I grew up in Zambia in a privileged family. I ate 3 meals a day, I had the opportunity to study and I had good health care despite living in a developing country. I believe that these are basic human rights. We all have dreams sometimes big, sometimes small. My dream has always been to address poverty. Not with temporary solutions, not with handouts but to make a long-term impact by development through entrepreneurship.
Yawama of Sweden wants to give women the opportunity to rise above poverty. Together with our partner in Zambia- Little Ndaba we embarked on a long and challenging task. Our goal was to create commercial toys made by women in remote areas in Zambia. Toys that not only meet the quality and design expectations for the European market but produced with sustainable organic cotton sourced in Africa.
We have worked hard sourcing appropriate cotton, developing patterns and designs, reworking designs to cut time and costs, training and meeting quality specifications and regulations. Our business model has encouraged women to knit and crochet parts of the dolls from their homes in remote rural areas and we are so proud of the group of over 50 women that have worked so hard to learn and master the Yawama designs and quality specifications. We continue to believe in providing alternative employment opportunities to women in rural areas
One of the many challenges has been to maintain a constant supply of organic cotton from Tanzania which has proved costly in a price competitive market. Organic cotton in Southern Africa is a scarce and pricy commodity. After numerous attempts and discussions we are sad to say that we have chosen NOT to proceed with the organic cotton.
Economic Empowerment of women continues to be our primary focus!
Please take note that our cotton although non-organic continues to be OEKO certified and therefore fills all requirements for child safety.
Welcome to our new and updated website.
January and February just flew right by with Yawama of Sweden positioning ourselves as a distributor. It has been lots of hard work and we have had to look at new ways of marketing. In the online store, we can easily tell stories about each character and we wanted to make sure that our creatures in stores would still carry the descriptions – so new labels had to be made. We decided to go with a new warmer brand colour and we have made new marketing material. Exhibition material, lighting, podiums had to be considered, and of course, our lucky mascot our large elephant Insofu had to be made and dragged with me to every trade fair.
Liana knitting Insofu.
What an exciting time with trade fairs in both Stockholm and Holland and numerous visits to toys shops, museums, interior stores and gift stores.
We are so glad to be enriched not only by this new marketing experience but by all the new friends we have made and the new stores that are now carrying our brand.
Our creatures can now be found at the following stores in Sweden.
Calle Kanin Skellefteå
Marias Blommor Umeå
Ting o tanke Falkenberg
Svenska presenter Valdermarsvik
Hemma i Stavsjö Hemma i Stavsjö
We will soon also be in Germany and in Holland and have negotiations underway in so many other exciting stores!
Christmas just around the corner and the women at little Ndaba have been working so hard to complete our Christmas orders which includes our brand new crocheted collection. Not exactly Santas’ toy factory up in the north but a smaller version of it with women spread over Zambia with their knitting needles and crocheting hooks.
We are so excited about working with a new group of extremely motivated women contracted to work specifically with a small part of our new collection. These women are based in Chillilabombwe (which is 434km from Lusaka a good 7-8 hour bus ride). The group was incredibly excited about being given the opportunity to work on one particular piece of clothing- a pair of dungarees for one of our new toys. So the deadline was set for shipment and the women worked hard before the deadline to make sure the shorts were good and ready.
Crocheted shorts for Yawama of Sweden new collection
The shorts were boxed and ready for the trip to Lusaka. Initially the women had missed the bus going from Chililabombwe so they jumped on a bus to Kitwe (2 hours away from Chililabombe) to try and catch another bus travelling through to Lusaka… (I think it says something for their commitment!) but then no one (bus diver/station master etc) could find the box of shorts when they finally got to Lusaka. 4 days later after much rummaging through bags and boxes the shorts were located in the depths of Lusaka inter-city bus terminal with the help of a very sweet bus driver called Mr Daka.
Luckily too they all passed the quality screening and the shorts actually fit the toy! (take note when working from such remote locations there is always a chance that things might not work out as we would expect them too.
These adorable shorts are now on their way to Sweden, a few days behind the toys that will be wearing them.
I just cant wait to show you all our new designs soon!
Lusaka bus terminal picture from my visit in 2014
I am saying my official goodbyes to my role heading the museum on this magnificent island of Norrbyskär.
I am truly grateful to have been entrusted to manage this important cultural heritage that is a symbolic cornerstone in the welfare state the we enjoy in Sweden today. The saw-milling era at its prime in the 20s – 50s brought with it major changes- productivity, job creation, export opportunities and economic gain.
Every journey one embarks upon will leave a trail. This one is mine.
I have learned to appreciate even more so the benefits previous generations have paid the price for -controlled working hours and conditions, more favourable womens rights, childrens right to an education and controlled use of chemicals in industry.
I have explored cultural avenues that I would have never dreamed of taking.
I have stood before crowds of visitors and taken tours in a language that is not my mother tongue.
I have made friends from all walks of life.
I have worked hard.
I have laughed.
I have cried.
A little piece of Norrbyskär always in my heart.
I move on to continue working with women in Zambia with the vision of making a difference in their lives through Yawama of Sweden.
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.
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)
You know the song ” It takes a whole village to raise a child”
Yes. I sometimes miss that village!
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!”