Prosperity Update

News and stories from Global Mamas

Eli Kpotorfe – A Very Special Ingredient

By Elizabeth Murphy

Eli Kpotorfe – A Very Special Ingredient

Elizabeth "Eli" Kpotorfe is not a seamstress nor is she a batiker, but she is certainly one of the most esteemed members in the Global Mamas community. In a more unconventional way, she has asserted herself as a “Mama” through her cooking. Global Mamas volunteers from Cape Coast have been frequenting EliMax’s Spot for six years now and for good reason. Eli has recently been featured in the Global Mama’s cookbook, The Spice of Life, which includes an assortment of traditional Ghanaian dishes. Since working with Global Mamas, Eli has served a very diverse group of volunteers from Japan to Spain to the United States and, yet, her dishes universally satisfy each and every customer.


A native of the Volta region, Eli started cooking at a very young age. In time, she pursued her passion by working at small restaurants and bars to perfect her culinary skills. Many times, Eli found herself repeatedly cheated and unpaid and by 1992 she moved to Cape Coast where she sought work from her uncle’s friend. After two years, Eli made the decision to start her own small kiosk stand near the Elmina Beach Resort. However, soon after opening the stand, the government insisted that she had to obtain a license in order for her shop to remain open. With the help of a friend, she was able to attain the permit and it was then when she purchased the surrounding land. She invested everything she had into building her own restaurant and eating area that would be able to seat customers.


Her association with Global Mamas came about by chance. David Hollis, husband to Global Mamas co-founder Renae Adam, frequented EliMax Spot while attending a conference in Elmina in early 2003. Renae and Eli were introduced when setting up the WIP volunteer house just down the road. Eli admits to this day how much she treasures her friendship with Renae saying, “You can dream about so many things, but if you don’t have anyone to push you, to support you, you cannot go forward. Renae did this for me. She gave me confidence.” WIP also believed Eli’s restaurant would be an ideal venue for the volunteers to grab dinner after a long days work. And so, the trend began, and Eli officially began cooking for the volunteers.


Not only has Eli played a pivotal role in feeding the Cape Coast volunteers, but she has also been instrumental in helping the greater Global Mamas organization. She is responsible for introducing Wisdom Tamakloe, the current production manager and recently crowned ‘Staff Member of the Year 2009’, to Gayle Pescud, the former General Manager in Cape Coast. It was Gayle who would later offer Wisdom a position with the company. Moreover, Eli also hosted the Global Mama’s of the Year event at her restaurant where she served 60 people and helped facilitate one of the most memorable nights for Global Mamas.


Eli’s recipes have also been published in the Global Mamas cookbook “The Spice of Ghana Life”, which has been a hit among customers. From traditional meals like palava to more Western themed meals like grilled cheese, Eli has managed to add her own spin on the dishes as she combines local ingredients with her own special touch. The dishes are made each night strictly from her memorization. She offers a very reasonable price for all the meals - in fact it often leaves volunteers baffled as the quality rivals that of any high end restaurant in the United States.


The comprehensive skill set offered to the Global Mamas batikers and seamstresses is similarly offered to Eli. Over the years, a number of volunteers have had the opportunity to work with her restaurant business. Just this past summer Kelly Pierson, an intern, worke




Moving on up: One Former Apprentice's Success through Global Mamas

By Alice Grau

Moving on up: One Former Apprentice's Success through Global Mamas

Since its inception, Global Mamas has created over 250 new jobs in Ghana by helping women-owned businesses expand their operations. One of the most exciting aspects of this growth is seeing individuals develop with the organization. At the Cape Coast location we have seen more than 45 batik and sewing apprentices' transition to paid positions and three women who started out as apprentices now have their own businesses within the Global Mamas network.


Louisa Esi Dadzie is one of those women. Louisa went to school at the Girls Vocational Institute and studied batiking in the classroom for 3 years. While still in school she was taken on attachment as a junior at Eli-Emma Batik workshop. Louisa proved to be an asset to the shop and thereafter was given more responsibility such as opening the workshop in the morning and access to the workshop to do her own work without charge. She took her job and benefits seriously and worked hard to save up enough money to open her own shop. That dream came true in July of 2007.


