success also becomes attainable when the above-mentioned keys are applied properly, in a working format. From my perspective, a typical, successful woman is always characterized by certain qualities. They are as follows: determination, good customer relations, willingness to work hard, patience, and tolerance. The questions, “How can a woman’s dreams come true?” and “What is the possibility of achieving success?” are challenging ones, but perhaps they could be answered most simply by one word: Education. Education, commonly referred to as the key to success, is so powerfully able to enrich and expose you to all the significant ethics of professionalism. In conclusion, I believe strongly that if women will enthusiastically welcome submission to all these disciplines, they will improve their opportunities to emerge as successful women.

Esther Gyepi-Garbrah is the owner/manager of My Redeemer Fashions and was an inaugural member of Women in Progress. She successfully manages six full and part-time employees and has seen her business double in just two years.