Eradicating Poverty with Beads

If you have read one of my previous posts on how socially-minded business 31 Bits empowers the women of Northern Uganda, you might find this organisation to be quite similar in its aim. The bonus, however, is that BeadforLife is a non-profit organisation, as well as a member of the Fair Trade Federation that strives to eradicate poverty in Uganda.Screen Shot 2013-11-03 at 5.39.22 AM

Our Mission: BeadforLife creates sustainable opportunities for women to lift their families out of extreme poverty by connecting people worldwide in a circle of exchange that enriches everyone.

We teach women how to provide for themselves, their families and even their communities. The goal of our model is to put money into the hands of our members, and to create sustainable income streams that they can depend on for years to come. We provide entrepreneurial or agri-business training, help our members open savings accounts and award business grants. We even adapt our core model to fit the needs of each of our regions: Kampala, Iganga and Otuke.

Visit their website here to see how you can help to eradicate poverty in Uganda today.

Jewelry line faced with criticisms

Walmart’s existing jewelry line, ‘Love, Earth’, claims that its production processes meet the corporation’s standards and criteria for ethical sourcing. However, an article published by Broward Palm Beach New Times reveals otherwise. Written by Jean Friedman-Rudovsky, her article refutes the multinational retail corporation’s claims of its jewelry line being “affordable, quality jewelry made from gold and silver that are traceable and from mines that maintain leading environmental and social standards”.

Extract from “Walmart’s ‘Love, Earth’ Jewelry Line Doesn’t Live Up to Green Promises”:

A few blocks from the jewelry factory’s entrance in La PazBolivia, Julia and Maria look over their shoulders to see if the night guards are watching. The two young Aymara Indian women shiver in the cold night air and lower their heads as they speak.

“It’s a horrible experience, but it’s what I have to do to feed my kids,” says Julia, a 20-something mother of two. “Supervisors yell at us constantly, and if we don’t finish our work quickly enough, we are told: ‘The doors are open for you to go.’ ”

Says Maria: “There isn’t even soap or adequate masks to protect from the dust.” Their list goes on — insufficient pay, strip searches upon exiting, discouragement from attending night school because it would interfere with work.

Barely a few moments have gone by and they are nervously shifting in place. After another over-the-shoulder glance, Julia’s slightly widened eyes say, “We’ve got to go.” Courage spent, they pull their jackets tighter against the chilly wind and walk off toward their homes in the impoverished neighboring city of El Alto.

The two women don’t know it, but thousands of miles away, their daily labor is sold by South Florida-based jewelry manufacturer Aurafin under the guise of “responsible sourcing.” (Names of current and former Aurafin factory workers have been changed to avoid retribution.) In 2008, Aurafin teamed up with Walmart, and the largest retailer on Earth sells this so-called responsibly sourced jewelry under a product line named Love, Earth. Aurafin and Walmart say the jewelry is made in conditions that favor the workers and the environment, a claim contradicted by tales from current and former workers.

Love, Earth’s gold comes from U.S. mines no more environmentally friendly than other mining operations, which critics say are responsible for widespread pollution. The precious metal’s journey then goes to Bolivia, where Maria and Julia and thousands of other workers toil — many in conditions much worse than the two women’s — for the benefit of the U.S. companies. While Love, Earth may shine like gold, that’s only varnish. Underneath, its anatomy is greenwash: The product is no better for the environment — or the people who manufacture it — than a standard piece of jewelry.

Read the rest of the five-page article here.

Empowering Women Through Jewelry

Women. Empowerment. Sustainability.

These are some of the themes that are being enforced by socially-minded jewelry business 31 Bits. Through cooperative efforts with women in Northern Uganda, 31 Bits unfolds a marketing plan that helps them to better take charge of their lives and future.

Based on a video from their official website, 31 Bits believes that “business is a powerful force behind bringing change in women’s lives”.

“We realized we had a market and they had a skill. Together, we made a business.”

On its core purpose, 31 Bits is said to “empower the most vulnerable women so that in the future they can sustain themselves.” 31 Bits has also provided many of these women from Uganda with new opportunities: “When a woman enters our program, she enters a community where she can earn an income, be educated and dream for her future.”

In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, the organization has also recently teamed up with The Breast Cancer Society. You can check out their special edition collection here.

You can watch the full video from 31 Bits here:

Interview: Stelliyah

Here is an exclusive interview with Singapore-based jewelry artist, Stella Lim, as she shares with us the joys and challenges of working in the industry.

Why did you decide to become a jewelry artist? 

IMG_0323I didn’t decide to be a jewelry artist. It kind of just happened over time when I found myself obsessed with making jewelry, buying nothing but jewelry supplies and of course thought of nothing but jewelry. The more I made, the more people saw my work, and it was because of the encouragements from friends and family to sell my work made it possible. At first it was just for fun, but as I started receiving more positive comments and started selling more pieces, I spent more time on my jewelry business and eventually made a career out of it.

What are some of the challenges that you often face as a jewelry artist?
Sometimes being creative might be a challenge. Because I make one-of-a-kind pieces, I am constantly thinking of new designs and that can be very difficult. Inspirations do not come very often, resulting in a slow process in production. It can become stressful when I am unable to make a single piece in days, and stress certainly does not make anything go better.
How long do you usually take to complete each project?
It really varies. Some projects take as little time as thirty minutes, while the longest project I took was about a month to complete.
Brass Necklaces by Stelliyah

Brass Necklaces by Stelliyah

Was there a project that took a particularly long time to complete?
The project that took the longest was actually a silver Cross pendant using ancient techniques I learnt in New York. It was a granulation technique where tiny balls were placed carefully on the piece and then it was fused portion by portion to prevent overheating. It was not exactly difficult, but because of the importance of the details, the process was tedious and a lot of care had to be put into it.
In your opinion, how do you think mass-produced jewelry differ from those that are handmade?
Ruby Drop Beaded Necklaces by Stelliyah

Ruby Drop Beaded Necklaces by Stelliyah

I think handmade jewelry is unique. It takes time and most of the time what you get aside from them being beautiful are quality, hard work, and passion. As for mass-produced jewelry, the designs are definitely more common, and in my opinion, though they can be more affordable, quality control may be a problem when dealing with so many pieces at once.