8 Fair-Trade Jewelry Brands Empowering Women in Africa
Africa is culturally dense continent. East Africa, in particular, holds many modern women who depend on skills inherited through generations of traditional craftsmanship to provide for themselves and their families. These women live marginally in rural communities with no access to global consumers.
They sell predominantly in local markets, trapped in micro economies. Many of these women are the backbone of the family – often they are responsible for school fees, care taking of an extensive family, as well as cooking, cleaning, and farming. These fair-trade jewelry brands are seeking to connect these strong and talented women with the global market.
Together they have retrieved thousands of female artisans out of poverty by giving them access to international production methods, fair wages, and educational programs. There are many fair-trade brands out there connecting the 1% of world consumers (that’s us) with beautiful artisanal pieces handcrafted in developing countries.
I chose these eight fair-trade jewelry brands in particular because they are doing a truly knock-out job of providing for talented African women and helping them drastically improve their lives on their own terms.
This post contains no affiliate links and is not sponsored. I created this article with the sole objective of connecting you with brands that are creating beautiful and original pieces for a powerful philanthropic purpose.
The Sparrow Studio is a cooperative made up of 27 female survivors of the massive 1994 genocide in Kigali, Rwanda. Now powerful mothers and talented artisans, they have joined founder Annie Philips in creating beautiful ethically sourced handmade jewelry and home goods. These women are paid fair wages and have access to multitudes of recycled goods to create from. With the help of The Sparrow Studio these gifted artisans are now able to provide for themselves and their families in an independent and respectable way.
Akola literally translates to “she works” in a Ugandan dialect. Employing women in Eastern Africa and the United States who are caring for an average of ten dependents, Akola is dedicated to creating a powerful social impact at each stage of the supply chain. Each piece is handcrafted from natural high-quality materials like upcycled horns and gemstones. Akola pays their employees and artisans three times the amount of fair-trade wages. They have also founded two non-profits: Akola Project and Akola Academy. Akola Project employees at risk women in Eastern Africa and the US while Akola Academy supports their employees through education and holistic wellness support.
3. Eden Diodati
Eden Diodati is a sustainable luxury brand that works with a collective of women who are survivors of the genocide in Rwanda. The brand is on a mission to discard any stigma around the phrase “Made in Africa.” Each piece represents their 4-tier philosophy: Art & Collaboration, Ethical Manufacturing, Wearable Philanthropy, and Beauty through Compassion. 10% of sales are donated to Médecins sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders), an important cause that embodies the brand’s philanthropic philosophy.
Made is a sustainable brand that employees over 60 skilled artisans from developing communities in Kenya. The brand makes it a priority to invest in the livelihood of their artisans by providing safe working conditions, long-time job security, and fair wages. They employ highly skilled craftsman as well as novices eager for an opportunity to create and learn. Each piece is lovingly handmade and created by techniques that have been passed down through generations.
BeadforLife was created to support women living in Ugandan slums – many of whom were making less than $0.65 a day – through the sale of beautifully beaded jewelry created out of recycled paper. The non-profit invests its earnings into their Street Business School – an entrepreneurial training program that empowers African women living in poverty to open their own businesses, send their children to school, and improve their lives. Launched in 2014, their program has enabled 89% of their graduates to open their own businesses within two years, increasing their income an average of 1,462%.
Originally begun in Kenya, Swahili Modern has expanded to employ independent artisans in 15 countries across Africa. The brand gives women the ability to earn a living from the comfort of their own homes instead of having to search for low-paying work in the cities. These women are now able to focus on creating beautiful hand-crafted pieces while maintaining their place as the backbone of the family. Constantly seeking new countries to collaborate with, Swahili Modern brings stability and pride to entire communities.
Rose & Fitzegerald is a design and craft studio founded by a native California couple, Laren and Courtney. Based in Kampala, Uganda, the brand works with some of East Africa’s most remarkable artisans, giving them an option to avoid factory exploitation and dedicate themselves to the authenticity of their craft. Each of the handmade pieces are produced by individual artisans using luxurious materials that have been sourced locally such as palm leaves, teak wood, organic cotton, and Ankole horn.
Probably the most well-known ethical jewelry brand, SOKO has claimed a spot in Silicon Valley by connecting marginalized artisans in Kenya to the global market. Over 2,300 artisans working with SOKO make 5X the amount they would be earning in local workshops. Their artisans predominantly use locally sourced and eco-friendly materials in their jewelry such as upcycled bone and brass.