Handmade fair trade empowering women: Amani ya Juu

You might not want to get out of bed early enough to work out today, but what if you had to get out of bed to carry water from a well to your house before you go to work in the morning or you wouldn’t have water for bathing and cooking all day? Here is what a day is like for Esther in Liberia:

Esther, a 39-year-old mother and grandmother, wakes up at 5:30am each morning. “I carry the bucket to the pump. If you cannot carry the bucket soon, you will not get water!” she shares with wide eyes that giving the impression that this lady has had to deal with a dry pump on more than one occasion, and doesn’t plan on letting it happen again.

Esther prepares food for her family and sends her children off to school. Then, she sometimes goes to the market to buy food for her family or her bucket. She runs a micro business from her head—she sells pepper, spices, candies, ground pea candy (peanut brittle), and other treats out of a plastic bucket she carries all over the community.

At [work], Esther cuts cloth or learns to sew. She has only been at Amani for about a month but already feels intense community amongst her coworkers. “We are here together, friendly … if I am not here, I am missing these people,” she says, looking about the room.

After work, Esther often goes to night school, where she is currently completing 9th grade. Her favorite part about school is reading “They got some good stories in it!” she says of her school books, then rattles off the plot of a story she is reading this week about some farmers with a car—“their own car!”—she exclaims.

Photo of Esther working at Amani ya Juu

Esther works during the day at Amani ya Juu (“peace from above” in Swahili). Amani is a sewing and training program for marginalized women based in East Africa. Women from many African nations and cultures are learning to work together through faith in God who provides a higher peace that transcends cultural and ethnic differences. Amani is committed to holistic development. Women gain experience in purchasing, bookkeeping, stitching, quality control, management, and design. As new women enter the program they are mentored in quality workmanship. Emphasis is placed on ethical business practices and harmonious relationships with people of different backgrounds. Amani’s wide selection of high-quality handbags, home and kitchen décor, jewelry, and children’s items are made out of local African materials. The sale of products sold by volunteers and in Amani shops enables each woman to earn consistent income.

I learned about Amani ya Juu from a blog reader here in Dallas—what a small world! She knew about my heart for empowering women to succeed through hard work and based on an inner peace. When she contacted me, I took a look at the Amani site and there is a little collage of my favorite products from Amani:

A selection of photos of favorite Amani ya Juu products

Clockwise, starting with the grey bag:

I hope these cute products will appeal to you, but most of all that you will consider supporting the ladies of Amani ya Juu with your purchases. I’ve had a chance to sample one of the Amani cosmetic bags, and I can attest that it is very well-made. The ladies of Amani put care and love into their work.

To help spread the word, I’d like to give away a small cosmetic bag made by Sandra in Uganda:

Photo of small cosmetic bag made by Sandra in Uganda
Detail of small cosmetic bag tag

Please help me spread the word about Amani ya Juu by entering the giveaway, tweeting about Amani and their mission, and following them on Facebook. A Rafflecopter giveaway.