Ndebele womanThe Ndebele are famous for their brightly patterned houses, symbolic beaded garments and ceremonial dolls. I was pleased to find a doll supplier who met my fair trade requirements when I was in S.A.

The dolls makers in this group work out of their rural homesteads which is a vital aspect of fair trade for women. With zero jobs in the rural areas, women are forced to go to Johannesburg to find work. This is a tough city to survive in and the women face terrible hardships there. Also, traditional skills are lost if women leave their communities and this contributes to further social breakdown. Truly, craft production is a vital link in a healthy social fabric of a community.

The most effective economic empowerment groups I’ve found are those that help women to stay at home where they can care for their children and elders. The women in this doll making group have been empowered by strong work ethic, consistent quality and fair payment. Their co-coordinator pays the women directly, teaching them to open bank accounts and use bankcards. This has given the women autonomy over their income within families where husbands may feel they have the right to the earnings.