Since opening her shop, Louisa, now 26 years of age, has worked to gain a client basis. She currently does batik work for one school as well as many individual clients. You can find her skills represented among the Global Mamas products in this years Stickman and Aztec prints.


The skills that she has learned have provided her a good life and she recognizes that she can share that with others, so Louisa has taken her very first apprentice. Her shop has also provided enough income for her to purchase a cellular telephone, help take care of her mothers needs as well as start her education again at Cape Coast Polytechnic. Louisa Dreams of being a fashion designer.


Louisa says she is proud to be a member of Global Mamas and she wants the customers to know that she loves them and is grateful for their purchases.




Quality Assurance - Bridging Ghana and the U.S.

By Andrea Schwartz

Quality Assurance - Bridging Ghana and the U.S.

Profile: Dorcas Baiden, Quality Control Manager with Global Mamas in Ghana

Andrea interviewed Dorcas Baiden, Quality Control Manager, about her role, a typical day, and what she enjoys most at Global Mamas. Dorcas taught pattern making, sewing, handicrafts, and batiking at a vocational school in Tema before joining Global Mamas in 2006.


"My day typically involves checking quality, preparing patterns, helping with office activities, and making sure staff are working on quality control issues. And if a Global Mama is finding something difficult, like a new pattern, I'll go and help them work it out in their workshop. It's very rewarding working directly with the Global Mamas.


I do this is because, if we don't get good quality products, we cannot send the shipment and it's a waste of time and money. If the quality is good, the Global Mamas are also paid on time and are happy. If it's bad, it delays everything. We are always working on it.


Global Mamas is a great network to belong to. We all know how to sew but in different ways and we are constantly learning from one another and teaching each other new techniques- it's a give and take, a collaborative environment.


I personally enjoy getting the quality to be perfect. It makes everyone happy when the quality is good. And I like paying attention to detail which is why I think I got the job. But it can be hard at times because we are always busy! Getting our work done on time is the challenge. The deadlines are tough sometimes.


I am proud that sometimes we get an order and we don't think that we can get it done on time, but we always try and do our best—there is a good sense of teamwork in our office in Cape Coast.

In future, I want to finish my education and become a poular, well-known designer: I love to sew!"


Profile: Amy Drier, Quality Control Officer with Global Mamas in the USA


Andrea interviewed Amy, by email, about her role on the receiving side of the shipment, and how it all comes together.


My connection to Global Mamas started about thirteen years ago. I had the opportunity to visit Kristin Johnson, co-founder of Global Mamas, while she was in the Peace Corps in Ghana back in 1995 and fell in love with the people and their beautiful country. The Global Mamas Women, as well as all the people involved in WIP, are an inspiration to me to be a strong and independent person.


I work for Global Mamas three days a week and my job consists of quality control and filling orders for wholesale clients which include hundreds of stores across the United States and a good handful of International clients. When we receive the large shipments from Ghana we unpack the entire shipment, and lay out the items for organization and inspecting. We inspect every piece of batik that comes through our office and our high standards have created continuous growth for Global Mamas.


This is how quality inspection works: When a shipment arrives, we inspect what seems like mountains of reversible dresses, piles of tote bags, and a virtual mountain range of dresses and shirts. I hold up my first article of batik and the "story" begins. I'm impressed with the meticulously packed boxes that come across the globe, arriving with unbroken fragile beaded goods and neatly packed clothes.


While inspecting, I think of the women who figured out how many yards of cloth were needed and who to send it to for batiking. I think of the women who batik the yards and yards of cloth and the women who cut and sew the cloth into something to show the world. Th




Helping Hand from Customers

By Gayle Pescud and Alice Grau

Helping Hand from Customers

In early 2008 Sandra Crismon from Just Creations, a US customer, joined Global Mamas in Ghana to volunteer and assist in developing new bead products. Gayle Pescud interviewed Sandra via email.


Just Creations has always enjoyed the Global Mamas product and Sandra Crismon, has seen a fair share of the product during her time working with the organization. When Sandra discovered that Global Mamas was going to be launching a new line of recycled glass beads she became interested in volunteering to help with the upstart location in Krobo-Odumase. As a designer of glass bead products herself, she was excited for the opportunity not only to share her skills with GM, but also to learn about the recycled glass bead making traditions of Ghana.


