Prosperity Blog

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11/30/2016 :: Global Mamas Celebrates our Mama (and Papa) of the Year

By Patience Treve

Each year, we celebrate the Mama who most exemplified our values in the last year: strength of community, long-term commitment, innovation, economic self-sufficiency, and creating positive change.

Our Winners

This year, we have not one but two winners: Grace Doku and Moses Buernortey. A brother-and-a sister team of beadmakers, the siblings live and work a short walk from our Krobo office.


Grace and Moses were selected as winners of Mama and Papa of the Year because of their high quality beads – less than 1% have quality issues, which is very low for the delicate craft of glass beadmaking. Their fellow beadmakers say that Grace and Moses are kind, open, hardworking people with whom they enjoy working. Of working with Global Mamas, Grace and Moses say, “Global Mamas really makes our livelihood better.”

Our Celebration

For the first time, we made the awards celebration open to Mamas across our locations in Ghana. Delegates from Accra, Ashaiman, and Cape Coast traveled to Krobo for the event.

Mamas enjoyed a meal of yam and palaver stew with banana splits for dessert. Patience Treve and Gladys Adimer served as masters of the ceremony, which included a quiz on fun facts about Global Mamas. Batikers Faustina Tetteh and Mavis Thompson were the winners displaying their knowledge of Global Mamas trivia.

Three cheers for our Mama and Papa of the Year and to all the hardworking women (and men) in the Global Mamas community!

10/7/2016 :: Celebrating Fair Trade Month

Amelia Brandt, volunteer

Happy Fair Trade Month from all of us at Global Mamas!

For us, Fair Trade Month is all about celebrating our accomplishments, especially those that exemplify the heart behind our values as a fair trade organization. For example, one of our values is as follows: “We are innovators dedicated to quality, creativity, and continuous improvement.” This value was brought to life by Mamas in Cape Coast as we solved a unique quality challenge.  

The Challenge

As a social enterprise, our ability to create prosperity for women in Ghana depends on our ability to provide customers with high-quality, fair trade products. Last year, we partnered with a group of Mamas in Cape Coast to explore the financial challenges we face when seamstresses and batikers bring in products that aren’t quite the level of quality we need for export. Mamas receive a slightly lower payment for these “less-than-perfect” products, which are then sold at a discount in our store in Accra.


However, even though we sell these products in our store, we must still ask Mamas to remake the products needed for export. We told Mamas how much we invest in paying for lower classes of products and how the growing surplus of these products was having serious financial implications for the organization.


The Solution

In the spirit of transparency and problem-solving, we asked for their feedback on the best way for us to continue to succeed.


The Mamas provided a variety of recommendations to help create what they call “first class” products more consistently, from cutting around errors in a batiking pattern to keeping bright and dark batiks separate when drying.


The Mamas then set goals for delivering export-quality items. Global Mamas staff members were truly inspired when seamstresses set a goal to produce 99.5% of their items in the top class of quality, planning to control quality with more careful sewing. For batikers, since there are some quality challenges that are out of their control, the goal was set at 90%. Mamas dubbed the program First Class, First Time to reflect their goal.


Mamas receive a 10% bonus for each month they reach the goal. In May of this year 28 seamstresses and seven batikers were thrilled to receive a bonus. Batiker Aggie Cole was so thrilled with her bonus that she danced around the Cape Coast office to everyone’s enjoyment. Aggie has been a Mama since 2005 and is the proud batiker of our ever popular Elephants print.

“If everyone can produce First Class, First Time, it’s more profitable for the women.
We can use the money we used to spend paying Mamas for lower-quality products to
reinvest in the organization, which is good for everyone!”
- Patience Treve, People Development Manager

Quality Control Champions

At our Cape Coast and Ashaiman offices, we have quality control (QC) teams who are responsible for ensuring product quality prior to exporting. They have deep knowledge and passion for our products, as well as an eagle eye for details.

