While living in a country that has been torn by over twenty years of civil war, the women of Uganda are often marginalized and struggle to find hope in their lives. After working with a Ugandan boarding school, one woman decided to start her own fight against poverty and violence. That woman is Brittany Merrill Underwood, who began The Akola Project.
Founded in 2007, Akola is one of five projects supported by the Ugandan American Partnership Organization (UAPO) as an effort to alleviate the impact of poverty. At Akola, women are taught to create beautiful jewelry and textiles, while also finding hope again in their lives. Here is the story of one of Akola's artisans.
Babwetenda Scovia did not have much hope in her life before working at Akola. She lost her husband to HIV/AIDS, and has also contracted the virus. A young mother of three children, Sovia begged her relatives to help her give her children food and an education.
Now, Scovia is an artisan in training, and she makes paper bead necklaces for the Akola Project. Because of her income from working at Akola, she can receive medical treatment as well as provide food for her family and send her children to school.
Scovia is one of the many women employed by Akola to make paper bead necklaces. The beads on the necklaces are hand-rolled and finished with a non-toxic varnish. Finally, the beads are strung together to create the perfect statement piece.
Women at Akola also make necklaces with bold pendants. Each pendant is made of bullet casings from past civil wars and plated with a brass or nickel finish.
In addition to making jewelry, Akola women meticulously weave cotton, raffia grass and palm leaves into textiles that are then used to make fashionable clutches. The interior boning of each clutch is hand braided using palm leaves. The weavers can weave up to sixteen palm leaves at one time.
Although weaving textiles is not a native trade of Ugandan communities, Akola has adopted it with expertise. The weavers may spend up to one day weaving the 1.5 yards of fabric that is needed to make one clutch simply to ensure a highest quality product.
Akola’s artisans also create beads from ankole horn. Indigenous to Uganda, these horns would normally be thrown out, but Akola gives them a new purpose as delicate beads in black, tan, and cream colors.
Like the ankole horn, women who are welcomed at The Akola Project are also given a chance to renew their lives. One of these women is Mukulu Ketra.
Ketra is a strong leader in her community. She invests a portion of her monthly income from Akola into her community’s savings and loans group. Over the past six years, she has used those savings to launch small businesses and enlarge her commercial farm. She has invested in nine cows, a chicken coop, and goats. Not only has Akola improved her life, but she has used her earnings to improve her community.
Be sure to check out Akola's jewelry on SharedTrade MarketPlace in October. By supporting Akola, you can bring hope into a woman's life.