As Education Coordinator at Just Creations, Sandra also notes that "part of my job is to go out and talk to the public in different forums about fair trade. Having gone to Ghana and met artisans working for Global Mamas has given me first-hand experience I can draw on in talking to the public about fair trade".


During her time as a volunteer, Sandra says she was given the freedom to create without constraints. She was happy to be part of one of the fundamental advantages for fair trade artisans, that is, design assistance being provided when needed. "I believe in that process and was glad to be a part of it.


One of the new products that Sandra helped create was the Spirit of Africa Jewelry set. She bought a bag charm that was introduced with the original line of GM jewelry because she loved the colors so much and turned them into a bracelet and earrings. She sent the photos to GM which inspired the creation of a complete set of jewelry in 2 color schemes. Sandra says that she is "always very proud when we sell one of the Spirit of Africa pieces".


Witnessing the amount of work that goes on behind the scenes in product development has given Sandra a greater appreciation of what goes into getting fair trade products to the US market. It has also encouraged Sandra in her work to educate the public about the challenges of getting fair trade products made. Sandra muses, "To us, boxes just appear with all these fantastic things that we sell! I now know how much incredibly hard work goes into getting products designed, getting all the materials for those products, and getting those products made and shipped to customers like us."


This was not Sandra's first visit to a developing country so she was prepared for some of the challenges of spending time in a developing country. For instance, the sanitation and living conditions are something she embraces as part of "our experience of the world, because you get a taste of how most of the world lives." She also says that an experience that takes you outside of developed countries can teach you how much one can take for granted. Also, the health precautions such as being careful about the water you drink and the way you prepare your food as well as getting shots and taking anti-malarial medication can be some of the more difficult parts of an experience volunteering for Global Mamas.


Overall, Sandra was very inspired by learning how Global Mamas was founded and how the founders have stayed true to their ideals. Sandra says, "Renae and Kristin are a testament to what dedicated individuals can do if they put their minds to it. I often emphasize this when I am talking to younger people who feel overwhelmed by the problems of the world and feel like they can't possibly make a difference."




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.




Marian Barker: Rebounding from Robbery

By Emma Wood

Marian Barker: Rebounding from Robbery

Marian almost gave up on her batik shop when a thief broke in a few years ago and stole most of her hard-earned equipment. She soon found, however, that without her shop, she was struggling to support her adopted daughter. So when she heard about Global Mamas, Marian decided to return to batiking. At first she worked with another Global Mamas batiker to raise enough money to restore her shop, and was able to move back within a couple of months. Now Marian says she finally has a dependable source of income – her previous customers would often pay on bad credit or fail to pay the quoted price.


Now Marian's fabrics have even entered the world of London fashion. Last fall, UK-based charity Tabeisa, in conjunction with the Ethical Fashion Forum, held the Design4Life competition, challenging young designers to create dresses that reflected the latest European fashions while using the traditional African batik cloth. Marian supplied the fabric for two of the winning designs, of which Top Shop, a large British clothing retailer, bought hundreds to sell in different locations.


Though Marian enjoys batiking, she dreams of opening an orphanage with the money she saves so that she can help other orphans who, unlike her daughter, she was unable to adopt.




Eli-Emma Batik & Tye-Dye Expands to Beachfront Workspace

Elizabeth Ampiah, left, at work in her new studio space

In February, Global Mamas batikers Elizabeth Ampiah and Emma Myers moved their Eli-Emma Batik and Tye-Dye business to a spectacular new beachside location just steps from the Cape Coast Castle. With the increased profits they earned as part of Women in Progress, Eli-Emma financed and orchestrated their move from a small, out-of-the-way location to a space in the heart of Cape Coast.

The facility includes a showroom, indoor workspace, storage and restroom facilities for visitors.  Elizabeth and Emma expect their prime location to attract more tourists to their batik workshops and will allow them to produce larger orders and hire more employees.

Elizabeth and Emma financed the move with profits earned from their work for Global Mamas. Together with their husbands, they found the new space, negotiated the contract and organized the entire move.