To support the Mamas in their First Class, First Time goals, we saw an opportunity to elevate their responsibilities to help the Mamas succeed. Each QC Champion is now responsible for forming a relationship with specific Mamas. This way, when a Mama delivers her products to the QC staff, she knows she’s always working with the same person. The QC Champion will know her strengths and challenges, share the results of her monthly quality report, and offer specific advice on how to improve.

  “I like First Class, First Time.

It gives me a goal... to get the bonus and to do better work.”

– Martha Rhule, Cape Coast batiker

Thanks to the Mamas and quality control teams working so hard to make the First Class, First Time program a success, product rejects have dropped by 77%. Their efforts were recognized on Wednesday, October 5 by the U.S. accounting firm Eide Bailly with an honorable mention for its Resourcefullness award, which includes a $2,000 cash prize! The prize is being invested in our equipment loan fund for Mamas; this round of funding will be used to purchase water storage tanks for batikers.


9/9/2016 :: Safety Equipment Training in Cape Coast

Katie Eilert, intern

It’s not every day that the Global Mamas staff gets to practice wielding a fire extinguisher! Quality Control workers and Mamas gathered at the Cape Coast office for safety equipment training that included a presentation by the Ghana National Fire Service. The informative training was held as part of the World Fair Trade Organization’s biennial auditing process, and it supplied Mamas with the safety tools necessary to protect their health while working.


The WFTO auditing process ensures that Global Mamas and its producers are in compliance with the fair trade principles embedded in our mission. The safety training especially emphasized the 8th principle of fair trade, which focuses on providing good working conditions for employees and ensuring their wellbeing.  Carrying out our aggressive plan to improve our workplace safety, both in-house and with the Mamas, would not have been possible without the generous support of n. dowuona & Co.

We regularly supply our staff and the craftswomen with protective gear and encourage its use, but as part of the training we did another thorough dispersal of gear. Batikers received face shields and goggles (in addition to the gloves we already provide). Although the dye that adorns the fabric with beautiful swirls and shapes is safe in its final form, it isn't ideal to breathe the fumes every single day in its raw form. Rubber boots also protect their legs from stray wax splatters, which can burn skin.

Overall, Cape Coast manager Patience Treve said she feels extremely proud that the Mamas understand the safety equipment’s critical benefits and use it consistently while they work. Every so often, she pays impromptu visits to the women’s workshops to ensure that they are actually utilizing their new masks, boots, and gloves, and she has been impressed with just how many are making their health a priority.


 (Mamas Faustina & Marama in Ashaiaman)

“The Mamas, they really love it,” she says, and some have remarked on how it has positively impacted their work. Even when Ghana’s rainy season brought flooding to her home and workspace, batiker Agnes Cole Ada was able to weather the harsh elements with the help of her rubber safety boots. She could still continue her work and meet all of her deadlines on time.

The training gave Patience herself a hands-on look at safety at the office as well. After filling a bowl with fuel and lighting it outside, she was handed a fire extinguisher and quickly learned how to use it to put out the flames. The demonstration provided not only valuable tips and proactive resources, but also quite a bit of fun and excitement for the day!

As for the WFTO audit process, the next step will be implementing and sending to auditors a weekly checklist on office supplies that are out-of-date or in need of replacement. Auditing is just one way that Global Mamas stays true to our mission of fair trade in action. It also allows managers, Quality Control staff, and Mamas alike to stay in the loop on the important principles of fair trade and workplace safety -- in the loop, but out of harm’s way.

6/1/2016 :: Cape Coast Diabetes Education and Prevention Workshop

Patience Treve, People Development Manager

In our continued effort to present more trainings and workshops related to health issues that are important to the Mamas, our Cape Coast office hosted a diabetes workshop and screening on April 20th, 2016. Chief Dr. Justice Arthur from the District Hospital led the screening, which served 40 Mamas and 9 of our quality control staff.

During the workshop, Dr. Arthur described diabetes as a complex disease with a variety of causes. The attendees were informed that those with diabetes have high blood glucose and that it is a disorder of metabolism—the way the body uses digested food for energy. He also said diabetes develops when the body doesn’t make enough insulin or is not able to use insulin effectively, or both.

