Better together: Refugee inclusion in the artisan sector can have a transformational impact when the private sector gets involved

Posted by MADE51 Team on

The refugee crisis is one of the defining challenges of our time. Over 82.4 million people have now been displaced from their homes by violence, persecution, war and disaster. Over the last year, we have watched Covid-19 take its toll too - making a grave situation ever more difficult. 

Yet there is hope. We believe that collaboration with the private sector to support inclusion of refugees in the global economy is one of the most powerful, lasting solutions available. 

“When global companies, particularly in the retail sector, source at scale from refugee producers, they make a significant and direct impact on refugees’ lives and their families. When they do that over and over again, they sustain the impact and create a long-term solution--and that’s exactly what we’re looking for when we talk about companies making a difference in the refugee crisis,” explains Mamadou Dian Balde, Deputy Director of the Division of Resilience and Solutions at UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency. 

In honour of World Refugee Day, we are thrilled to celebrate exciting new collaborations we have with global companies, including Fast Retailing, and Chloé, each of which have immense potential to create impact for refugees. 

Fast Retailing has supported UNHCR for a decade, mainly through donations of clothing and programs that promote self-reliance. From last year, Fast Retailing has partnered with MADE51 as part of the Refugee Self-Reliance Program, with aim of helping MADE51 raise brand awareness and expand sales. As part of this, we are working on a first collaboration with UNIQLO involving refugees in South Sudan, Kenya, Ethiopia and Egypt - we are excited to let you know more soon.

We are also collaborating with Chloé on the production of embroidered elements, made by Afghan refugees in Pakistan, that will be incorporated into Chloé’s  Spring/Summer 2022 collection. Chloé is a French luxury brand that has recently committed to developing a more sustainable, ethical business as part of their long-term business strategy. 

MADE51 exists to make it easier than ever for global companies to make this kind of sourcing decisions and collaborations.

Through MADE51, we connect refugee artisans in low- and middle-income countries with local ethical businesses who have experience in the crafts sector in order to bring their products to market.  Before we partner with a new enterprise, we review their workplace practices in collaboration with the World Fair Trade Organization. Currently, we have 30 social enterprise partners in 23 countries that, together, bring work to 3000+ refugee artisans. 

Global companies can collaborate with MADE51 to co-create or source products that are produced by refugee artisans across the MADE51 network. To highlight the impact that companies can make with their sourcing decisions, we asked some of our social enterprise partners to explain their experiences. 

  Refugee and local artisans work together in Cairo, Egypt with MADE51 social enterprise partner Yadawee. They create textile products that feature block printing, screen printing, or embroidery. © UNHCR / Gomes


Hisham Gazzer, CEO of Yadawee, a MADE51 partner in Egypt, reported that orders from a large German retailer helped them weather the worst of Covid-19. “The continuous orders from El Puente have helped Yadawee to sustain its business throughout the difficult times of the pandemic and helped us maintain fair wages and decent income to our employees, local and refugee artisans.” 

In Malaysia, Sasibai Kimis, the founder of MADE51’s partner, Earth Heir, reported that, “clients who purchased our refugee-made range of products have given hope and livelihood support to the displaced communities we work with. In Malaysia, where refugees struggle to find work, these purchases supported many refugee families who were unable to fulfill their daily needs and access healthcare.” 

Afghan refugee artisan working on embroidered jewellery, in collaboration with Earth Heir, a MADE51 social enterprise partner in Malaysia. © UNHCR / P Bronstein

For companies that already source from our partners, as Kimis noted, “we wanted to thank these companies from the bottom of our hearts for upholding humane values in their procurement."

For those that haven’t started - we are keen to collaborate and help you to stand #withrefugees

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