The Eli-Emma expansion is an important example of how, with the help of Women in Progress, women are taking the initiative to to grow their businesses and change their lives.

The new Eli-Emma Batik and Tye-Dye location is kept cool by the ocean breeze and lots of shade

Global Mamas Success Story By Lydia Wright: Wright Lee Fashions

Lydia Wright: Wright Lee Fashions

Wright's husband is currently living in Nigeria. Left alone and with the responsibility of caring for three young children, Lydia is working hard to earn enough income to support herself and her family. Lydia has found it difficult to make ends meet year-round because her orders peak during the holiday seasons, but she has very little work the rest of the year. A lack of steady work also forced Lydia to terminate her apprenticeship program, which meant letting go three apprentices. Since joining Global Mamas only a short time ago, Lydia is excited to have already:

  • Found constant work that allows her to earn increased income throughout the year.
  • Increased her revenue 150% due to orders from Global Mamas.
  • Expanded her business and moved to bring on additional employees.
  • Opened an account with Progressive Women's Credit Union and saved 5% of earnings for future business investments.
  • Purchased a new hand-powered sewing machine.
  • Paid her daughter's admission fees of 950,000 cedis (~$105).



Global Mamas Success Story By Gifty Saah: Giftex Impex

Gifty Saah: Giftex Impex

Gifty Saah started her career as a teacher, but lost her job when her family was evicted from their home in1997. When her family (husband and two children) found a new residence, she was unable to find a suitable job, so she began rejuvenating used t-shirts with bright batik and tie-dye designs for tourists. Gifty loves batiking because she can produce original, artistic goods and, given the opportunity, creativity flows from her heart. She launched "Giftex Impex" and operated her business in the back of a woman's house in exchange for training her children in batiking. However, after five years her family was evicted again and her husband also lost his job. They were forced to live in substandard living conditions and she worried about the environment's effect on her children. She did not give up and began door-to-door sales to find more reliable customers at restaurants and hotels. The income from these smaller local sales was still not enough to support her family to her expectations. As a member of Progressive Women's Credit Union, Gifty found Global Mamas and has:

  • Increased revenue nearly 10 times as a result of batiking cloth for Global Mamas apparel.
  • Kept careful records so she can follow through on a plan she created for growing her business.
  • Saved over 40% of her profits that she will use for future business expansion.
  • Learned computer basics Quickbooks so she can manage her orders, inventory, cashflow, vendors, bills & supplies
  • Was able to receive a loan through the Pelican Group to help her purchase additional materials in advance of new contracts and client orders.
  • Brought on 1 full-time worker and 3 new apprentices.
  • Redeemed an old debt of 5M cedis (~$556).
  • Paid for utilities that were previously shut off.
  • Paid the school fees of her three children that had previously been sacked from school due to nonpayment.
  • Paid advance on part of a community house that is satisfactory for her children.



WIP Brings On Two New Members

In March, WIP accepted two new seamstresses, Charlotte Bart-Plange and Hannah “Mansa” Darbah. The women were selected through an application process agreed upon by the WIP members at their February meeting.

Charlotte Bart-Plange

Charlotte Bart-Plange, a native of Cape Coast, began sewing almost 25 years ago. She worked out of her home and struggled to find consistent business to keep her afloat.

Charlotte once had apprentices, but had to let them go when she didn’t have enough business. Charlotte worked hard and succeeded in securing ten permanent clients, and was able to move into her own store three months ago.

With her new profits sewing men’s shirts for Global Mamas, Charlotte hopes to bring on more employees. “They will help me expand my business,” says Charlotte.

Mansa Darbah

Mansa, owner of “When Jesus Says”, has been a seamstress in Cape Coast for the last seven years. She opened her own shop three years ago.  She runs a successful business, but knew that she could do more.

Mansa has begun sewing Global Mamas’ new yoga bags. She will take on more projects as the clothing line expands.

With her new profits, she plans to expand her business in several ways.  She would like to move to a new store, take on new apprentices and employees and buy a new electric sewing machine.

“I am so happy,” says Mansa, of her new work with Women in Progress.