Dr. Arthur explained the roles of insulin, the pancreas, and beta cells in the bodies’ ability to process glucose. He covered the different types of diabetes, focusing on type 1, type 2, and gestational diabetes. The attendees also learned about the complications of diabetes, including heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, blindness, dental disease, and amputations. This greater understanding of both the causes of the disease and its implications was an eye opening experience for the Mamas.

After the talk, all of the attendees were screened and informed of their health status. Those that had any indications of diabetes were advised by Dr. Arthur to exercise more, eat plenty of vegetables, and avoid eating late in the evening. All of those who attended felt that the information shared was very beneficial and that having the screening was great resource. Patience, People Development Manager in Cape Coast, said of the workshop: “All the mamas now know their sugar level so they have moved from sweets things to fruits and yoga exercises as it will protect the body from sicknesses.” Health workshops like these are an important element of the Global Mamas mission of achieving prosperity and we hope to continue and expand them in the future.

6/1/2016 :: Shea Helps Empower

Amelia Brandt, volunteer

We’re excited to announce a new product to the loyal followers of Global Mamas: a special-edition shea butter skin care product, Global Beauty Butter! The product is created in partnership with Ghanaian shea skin care formulator Ele Agbe and natural beauty blog Beauty Lies Truth, a champion of products that are clean, green, effective, and fair trade.

What’s more, the process of creating this product is featured in a VICE/Live Nation TV documentary on fair trade shea butter, to be released sometime this June. For now, here’s what you need to know about Global Beauty Butter:

Superfood for Your Skin

Global Beauty Butter is our first skin care product containing moringa, a superfood rich in antioxidants that also has significant skin care properties, including preventing dryness, evening skin tone and minimizing fine lines.


Especially Empowering

The shea butter in Global Beauty Butter is sourced from Ghana’s Northern Region, which is more economically disadvantaged than the areas closer to the coast, where most of our offices and production sites are located. We wanted to find a special way to honor our commitment to the craftswomen who gather and process the shea nuts. Thus, we’re launching the Shea Helps Empower (SHE) Fund, which supports specific, group-driven projects to improve the CMA Shea Butter Cooperative’s workplace and local community.


How the SHE Fund Works

The SHE Fund sources its funding from the profits of Global Beauty Butter. More than 70% of the retail price of each Global Beauty Butter goes to empowering the women at the CMA Shea Butter Cooperative, in addition to the women of Ele Agbe and Global Mamas.

We’ll administer the fund, leveraging more than a decade of experience as a fair trade nonprofit empowering women in Ghana. The women of CMA have already identified their priorities: improving their shea production center by adding access to electricity, conducting roof repairs, and building a security wall.

100% Sourced in Ghana

While all of our products are made in Ghana, this is our first product to be made of components entirely sourced from Ghana. The moringa in Global Beauty Butter is produced in Ghana by the social enterprise True Moringa, and the product is scented with Ghanaian lemongrass essential oil, produced locally by the social enterprise Ghana Permaculture Institute. The product is packaged in recyclable plastic sourced from Ghana, too.

4/12/2016 :: Cervical Cancer Prevention in Cape Coast

Maggie O’Neill, volunteer  

Global Mamas welcomed Dr. Justice Arthur—a Chief Doctor from Cape Coast’s District Hospital—to educate our Mamas, their apprentices, and QC staff about cervical cancer. This is part of Global Mamas’ multi-faceted initiative to help its members achieve multi-dimensional prosperity, prosperity that goes beyond financial well-being and business growth to include health and happiness.

According to the World Health Organization, cervical cancer is the most common cancer among sub-Saharan African women. It kills nearly 2,000 Ghanaian women annually, and its effect on the developing world is starkly disproportionate. Of the 500,000 cases of cervical cancer reported globally each year, about 80% are from the developing world. Lack of education, regular screenings, and timely treatment have allowed this disease to thrive, despite the fact that the preventative and medicinal capacities to eradicate it already exist. In other words, the cervical cancer epidemic is an easily avoidable one.

