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Our Artisan Community Profile.

We work with different tribes in different parts of Kenya. Every tribe has evolved in it’s own unique way over the last one thousand years. For example, the Kamba are masters at carving gorgeous sculptures from wood, the Kikuyu weave baskets from sisal fiber and papyrus reeds, the Kisii carve from soapstone. The coastal tribes weave cotton material and incorporate shells and pearls from the Indian ocean.

Our main tribe is the Maasai tribe. They are nomadic pastoralists in South eastern Kenya. They have mastered the art of beading. They craft every piece intricately by hand. Using beads and leather tanned from their cattle, they make jewelry, sandals, bags, belts, dog accessories and many more. If it can be made with leather and beads, they make it.

The Maasai live in a patriarchal culture. The women are responsible for building the houses, fetching water from the river, collecting firewood, milking the cattle, preparing food for the family and much more.

The man’s role is to observe and give advice.

The men usually take more than one wife. They believe wealth is determined by the size of the herd and the number of children. Women tend to carry the responsibility of feeding and clothing the children. They usually have little or no access to contraception therefore, no control on the size of the families.

Livestock is the primary source of income and food for the families. The men own the livestock. The health and size of the herd is greatly dependent on the weather patterns and available pasture to graze. In years when the rains fail, the consequences for the cattle, women and children is dire.

Women learn the craft of beading at a young age. The beads a woman wears articulate her place in society. Every color has a meaning. Every pattern sends a unique message.

Beading is also used as a way of building bonds among the women. After they are done with chores, they come together to talk, relax, fellowship, catch up with each other while beading.

The men sell some of the cattle to buy beads. Women with wealthier husbands have more ornaments and beaded jewelry. Women from poor households cannot afford beads and are not invited to beading circles. The cycle repeats itself through generations.

The men arrange marriages between their daughters and older, wealthier men in exchange for an agreed number of cows as dowry. In some villages young women undergo excision or female circumcision (female to genital mutilation) as a rite of passage. They are considered women ready for an arranged marriage and so, their adult life begins.

Statistics aside. My experience with the Maasai is warm and memorable. They are a colorful, musical, happy, grateful people. They take care of each other and go out of their way to be hospitable and kind. You can’t help but gaze in awe as they dance, moving the ornamental beadwork on their chest to make music. The young morans (warriors) jump higher than gravity should allow dressed in red checkered shukas, holding their spears and shields.

They have so much in common with native Americans. The beading designs, patterns, colors, dances and general way of life seems to share the same spirit.

Sawa Sawa Collection works with the women to help them harness the skills in beading. Through our 501c3 programs, we make sure every woman has beads and tools to create. We help them with designs that are simpler and fashionable. We buy all the products at a fair market price to give them a sustainable income. We use the profits made from the sales to improve their quality of life.

We work with other tribes as well. We hope as we grow and create a bigger market in the USA for the modern artifacts, we can include more communities and make a bigger impact.

The median age in Kenya is 19.1 years. More than 75% of the population is under 30. The economy does not support job creation for the youth. 74% live in rural areas with no access to innovation. Most young adults are have a high school education and a high percentage have a college degree. They are capable of working towards a strife free future given the opportunity.

Sawa Sawa Collection hopes to be part of the solution through our work and our programs. Our goal is cultural preservation and appreciation, poverty eradication, female entrepreneurship and empowerment.

Our programs include access to contraception, food and nutrition, education and training in ancient craft, and resources for the women.

Through empathetic, active listening, we hope to learn more about their pockets of need and be of service to the wonderful, hardworking women that make our ethical, fair, sustainable, global-changing fashion line possible.

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Sawa Sawa Collection: Empathetic Listening.

Our priority is our artisan women in Kenya. They are the fuel that drives our passion. Our impact strategy is to help them overcome the unique challenges facing African rural women in Kenya.

We do this by appreciating the ancient skills they have mastered over their entire lives. Skills in beading, weaving, basketry, sculpting, art etc. We help them realize the value in their craft.

Through empathetic listening, we take away any prejudice or assumptions and really listen. We give them a chance to tell us what they really need and how we can really help. By not assuming what they might need, we get a chance to prioritize their needs and learn from them.

Our first priority is to make sure every woman has beads and tools to create. Any woman who wants to make a living should have the opportunity to do so. We buy the handmade products at fair market value to give them a sustainable income.

We use the profits to find lasting solutions to any problems they need help with. Here is where we shut up and really listen. Every village is different, every tribe is different. Different cultures have different ways of handling situations and different protocols allowing ‘outsiders’ in.

Empathetic listening helps us understand our place. We partner with the artisan women and allow them to guide us through their day to day experiences. Their happiness in simplicity is humbling. Their love and concern for one another is inspiring.

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Meaning of white in African Maasai culture.

White in the African culture represents Purity and Peace.

The Maasai are nomadic pastrolists that treasure their cattle and everything they provide.

Milk is considered pure and a super food. It feeds the calves and the children.

The white color of the milk inspires the meaning.

Jewelry handmade of white beads communicates purity and peace.

See our collection of white Maasai beaded tassel earrings. Shop here.

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Thank you Google!

This Thanksgiving we are grateful to be approved for a $10,000 a month google ad grant. We are grateful to google for valuing our work and acknowledging the impact cultural handmade products have on women empowerment, cultural preservation and economic freedom.
We hope to take this opportunity to grow our mission and our impact.

