Great news: Women of Kireka has received a $500 seed grant from Do Something.org. The grant will go to diversifying our jewelry line with new materials and providing WoK members with additional training.payday loans online Because WoK's profits are spent as direct income to its members and on rent, it is hard to find the financial breathing room to expand into new products. This is exactly the type of boost we needed to be able to do that. Thank-you Do Something!
If you missed the Women of Kireka Bead Party at Cafe Kawa tonight, here are some of the products that were on display. Thanks to all of you that have stopped by to show your support
. If any of these pieces are of interest to you, please do send us a message via Twitter for a catalog or we can get in touch on how to bring them to you if you are in Kampala.
We have new earring styles for the holidays
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Sam and Sara wearing Women of Kireka jewelry.
Sometimes it is easy to overlook the roots of a situation. While working with the women from Kireka, I must regularly remind myself of the circumstances that led to the work they perform today. I don’t forget, but I don’t always think about the fact that these women have not always lived the way they live now. The women are so strong, stubborn, and eager that sometimes it is incredibly difficult to imagine a time when they were ever weak. Thinking of the women in that state is honestly a terrifying mental exercise. However, as a result of recent events I am compelled to look back to a history I have never personally known, but one that is engrained within the women’s lives.
In the face of art, craft, and jewelry we are not typically forced to consider the violent history that pressured these Acholi women to leave their homes in northern Uganda. Yet in light of Obama’s recent mandate for 100 American troops to aid Ugandan forces in the search for Joseph Kony and his band of guerilla fighters, the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), this history should return to the forefront. The LRA has instilled brutal havoc throughout the Great Lakes region of Africa for decades. Not only have they displaced numerous people from their homes, like the women of Kireka, but they are also well known for abducting child soldiers into their ranks. The list of violations is lengthy, but Kony has yet to be apprehended and the violence has yet to be completely suppressed.
There have been mixed reactions to the soldiers sent to Uganda. They have been very clearly and carefully explained as advisors in the hunt for the LRA, and they are absolutely not mandated to engage in any type of combat. They are meant to support existing efforts to track Kony and function as a tangible means of offering the Ugandan government an expanded selection of resources and technology. Human rights groups like Oxfam and the Enough Project have cautiously hailed Obama for sending the troops. At the same time observers have justly explained the situation as further evidence of Obama’s big stick foreign policy trend that started with Libya. While some support the measure as a reasonable effort toward peace and security, others believe the U.S. has interests in Uganda’s oil or Uganda’s assistance in combating terror groups in neighboring countries like Somalia. For those suffering at the hands of the LRA, the reason for U.S. involvement may not matter.
I have yet to speak to the women in depth on this matter, but I look forward to finding out more about their reaction. Whether Americans are in favor of a more isolationist foreign policy approach or not, the troops could make an incredible difference to the situation in northern Uganda and the neighboring countries where the LRA has committed acts of violence. I think James Traub from Foreign Policy magazine best sums up the heart of the matter:
“I asked Tom Malinowski, the Washington director of Human Rights Watch, if he understood why the Obama administration had decided to send troops to Uganda. Yes, he did, he said: “Because they thought it was the right thing to do.”
We’ll see if the women agree.
Tuesday night was the Afrikan Fashion Walk Awards nomination party. Held at Club Rouge, the party was frequented by some of Kampala’s trendiest young men and women. Girls sporting everything from banana leaves to harem pants strutted about under the watchful lenses of media cameras. The actual Awards will take place in December, but the evening’s nomination party is an essential stepping stone to unveiling the 2011 hopefuls for awards such as Best Designer and Best Fashion Journalist. Fashion Walk’s ultimate aim is to highlight some of East Africa’s rising talent in design and fashion, but it is also meant to honor innovative and fresh contributions to the industry.
