Here at Shared Trade, we work toward a mission that goes beyond selling quality products. We bring women together in a movement for economic freedom and empowerment.
Each Shared Trade partner is committed to this vision. In the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Shared Trade partner MamAfrica has a word for it—umoja, the Swahili word for “unity.”
Despite the expulsion of the M23 rebel group in 2013, the DRC is far from seeing unity or peace in the country, according to Refugees International. The conflict in its eastern regions has lasted two decades, and the tensions between the DRC and its neighbors see no signs of subsiding.
Due to the ongoing conflict, nearly 500,000 Congolese have fled to neighboring countries, according to Refugees International. The struggle has also led to high levels of sexual violence in the country with few resources and support for survivors. MamAfrica’s mission is to bring hope to Africa by providing healing arts programs, education and economic opportunities for women in the DRC.
Another way to translate umoja is independence. Freedom and confidence inspire the craftswomen who create the products we will launch on our site in October.
Nabintu Charlotte is a craftswoman at MamAfrica who has found independence through her craft. Today, we want to share her story.
Nabintu actively values unity and equality. She accepts her strengths and abilities despite her daily hardships from being a widow and living with a chronic illness.
“Since being enrolled at MamAfrica, I have begun to feel like I truly am someone, like I have value,” Nabintu said. “Now even when I wake up and feel pain, I can push through because I have learned to accept myself.”
At MamAfrica’s Ushindi Center in Bukavu, “Mamas,” like Nabintu, are encouraged to reject vulnerabilities in favor of independence, community, and self-worth. One barrier that challenged Nabintu’s family was the struggle to provide an education for her children.
“With my income from MamAfrica I am able to pay my children’s school fees,” added Nabintu. “My children no longer face discrimination among their peers. When they go to school, they live life as if they were like any child with both parents still alive.”
MamAfrica uses umoja to describe both their mission and their products. This organization blends African style with American fashion through beautiful, handmade clothing and accessories. Whether you’re in the market for a stunning dress or a unique yoga bag, MamAfrica has that piece that will pull together your outfit.
As a craftswoman, like Nabintu, progresses in the mastery of a product, she graduates to a new skill level. Once she reaches the highest level, she has the opportunity to become an assistant sewing instructor. This inspires the women at MamAfrica to continue working hard and cultivating their talents.
When you shop for MamAfrica products through Shared Trade, you are helping women in the DRC experience economic freedom and be empowered to lead their communities. You are creating umoja.