Thursday, February 05, 2009

Kenyans and Americans making the same art

We found a good news story this morning about a fair trade concern that not only helps Kenya, but American women too.

Women in a substance abuse program in the Chicago area are using beads imported from Kenya to make jewelry. The beads called Kazuri, are made by women in Kenya, most of whom are disabled. The American women them use the beads to make pieces of jewelry.

Judy Masterson, a writer for the Chicago Sun Times explains the connection.

About 80 women, who are or have been in drug-abuse treatment through Nicasa, are operating a fledgling jewelry-making business using ceramic Kazuri beads. The beads are imported from Nairobi, Kenya, where they are formed from clay, polished, fired, painted and fired again, by about 350 women, all single heads of household, some of them disabled.

The idea for the business jelled on several fronts after a suggestion two years ago by Nicasa counselor Candace Fuji, also a jewelry craftsman. Fuji was already using the beads -- Kazuri means small and beautiful in Swahili -- when the stones also came to the attention of both Nicasa CEO Bruce Johnson and a volunteer who both visited a fair-wage Kazuri factory on trips to Africa.

The beads seemed to insinuate themselves just as members of Women of Worth, a recovery maintenance group, expressed interest in starting their own businesses. Nicasa Executive Officer Judy Fried exercised her daughter's connection to Rising International, which helps women in developing countries sell their wares via house parties -- and Women of Worth Creations was born.

"It felt like a wonderful connection internationally and with women struggling worldwide," Fried said. "Women of Worth is determined to go from surviving to thriving. And we're all very committed to women's economic development."

Each piece of Kazuri jewelry -- earrings, necklaces, bracelets -- is handcrafted by women in treatment and recovery who are eager to learn the craft and express their creativity. The moderately-priced pieces, each tagged with a personal note of gratitude, are then marketed and sold by Women of Worth members, who are developing their business skills with the support of Nicasa's Women's Auxiliary. Proceeds go to help support Women of Worth activities.

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