Baraka Daud surrounded by his colleagues
Also attending this party was Santa, Jennifer, and I. Women of Kireka has been selected for the Fashion Walk’s initiative to donate a portion of their proceeds to an issue or organization they find admirable. Although we faced a number of challenges, Jennifer and I were eventually able to speak before the crowd of attendants and news cameras. It was a wonderful opportunity to share Women of Kireka with the fashion industry. This group of people has likely had little exposure to women like those from Kireka and their type of work. It was also surely an unforgettable experience for the women as the world of urban, high-class fashion is certainly not one they have encountered with frequency. Many of the outfits had them stunned, but they were still interested in sustaining the connection that was formed between the cooperative and the Awards. Baraka Daud, the chairman, was also amazingly accommodating and very generous. We look forward to advancing the partnership that has formed between the Women of Kireka and Afrikan Fashion Walk Awards.
Cameras and Crowd
This Saturday was the launch of an amazing new jewelry and bead store in Kampala: Taloso Workshop. Not only is it an ideal location to find fresh and funky jewelry, but you can also create your own piece. Taloso offers a wide variety of beads and supplies ranging from all over Africa. The vibrant and inviting atmosphere is a great location to relax, get inspired, and fulfill your fashion desires. At the front of the store you find a large table and couches, which serves as a comfortable setting for making your creations. Yet as soon as you walk in you can’t help but be struck by the brilliant array of colors and unique designs. They have also found brilliant ways of incorporating WoK’s favorite paper beads into their jewelry. Here is a glimpse of some of the amazing creations and supplies offered at Taloso:
A wide selection of paper beads to create unique and gorgeous pieces.
Manager Ann Apio working her magic as she pieces together a new necklace.
Other products offered by Taloso Workshop
Ann and,her colleague, Miriam's creations
Not only are they beautiful necklaces, but they make fantastic decor.
There are some exciting new pieces to look forward to from Women of Kireka. We will always love the traditional paper bead necklaces, with their vibrant colors and versatility. However, the group is branching into some eco-ethnic-chic (the whole shebang!) styles that are not only hip, but just as fun as their predecessors. As we begin to incorporate metals into our line of necklaces, earrings, and bracelets, fresh designs are popping up that may be of interest to the paper bead connoisseur, or just your average gal looking for trendy and unique jewelry. Here is a small sample of WoK’s upcoming products.
While I have found myself repeatedly struck with the unexpected by the women in Kireka, they do something especially remarkable and arresting on a daily basis. Though they would likely describe it as ordinary, the fact that the women bring their young children to work is quite admirable. The women juggle caring for their infants with producing beautiful products with much aplomb. Observing their proficiency at working while nurturing, I have become quite compelled by what it means to be a mother in Uganda
. Of course, this is a category that can be fulfilled with vastly diverse criteria, but the thought has led me to many of Uganda’s issues concerning the status of women.
In July the New York Times published a slideshow depicting the state of maternal health in Uganda. I urge you to take a look at the photos, but they particularly highlight the poor conditions that make Uganda one of 21 countries leading in the world’s maternal deaths. Many of the hospitals in Uganda appear to be understaffed, underequipped, and unsanitary, which makes being a pregnant patient of one of these hospitals rather unsafe. Unfortunately, maternal health is not the only area where Uganda struggles to support its women.
About a week ago Syda Bbumba, Uganda’s Minister of Gender, Labor and Social Development, discussed the failings and improvements Uganda’s women have witnessed in recent years. Not only has female enrollment in high school and universities risen, but the number of women in the government cabinet has increased from 23 percent to 28 percent in five years. However, Bbumba goes on to state that the women of Uganda “ are quite enterprising but they lack the appropriate capital, they lack access to markets, and they lack access to collateral.” Despite clear evidence of progress, Uganda’s women remain on shaky ground in many areas of society and development. Women of Kireka collaborates the efforts of a relatively small group of women, but the cooperative is closely related to these types of issues. This area of business where women are confronting many challenges is the very area and means with which Women of Kireka seeks to sustainably endorse women.
The women of Kireka have most definitely piqued my curiosity about the women of Uganda. I hope you find exploring these issues as telling and worthwhile as I did.