In his talk, Dr. Arthur emphasized the importance of early detection. He explained a variety of irregularities that women might notice that ought to compel them to get screened. To an untrained eye, cervical cancer’s symptoms can be easy to dismiss as something harmless—this is why education is so critical. If a woman identifies any of the red flags that Dr. Arthur outlined, which include rough, cauliflower-like skin growth near the womb’s opening and unusual pain during sexual intercourse, then she should definitely go to a hospital for tests. Even in the absence of these signs, women between the high-risk ages of 25 and 30 should still get themselves screened regularly.

Of course, as Dr. Arthur argued, the most effective way to eradicate cervical cancer is to prevent it. It is caused by the human papillomavirus—a sexually transmitted illness that is much more likely to infect girls who are sexually active at a young age, especially those under the age of 13. Unprotected sex with multiple partners also increases the risk of HPV. Again, it is critical that young women be educated about these risks, and that there be a greater cultural awareness about the adverse physical effects of premature sexual activity.

At the end of his presentation, Dr. Arthur opened up the floor for questions, which the more than 40 Mamas, apprentices, and QC staff in attendance met with thoughtful, lively inquiry. Questions ranged from cervical cancer’s effect on reproduction, to the best ways to access quality care. The members of the Global Mamas network who attended are now armed with the knowledge needed to minimize their risks and maximize their chances of early detection should they need treatment. Moreover, they’re now educated voices in a budding regional conversation about addressing the very addressable problem of cervical cancer.

3/11/2016 :: Welcome to a Celebration of Dreams Realized

Portion of speech made by Kristin Johnson honoring Emma Myers, Global Mamas Co-Founder

During our time together you are NOT going to hear a story of how charity changed lives. Instead, you are going to hear how a group of African women came together to create their own success – in spite of the many challenges faced along the way. We are not going to focus on the poverty that African women face every single day. Instead we are going to share stories of empowerment, determination, and dreams realized.

There is one key value that has been mightily important to the success of Global Mamas – and that is our combined determination to succeed. And there is no other Mama that exemplifies our determination to succeed more than Emma Myers. Emma is an incredibly talented textile designer and co-founder of Global Mamas.  She exemplifies the word determination. Against all odds Emma has combined her determination with her talent as an artist to realize her dreams. 


Emma and I have been working together for over 20 years. I have been a witness to her transformation from a struggling textile designer with barely enough income to provide her family with its basic needs to a successful business woman who has raised three college graduates. She has faced many obstacles along the way, but she never gave up. And she taught me never to give up. And that is why she is my hero.


                                             Front Row: Kristin                           Emma and Dede

This is a picture of Emma and I from 1993. When I met Emma she was a talented batiker, but she was struggling to make a living at her craft. One of my Peace Corps projects was to set up a women’s center that included a batik training program that would provide young women who had dropped out of the formal school system with a trade. Emma was hired to be the batik teacher and that is when she and I began a life long journey of partnership.

Over the next two years Emma and I grew the women’s center into a thriving hub of activity. I managed the business side of the batik school, while Emma trained dozens of young women in the art of batik.

I want to give you an appreciation for what life was like for Emma when I first met her, so you can understand the immense respect I have to her and her determination. Each day Emma would come to work with joy in her heart excited to share her skills. But batik is back-breaking work mainly conducted over an open fire in a country where the average temperature is above 80 degrees.

Though Emma was working full time, cultural norms and her own dignity meant that she was still responsible for managing her home. She lived in two rooms with her family of five. Each day she would cook all of her meals from scratch over a coal pot, (which is like a small barbeque). Laundry was done by hand and since running water was unreliable, water often had to be fetched from a community spout down the street. Her youngest child Dede would often accompany her to work because she didn’t have options for child care.  

And then, on the weekends Emma would begin batiking again in her apartment building’s shared courtyard in order to earn something extra for her family. That is until her landlord threatened her with eviction if she continued to work there.

