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Growing up.

My kids are no longer kids. How on earth did time fly? Moving from Zambia to Sweden 6 years ago was a decision we made so that they too could learn the language and connect with their swedish roots. We moved closer to their grandparents and we settled into a little industrial community on the outskirts of Umeå.

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Their childhood years on a small farm in Zambia happily dependant on mum and dad and the Zambian social network slowly replaced by small city life in Sweden and finding their own feet. Toys became more technical, clothes more branded, styles more varied in persuit of their own identity.

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The Zambian over protective mum in me is still struggling with not having my usual safe social structures and huge family network to turn to. I  love the fact that Sweden encourages kids to discover themselves in a way that was unthinkable when I grew up in Zambia but I do miss being a major influencer in their lives. ( and I am not saying that this would not have happened if we were still living in Zambia)

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You know the song ” It takes a whole village to raise a child”

Yes. I sometimes miss that village!

 

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I saw Nina

Training

Training knittes

I saw Nina Yesterday. I saw myself. 12 years old in a predominantly white boarding school in newly independent Zimbabwe standing up and saying. “ ENOUGH!!”. My fight then was for the right for blacks and whites to use the same showers.. to be able to stand in the same space. As I grew older my fight has evolved focusing on women who can’t own a space due to be being economically crippled.  They are silenced. They are no one. They are part of this never ending malicious poverty trap. They are women in Zambia.

Yawama of Sweden is my initiative born out of my numerous years in the aid sector wanting more than just hand outs for women. Wanting women to feel a sense of self worth. Wanting women to feel ownership. Wanting women to be economically independent. Wanting women to send their kids to school…..I could go on.

This is what Yawama is about.

Yawama in my tribal language bemba means “It is really good!”

 

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The Process

I am so excited about the business growth that we are witnessing. The initial team of 5 knitters has grown and now more than 30 ladies are part of knitting and crocheting groups spread in the surrounding villages.

Little Ndaba have developed the business model  where women are now devided into piece makers and joiners. The piece makers work from home at specific meeting points in their different villages while the joiners work from Little Ndaba ensuring that the final toy is stitched and stuffed in accordance with EU regulations for toy safety. Little Ndaba coordinate yarn delivery and collection of knitted toys and conduct in field training.

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Each piece maker gets paid per completed set and the joiner is paid per completed toy. The ladies today receive the equivalent of 6-8% of the final price of each toy on the international market. Our ultimate goal provided we can are able to start bulk buying of yarn and start importing larger numbers of toys is 10%.

This is a great business modell for the development of rural communities that I sincerely believe has the potential to provide many women with the possibilites of work outside of the farming season and is further independant of other household commitments. Many of the ladies are able to work from their homes or in smaller groups within the village setting. Smaller children can still be part of their mothers day.

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Amazing women of Chikumbuso

Our recent trip to Zambia was as usual humbling and inspiring. This was Claras’ first visit to Zambia and our first day was spent with the widows from Chikumbuso.  Chikumbuso always has an inviting and an incredibly peaceful environment and the women happily showed us around the facilities that show a well organised school for orphaned and underprivileged kids, a kitchen facility where lunches are provided for the students and the women and a small boarding facility.

Our chikumbuso bags are crocheted here in Ngombe compound which is one of Lusakas’ largest slums. Our shweshwe range of bags and cushion covers are also sewn at the center. We continue to be inspired by these women and their determination to improve their lives.

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New organic soft toys-panono panono

……Psst take a look at our new collection. We  have added a range of new colours to our collection Nsofwa, Kolwe and Nombe. Now we also have a small collection of organic crocheted rattles that are the perfect size for small baby hands. Our progress is slow and steady.

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Each new product requires months of preparation. New designs are sent to Zambia. Yarn is ordered from Tanzania. The ladies from little Ndaba work through the designs and make a number of prototypes which get sent back to us in Sweden. Further changes are made and then finally a new product range arrives.

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The economic situation in Zambia with dollar rates fluctuating on a daily basis, power and water shortages make planning and every day life for the average Zambian a nightmare and more so for the business person.

 

baby rattles

organic toys

Once the products are in Sweden we work on the photography, product descriptions and sales and marketing. We continue to work on improving marketing strategies to increase sales so that the ladies can continue knitting and earning an income. One steady step at a time. As we say in Zambia panono panono!