She is all dressed up. Her hair is braided and she is beautiful. She carries herself with grace and laughs heartily like most African women I know do. In her hand she carries her mobile phone. She is strong, confident and positive. Like most Zambian women she believes in a brighter future for her children. Anna plays a huge part in the production process at little Ndaba our partner for the Yawama Kids soft toy collection. She ensures that the other women who come to the Wednesday meetings get the training and the encouragement that they need and ensures that quality specifications have been addressed. She is also responsible for yarn distribution.
Anna has been knitting since the age of 6. Her mother was her inspiration. She lives with her husband Innocent, in small brick house that belongs to the pig farmer where her husband works. They have electricity and running water. They have 5 children. Her oldest child is 21 and her youngest child is 8. They own a deep freezer and a TV. Innocent has a steady income.
Prior to her involvement at Little Ndaba Anna tried to make a living knitting baby blankets and scarves. She would spend a great amount of time trying to market her product. Now she can spend more time knitting and leave the marketing part to little Ndaba. Most often she knits in the early hours of the morning or in the evenings in front of the TV. Every year she plants 1 ha of maize from which she harvests 20 bags of maize for her own family consumption.
With the extra income she makes Anna dreams of one day owning her own plot of land.
YES YES YES. WE PASSED!
When this E mail came a few weeks ago I almost felt like I was back at school receiving exam results. After spending months trying to source an African organic cotton supplier, the little Ndaba team in Zambia together with the team at Yawama of Sweden ( Anna Lidström and Clara Lidström and myself) worked on new designs for the Yawama Kids. You can only imagine my excitement when ALL our toys PASSED in ALL areas of the safety test. I could not have done this alone. Thank you Charles at Little Ndaba and to Erin from Totoknits for your commitment to design, development and women empowerment in Africa.
Developing toys to meet European safety standards can be costly business but can also be done in your home kitchen. We have tested both options. I have had so much support from Conformance and have run many trial run tests on our prototypes at home before sending our toys to the lab for analysis for official testing. So when I sent our 12 soft toys off I knew exactly what their fate was. Torture.
European standard EN 71 specifies safety requirements for toys with specific regulations for soft toys. Compliance with the standard is legally required for all toys sold in the European Union. The standard has been published in 12 parts and includes tests for flammability to ensure that fire does not spread quickly if the toy were to catch fire, mechanical testing to ensure that body parts and smaller parts can handle a certain weight before falling off and that dangerous elements are not present in the toy.
Further reading for those wishing to branch out in a similar venture
En hel hög av dessa goa mjukisdjur hade jag hemma hos mig, men bara tills det var dags att packa ner alla elefanter, apor, zebror mfl, och skicka dem till Sverige (hade gärna behållt några…). Några dagar tidigare hade jag hämtat alla dessa färgglada djur på en gård strax utanför Lusaka, Zambia där Little Ndaba har sin bas. Dit kommer kvinnor från närliggande byar för att tillverka vackra och fantasifulla leksaker. Just den här dagen var alla kvinnor på plats och när jag kom var de i full färd med att packa i ordning alla 90 (!) mjukisdjur. De var så glada att tillslut få skicka iväg sina handstickade kreationer, och jag kan tro att de även var lättade! Kvinnorna vinkade glatt efter oss och nu sitter deras alster i Sverige, så långt ifrån deras byar, och väntar på att få nya hem!