Emma never complained to me about her situation. Instead she constantly demonstrated her determination to change it. She expected a lot from me, but she never expected a hand out. She has three children and every day she dreamed for a future that offered them more than what she had growing up as the daughter of a fisherman.

Through her talent and determination Emma accomplished everything she set out to do.

It was after Emma helped to start Global Mamas that things really began to change. Once Emma could rely on the steady orders provided by Global Mamas, the first thing she did was build a workshop where she could operate on her own terms without the fear of eviction. This was such a smart move as it paved the way for her future success.


Over the years Emma’s # 1 investment has been in her children. She sent them to the best junior high and high schools she could find. And she didn’t let them stop there. She sent all three of her children for a college education. In fact, when Emma’s oldest child Lorenzo graduated from Cape Coast University he was the first one in Emma’s entire extended family to earn a college degree. Emma’s daughter, Dede, (who was often at work with Emma and I when she was a young girl) has now graduated with a degree in nursing.


To secure her future, Emma and her husband Robert purchased land and began building a home Ghanaian style. By this I literally mean brick by brick. Long term financing like mortgages are not available in Ghana, so to build a home you have to finance it yourself. You also can’t save in the bank until you have enough money because the local currency devalues quickly. So when you have extra money you buy cement, make the cement blocks and add another layer to your foundation. Eventually you add the roof, the plumbing and the electricity. And then finally you finish it with windows, flooring and paint. If you travel through Ghana you will see unfinished building foundations everywhere you look. To actually finish a home is a tremendous achievement. Below is a picture of Emma standing in front the beautiful, pink house that she built for her family.  


As if that isn’t enough, Emma has been a mentor to hundreds of other women learning the artistry of batik. Below is photo is of Louisa Esi Dadzie, one of Emma’s apprentices. Thanks to Emma’s training, Louisa is now a full-fledged business owner managing Global Mamas orders of her own.


Will you please join me in acknowledging Emma for not only realizing her dreams, but paving the way for 400 other women to do so as well.

Emma is my personal hero. She exemplifies the amazing qualities of the Ghanaian women who inspire me every day. Looking back over 20 years now and imagining myself moving to Ghana as a Peace Corps volunteer hoping to make a difference, I am instead so grateful for all I have learned, especially from Emma. It is your determination to succeed that has not only changed my life, but enables Global Mamas to prosper.

2/23/2016 :: My Trip to Mole National Park

Madison Oeff, intern

One of the many perks about volunteering with Global Mamas is the value placed on traveling around Ghana. The staff fully supports traveling as much as you can while you’re here; being exposed to the various places and people around the country gives you a better understanding of Ghana as a whole. So from the moment I arrived in Ghana, I travelled everywhere I could with the other volunteers. We went to the Volta region seeing sights such as Wli Falls, Tafi Atome Monkey Sanctuary, Lake Volta, and traditional Kente weaving. We spent a weekend surfing at Busua Beach. We traveled to Accra and explored the neighborhood of Osu, indulging at its tasty restaurants. All of these were fabulous, but there was still one item on my list that hadn’t been checked off: Mole National Park.

Mole on my Mind

Mole National Park, situated in Ghana’s northern region, a massive expanse of grassland savannah, is home to over 93 mammal species. Tourists can either ride in a safari car or walk through the forests with a guide; everyone hopes to catch a glimpse of the elephants, baboons, warthogs, and buffalo that roam the park.I first heard about Mole from Global Mamas’ designer, Nick Ruffalo who traveled to Mole a few years ago. He said that the round trip would take around 6 days. 

First, he said, you travel to Kumasi, the second largest city in Ghana, by tro tro (a privately owned minivan that provides shared transportation along a specified route). After seeing Kumasi for a day, you spend another day traveling further north to Tamale. Once you arrive in Tamale, you would have to ride a bus for about two hours to Larabanga and voila! You’re finally only 20 minutes away from the entrance of Mole National Park. After staying at the park for a day or two, you would travel back down to Cape Coast, just the way you came. These traveling instructions both excited me and concerned me.

