Maker Monday today is focused on Winnie, the Economic Development Officer of Lwala Community Alliance. Lwala, one of our first global partners back in 2014, has grown tremendously over the years. Now their Economic Development Department not only hits the market place with beautifully sewn handbags and satchels, but also provides school uniforms for youth in their own community.
Back in the spring, Winnie had the opportunity to visit Nashville and met and enjoyed a cup of tea with our team at the Thistle Farms Café, to talk about a new collaboration product, a bright African print summer bath robe for our summer line.
It wasn’t just the article of clothing that inspired our team, but rather the pure elegance and empowerment that Winnie exudes. “Meeting Winnie allowed me to reconnect to why we work with women from around the world. And why women like Winnie walk the talk to get the next woman off the streets”
Here is a short interview with Winnie about her work with Lwala, the Sewing Cooperative they have in Kenya, and the inspiring work she is doing to better her community.
TF: How long have you worked for Lwala?
W: “I have worked for Lwala for Five years. I started working for Lwala in 2012 as a volunteer in the community health office. Over the years, I have undertaken various roles in the organization. This is from being an intern, a program officer, a program coordinator to my current role of programs manager.” In this position, I support the development and implementation of the organization's programs that center around education and economic empowerment.
TF: How did the sewing cooperative come to life?
W: The sewing cooperative started in the year 2009 with 22 women who were volunteering and practicing tailoring in the community. This was with an aim of improving their living standards. To help the group grow, Lwala supported them with trainings around business and financial management and other financial support, until last year when the women group became an independent program.
TF: Tell us a little about the process of making the robes.
W: First we set a meeting to discuss the product order and design, what is needed for the work to be done, including the timeline for the work.
Secondly, we visited the market to start sourcing for material and fabrics. This takes different time frames depending on the fabric needed and its availability in the market. If the correct material has been identified the women presents it back to the other teams for the sewing to start.
Then, production - cutting of the fabric to various pieces of the robe and sewing, binding and finishing the product.
Finally, reviewing the work done to confirm if it has been done well, making any needed adjustments, ironing and packaging for delivery.
TF: You were invited to an international leadership conference this year through iLeap. Can you tell us what you learned from this conference and how you are bringing it back to Lwala?
W: Through the trainings with iLeap I was able to accompany various leaders to find greater purpose in our lives, clarity in the organizations we lead and connections to the communities we serve. It was a 3 weeks program of transformation.
“This is the first ever program that made me view myself in a different way; as a leader who can bring the change she wants to see.”
TF: How have your views of being a leader changed over the years?
W: We as leaders need to co-create space for transformation and to hold an open heart. Many times, we strive to fix people, that’s not the solution. We should not seek to fix but rather help each other to find their own clarity and resourcefulness. That’s leadership.
TF: Where do you see the future of Lwala and the community impact?
W: My vision revolves around the idea that communities can be the catalyst of their own change. I have hopes to see more communities take ownership of what is needed in their regions. In particular, I dream of a time where young girls are empowered to know they deserve support and are capable of creating their own bright future. But for this to happen the community's perspective on girl and females must change.
We have loved collaborating with Winnie and Lwala to make our summer bathrobes. Winnie is wise and a true leader in her community, making a tangible difference in many people's lives. Check out the African print summer bathrobes coming available online this week!