Help the women of eastern Congo by supporting
our launch of a second location in Bukavu.
Help the women of eastern Congo by supporting our launch of a second location in Bukavu.
The Mamafrica Philosophy
At Mamafrica, we believe that to empower a woman is to transform a society. Mamafrica is a fair-trade sewing cooperative based in Bukavu, South Kivu, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The country’s eastern regions have witnessed decades of conflict, and the lives of many of our artisans have been directly impacted by this instability. Our organization’s intent is not to “rescue” Congolese women from conflict, discrimination, trauma or poverty. We instead see in each artisan tremendous opportunity for growth, healing, and creativity, and we believe that each woman can herself be a force for change in her community.
Who We Are
Mamafrica is women-owned and founded, and 90% of our in-country staff is female. Our organization was co-founded by Aline Malekera, a Bukavu native, and Ashley Nemiro, a U.S.-born Mental Health Therapist who first traveled to the DRC to conduct research on sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV). Founded in 2012, we are a start-up initiative looking to expand our impact in eastern Congo and our support base in the United States. We are a Fair-Trade Federation (FTF) certified organization.
Each Mamafrica artisan works full-time handcrafting our unique fair-trade products. Mamafrica’s model meets a critical unmet need for woman-centered employment creation in the Bukavu community, where less than 20% of women are formally employed. Mamafrica’s programs foster financial independence among our artisans and enable them to enrich the lives of their own families and communities, providing the impetus for generational change.
In addition to sewing and design workshops, Mamafrica artisans participate in monthly literacy courses and healing arts programs. These programs aim to capitalize on the unique life experiences of each woman and facilitate positive life change.
Mamafrica also runs a full-time nursery to ensure that each child receives adequate and stimulating care while his or her mother is hard at work. For older children, Mamafrica hosts after-school programs during the summer months, providing a safe space for young adults to practice decision-making, learn critical life skills, and discuss tough issues.
Meet the Artisans
At Mamafrica, the whole of our approach is artisan-driven. We seek to enrich the lives of the Congolese women who craft our products, and the lives of our families. As a fair-trade organization, we believe that one cannot understate the importance of the connection between consumer and producer. We hope that you take the opportunity to get to know some of our artisans by viewing the pictures below and reading more about them on our blog.
Asifiwe is one of Mamafrica’s youngest artisans. Vibrant and full of energy, she describes herself as the “social programs coordinator” at Mamafrica’s Ushindi Center in Bukavu and takes it upon herself to create a supportive community among Mamafrica’s women artisans. Asifiwe’s words, “Congolese women deserve better.” Forced to postpone her studies before graduation and accept an early marriage, Asifiwe continues to work toward her secondary school degree. Today Asifiwe studies through support from Mamafrica.
Mapenzi loves working at Mamafrica because it gives her an opportunity to earn a livelihood from two of the things that she loves most: sewing and teaching. She dreams that her children will one day find this same passion in their work, whether they choose to pursue careers as doctors or mechanics. “Women have a unique ability to empathize with our children,” Mapenzi says. “We share a special connection with them.”
The Rewards For Our Backers
Why Invest in Mamafrica?
As we approach our third year of operations, we find ourselves at a pivotal point in organizational development. Mamafrica is looking to replicate the impact we have had at the Ushindi Center as we expand to a second location in Essence, an under-resourced community on the outskirts of Bukavu. Your contribution will enable us to work with an even greater number of women in eastern Congo and to continue to confront critical social, economic, and psychological needs.
Your contribution will facilitate:
- The introduction of 40 new women into Mamafrica’s sewing and holistic healing programs
- Location expansion into an area of critical need
- Long-term financial security for program artisans and their families
Risks and challenges
Mamafrica’s work in Bukavu, DRC brings with it a unique set of challenges. When ordering from Mamafrica, you are sure to receive a one-of-a-kind product handmade with love in the DRC. However, given the certain operational obstacles particular to production in Bukavu, we request your patience as we strive to provide you with the highest quality fair-trade fashion.
Challenge: Timely production. Unreliable electricity, varying product availability, and the high costs of shipping make efficient production a challenge in Bukavu. Once shipped, however, we can reliably track your order and ensure that it arrives in a timely manner.
Challenge: Exact kitenge print or color. We buy all of our fabric locally in the markets of Bukavu. Fabric styles and colors often change by weekly in the local markets, so our products are constantly changing patterns. We apologize if your pattern of choice is no longer available. We encourage you to check our website frequently for the latest new styles and patterns.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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