Flying Fast

I had a decision to make: as much as I would have loved to travel north by tro tro, I knew I could not devote an entire week to go to Mole. I resigned myself to finding a different weekend trip and to save Mole for a future trip to Ghana. The next week in Cape Coast, however, I met a man who had been in the Peace Corps in Ghana. When I divulged that I had not yet visited Mole, he said, “Oh you should definitely go to Mole. We always flew there in my Peace Corps days!”

Flying! I hadn’t even thought about that as a travel option. I excitedly looked into it, and the trip was absolutely doable: ride a fast car to Accra and from there hop on a plane at Kotoka Airport. The plane ticket was not too expensive and the entire trip would only take 3 days! Sandie Forest, another summer volunteer, agreed to accompany me on my northern journey. Plans were made, dates were set, and soon we were off.

We arrived in Accra without any snafus and boarded the small jet. As we took off, I watched Accra slowly descended beneath me. The colorful buildings, tall coconut trees, and the ocean below quickly faded into cloudy sky. The flight to Tamale was only an hour long, yet when we landed I could see that we were in a completely different environment. The palm and coconut trees of Cape Coast were replaced with dense, shrubbery and shorter trees sprouting up at random. Huge anthills made from the deep red dirt were everywhere. Our taxi ride to the hotel was a fast introduction to Tamale culture: motor bikes everywhere, Mosques every couple of blocks, and many women covered in hijabs while the men wore topi hats. In Tamale, the majority of the residents practice Islam, which is the opposite of the southern part of Ghana where the majority practice Christianity.

Safari Sightings

After staying overnight in Tamale, waking up at 4:30 am to catch the first bus to Larabanga, and missing said bus due to our taxi driver being late, we decided to charter a taxi directly to the park. The hotel we were staying at in the park was situated on a ledge overlooking miles of the savannah.  If you looked straight down, you could see buffalos walking towards huge watering hole. Antelope grazed near the pool, warthogs ate the grass outside of the huts, and baboons were everywhere! I was warned before I left to be wary of the baboons; when Cape Coast production manager Wisdom visited Mole, a baboon tried to take his food and he had to jump into the pool to get away from it! Dropping our stuff off at the room, we joined up with a group of Dutch tourists to head out into the park for the elephant safari.

 We were sitting on the top of the safari jeep in benches, and as we sped along the red dirt roads it was almost like we were on a rollercoaster. You had to avoid the hanging branches but also keep your eyes peeled for any signs of wildlife. One of my favorite things we saw was this massive white tree with sprawling branches, each crawling with baboons. This area must have been their lair because nowhere else did I see so many baboons. Moving on, we stopped the car to see what our guide called “water deer.” To me, these looked like a mix of antelope and reindeer. They were very large and bulky, but they had light tan fur with red streaks and large antlers. If you so much as moved while watching them, they scurried off into the forest. (Once, I turned around too quickly, which sent the whole herd of water deer away from us. Oops!)

Our guide had heard about of a herd of elephant heading towards the east, and so we tried to follow that path. As we drove, along the path about 100 yards ahead of us, we spot a large grayish object. All eyes are glued to the spot. We inch forward in the car and reach a little clearing – and jackpot. Not one, not two, but five elephants are moseying around a water hole. They were smaller than I expected (if you can call an elephant small), but gorgeous and graceful. I don’t know how long we watched the elephants for, but everyone was transfixed. This definitely was a highlight of my northern Ghana trip.

The next day, we were able to travel back to Tamale, board the plane to Accra, and arrive back in Cape Coast. I’m extremely glad I decided to make the trek up to Mole National Park; not only was it amazing to see all of the wildlife, but this trip allowed me to see Ghanaian culture from a completely different perspective. Even if you experience the expedited version of the trip like I did by flying to Tamale, I highly recommend visiting the northern region of Ghana – the memories and stories will last a lifetime.

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