This month, we are excited to carrying our first Shared Trade item by New Vision Women’s Sewing Cooperative in Lwala, Kenya: hand-sewn African wax print aprons. Previously, New Vision’s products were only available as part of Thistle Farms bath and body kits. These 100% cotton aprons are beautifully vibrant and serve as a reminder of the power of community change.
The two apron styles carry the name of women leaders in the sewing cooperative and in the community, “Grace” and “Anne.” The women themselves gave the aprons meaningful names in their native languages. The aprons come in three different design colors: red, orange, and blue/yellow. The red design of the waist-length Anne apron is called “Madoadoa,” meaning, “mixed colors” in Swahili, while the orange design is called “Taji,” which means “king’s hat” in Swahili. Finally, the blue/yellow design of the full-length Grace apron is called “Ndemra,” meaning “climbing flower” in Dhuluo. We love the ownership and creativity of our partners in Kenya.
During the 2011 Clinton Global Initiative Annual Meeting, President Bill Clinton interviewed Milton Ochieng’ – one of the two founders of Lwala Community Alliance – and said, “You made your father proud.” Milton and Fred Ochieng’ had traveled from their home village – Lwala, Kenya – to the United States for medical school; when they returned to Lwala, they built Lwala’s first health clinic. They had, indeed, made their father proud.
Lwala’s mission is to build the capacity of the their community so that they can advance their own comprehensive well-being. Thistle Farms is a proud supporter and partner of Lwala Community Alliance and an even prouder supporter of the women’s sewing cooperative, New Vision Women’s Sewing Cooperative. The microenterprise project began in 2009 by Grace Ochieng’ – Fred and Milton’s sister – and currently employs 10 women. New Vision produces school uniforms and reusable menstrual pads to incentivize young girls to stay in school as well as fabric bags for Thistle Farms winter and summer survival kits. Moreover, the women in the sewing co-op mentor teen girls and train them to sew, continuing and encouraging a cycle of self-sufficiency and empowerment by investing in youth in the community.
Bill Clinton was right: Milton and Fred Ochieng’ made their father proud. Now, Grace Ochieng’ has made her father – her community and ourcommunity – proud too.
Written by Tamar Alexian, guest blogger and incredible Thistle Farms intern.