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Sawa Sawa Collection Giving Tuesday 2019

Giving Tuesday is a day to spread love and cheer to people and organizations helping make the world a better place.

Make a difference this Giving Tuesday. Donate to a nonprofit close to your heart. It takes a village to make our world the place we want for our children.

Join is on our Facebook fundraiser to raise funds to buy beads for our women artisans. Donate through our website or through our Facebook fundraiser here

Crowdfund on Google One Today here

Explore our collection here Help our mission by buying the craft that gives the artisan women a sustainable income. An earring is not just an earring, it’s food on the table for a family this season.

Have a happy Thanksgiving. So much to be grateful for.

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Sawa Sawa Collection: Underserved Population.

sawa sawa collection, Maasai woman

We are a 501c3 nonprofit fashion brand based in Austin, TX. Our products are handmade in Kenya by artisan women in underserved marginalized communities.

Our organization represents an underserved community of rural artisan women in Kenya. According to research done by PEP, 44% of women in Kenya are poor and 95% of the poor are live in rural areas. Partnership for economic policy suggests poverty reduction policies relating to female entrepreneurship could be a lasting solution.

Sawa Sawa Collection partners specifically with artisan women in central and Eastern Kenya from the Kikuyu, Kamba and Maasai tribes.

Kamba and Kikuyu tribes have traditionally been farmers, they rely on growing seasons to make a living. The Kamba were originally sculptors and long-distance traders. The Maasai are nomadic pastoralists, their income comes from cattle. They depend on pasture in open fields to graze.

The women in these tribes practice beading, weaving, basketry, and sculpting during their free time for ceremonial rites of passage. Our organization helps them supplement their income by partnering with them. We provide them with resources, tools and materials to make more handmade items. We help them improve the designs and quality of the items and buy them at a fair market price. We find a market for the fashion accessories, sandals, bags, art etc. in the USA. The revenue goes back to the artisan communities through our sustainability programs.

Most of these women are in polygamous marriages or are head of households. The diversified income helps them pay for basic needs and raise a healthy family. This helps pave a way for a generation shift out of poverty.

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Sawa Sawa Collection: Aid through Trade.

Sawa Sawa Collection artisan women handmade designs.
Sawa Sawa Collection artisan women in Kenya.

Our mission at Sawa Sawa Collection is to empower artisan women in Kenya live a sustainable, dignified life using skills passed down through generations in beading, weaving, basketry, sculpting, and art.

This helps them provide basic needs for their families, preserve the culture and be a source of economic development in the community.

By giving them a chance to make beautiful earrings, necklaces, shoes, bags, wraps, we give them a platform to share their craft with the world.

They gain economic empowerment which leads to social freedom and a healthier community.

We are passionate about our work and the impact it creates in every day lives of artisan women in Kenya.

Both founders of Sawa Sawa Collection have a background in Finance. They use their knowledge in commerce and trade to create positive, social change.

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Sawa Sawa Collection Sustainability.

At Sawa Sawa, we believe that trade is better than aid. Giving our artisan women an opportunity to get themselves out of poverty and strife through skills in beading, weaving, sculpting that they use in their everyday life.

This gives them pride in their achievements, self confidence and become a good example for the younger generations.

It reduces their reliance on international aid from organizations such as, the united nations, Action aid, OXfam, Usaid among others.

Putting a monetary value in the ancient, tribal beading, weaving, sculpting, basketry etc. helps preserve the cultural practices and teach future generations the history of the people while sustaining economic development.

Our sustainability program is based on trade. We provide the artisans with the tools, materials, resources and training they need. We help them find lasting solutions to other pressing problems that hinder their productivity and quality of life. Finally, we buy all the handmade products at a fair market value to create a complete cycle.

We sell the products in the USA and put the money back into our programs and the artisan communities.

We have seen a direct result in poverty eradication, female empowerment, economic freedom and overall quality of life.

Help us, Shop our artisan line, donate, volunteer your time and skills, share our mission with a friend.

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Learn more about our mission.

At Sawa Sawa Collection, we aim to create a group of self helping artisan women in Kenya.

We foster a few programs that help women create lasting solutions to the unique cultural and economic challenges they face.

Our two major programs are;

1. Providing the artisan women with resources, for example, beads, leather, strings, tool kits etc. They create beautiful accessories, shoes, bags, art using ancient skills. They learn these skills throughout their life.

2. We buy the products from them at a fair, market price. We assist them with modern, contemporary designs that keep the authenticity of the time-tested tribal craftsmanship.

This creates a sustainable wage they can rely on. They are able to provide for their families, have economic freedom and be a source of economic development.

See more about our programs on our PayPal donation page. Here.

Our goal this coming year is to create a resource center in Kenya. Make it a safe place for women to support each other and get all the help they need.

We appreciate all the help we have received this far.

Donations, grants and buying our artisan accessories, shoes and bags.

Happy Holidays to all.

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Kate and the Artisans

Our co-founder kate spending some quality time with the artisans. We love to be in the same space learning from them and hearing about their every day routines. It is in walking in their shoes that we learn how we can be of service to them and help them fulfill their potential.

Sawa Sawa Collection co-founder Kate with the artisans.