This International Women’s Day we are joining UN Women in recognising the contribution of women and girls around the world, who are leading the way in tackling climate change.
At present, climate change is a major challenge to gender equality. Women are increasingly being recognized as more vulnerable to climate change impacts than men, particularly displaced women.
Yet, displaced women can and do play a critical role in responding to climate change by supporting the stability, preparedness
and resilience of their families and communities to climate shocks, and working to mitigate the climate crisis.
In MADE51, 95% of our artisan partners are women, actively working towards a brighter future for themselves, their families, and their communities. Working with our social enterprise partners (the majority of which are women-led businesses!) refugee artisans are gaining income and stability, while building a brighter future for our planet.
The work they are doing is handmade, artisanal work, which is a more eco-friendly form of production than traditional manufacturing. Added to this, across the 23 countries in which we operate, our partners are using locally-sourced raw materials or, where possible, natural or up-cycled materials.
We’re thrilled to share some of our favourite sustainable items and the story behind them:
"It's really nice to work with refugee women here. I feel valuable."
Nargis, 25, was born and raised in Syria. Her family, originally from Afghanistan, live in Syria together. Her and her younger sister are the primary income earners for her family.
"Even though we have been working with Bebemoss for a short time, it has had a very positive impact on my life. I'm embroidering here. When I was little, my mother used to embroider a lot, I learned this from her. That's why this job has an emotional feel to me. I remember old happy days while doing the craft. We are happy when we produce here, I say to myself 'a lot of people are working on it, I wonder who will use it, which country will it go to, in which purpose they're going to use it' I think about that story. I travel via the craft I made. "
Entirely female run, Bebemoss provides sustainable jobs with fair wages to mothers living on the outskirts of Istanbul. Creating at home work for mothers in the artisan sector is a crucial component of Bebemoss's family driven business to create beautiful toys and sustainable livelihoods.
The artisan sector can be a powerful source for livelihood opportunities and has been recognized as a more environmentally sustainable choice for production.
Our social enterprise partner in Rwanda, Indego Africa, is working to make their production of decorative basketry, all of which is done by women, as low-impact as possible.
Last year Indego Africa held dye workshops for the groups of women they work with across Rwanda, including refugees living in Kigeme Refugee Camp. They worked with an expert in hand dyeing who offered participatory, step-by-step training on dyeing sisal and raffia fibers, included new technical skills using measurement, timing, and temperature. Through the workshops, women were able to start achieve better quality and uniformity of colour, leading to a reduction in fibre waste and an overall more sustainable production method.
”Empowering women is key to building a future we want” - Amartya Sen, Refugee artisan at WEAVE
WEAVE Women has been committed to gender equality and the empowerment of marginalized indigenous women in Thailand and Myanmar since 1990. They are making a huge difference by creating ethical work opportunities for refugee women living in camps in Northern Thailand, and acting as an invaluable link between refugees artisans and international markets.
Each doll at SilaiWali is made using fabric up-cycled from the waste generated by mass clothing manufacturers. Featuring different skin tones, the dolls are dressed up in tunics, kaftans and chambray dresses to celebrate the cultural diversity.
Umutoni, 21, was only 15 years old when she fled her home country, the Democratic Republic of Congo. Umutoni was born and raised by subsistence farmers, the middle child between two brothers. Her fondest memory of her hometown is an annual tradition where her community would come together during the harvest season to share their surplus with less fortunate neighbors, ensuring that nobody lacked food to eat. One of the things she appreciates about her roots is the fact that most people in Congo only wear African-print clothing.
Due to violent clashes in the DRC, Umutoni fled her home in 2015. She was separated from her family but found safety in Kenya at @RefuSHE an organisation that runs a Safe House for young refugee women. She was offered support, including counselling, life skills classes, medical assistance and legal aid.
Six years later, she is thriving. Umutoni is a member of the RefuSHE Artisan Collective, producing beautiful, hand-dyed textiles. She is also dreaming big: Umutoni loves everything about fashion and plans to be both a designer and a model in the future.
Forcibly displaced Burundian women at WomenCraft weave incredible baskets and home decor by using only natural grass - star grass called "ugwafu" in the local language and a papyrus called "intyamyi" in the local language - and recycled plastic sacks, used for rice and flours.
A sustainable future starts with initiatives like these, that not only provide life-changing opportunities for refugee women, but also solve a plastic bag problem.