Prosperity Blog

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7/13/2021 :: Breaking Ground and Building Up at the Fair Trade Zone

Pictured: Clockwise: Melanie Popowich, team reviewing initial ideas for Fair Trade Zone, a view of the first building, and the staff from the Akuse office visit the new building.

We are exceptionally thrilled to share with our fantastic community that we FINALLY have a building on our land! Before we give you a little tour of the brand-new building, we’d like to remind you of the journey that brought us here. The Fair Trade Zone started out as the dream of Melanie Popowich. She saw it as a way for Global Mamas to increase productivity while staying true to our values and vision as a fair trade organization. Unfortunately, we lost Melanie in January of 2013 and her passing shook us to our core. In her memory, we found the strength to move forward and pave a way to the brighter future she envisioned for Global Mamas.


In 2013, an international team of architecture students led by Architecture Sans Frontières (Architecture Without Borders) United Kingdom came to Ghana and visited our production sites, observing the flow of work, soliciting feedback from seamstresses and batikers, and researching materials that could be used to build the eco-conscious and self-sustaining production center.


Top: Renderings of Sewing and Batiking Zone created by Sophie Morley from Architecture Sans Frontières – UK (ASF-UK) and team . Bottom: Architecture Rendering of Phased Approach created by Juergen Strohmayer

Using this participatory approach between the architects and the Mamas, the design was conceptualized to be built as dynamic and responsive structures that change over time. The Fair Trade Zone will be a pioneer of sustainable architecture, design, and manufacturing in Ghana, and possibly the sub-region.

However, purchasing land has been challenging, with several “false starts”. We originally started looking for land near our current office in Ashaiman, but after several years of searching to no avail, the Mamas encouraged us to turn our attention towards Krobo.

In 2018 we finally purchased land from the Aklomuase family. We were thrilled at the realization that we could start building our dream.

In 2021, we broke ground on our land.

Unlike a common architectural design that envisions a completed, static building, the Fair Trade Zone allows for construction to be done in phases and evolve with the changing needs of the employees and organization as a whole. This approach is more adaptive and has allowed us to start small with funds as we have them.

The building is made using eco-friendly materials like compressed earth bricks and bamboo. It will also serve as a prototype structure that will allow us to learn how all the eco-friendly building materials work together, informing future construction. Though we still have a lot of work to do to complete phase 1 of the construction, we are unbelievably excited to see our vision begin to come to life.

Photo Credit: Juergen Strohmayer

Photo Credit: Juergen Strohmayer

After years of back and forth with the Mamas and our amazing team of architects and engineers, we have finally completed the very first building of the FTZ. The main purpose of this building is to make enough space to move the Krobo Mamas closer to our Akuse production facility. This is the first stage of centralizing production in this region.

With this wonderful progress, we wanted to take a moment to share with our community and thank everyone that has contributed to this dream along the way. It’s because of our generous supporters that we can move forward and create this space for women to explore, develop, and strengthen their capabilities. The support of our community and your belief in the impact and reach of our work keeps us moving, one sustainable step at a time.

If you would like to continue supporting our progress with phase one, our next goal is to outfit the first building with all of the resources needed for a comfortable work environment to transition the Mamas into the space. That includes tables, chairs, sewing machines, bathrooms, fans, lighting, etc. We are currently fundraising for $5,000 toward these expenses. In total, we need around $86,000 to complete this building, but this $5,000 will keep us moving forward.

Our dream of the completed Fair Trade Zone captured by Artist Kelsey Tyler 

4/14/2021 :: Founding Mama, Alice's Story

Alice, a Global Mamas Seamstress

Alice is one of the founding Mamas who created Global Mamas in 2003.


"My name is Alice, I am a seamstress in Cape Coast and have sewn many items for Global Mamas for the past 16 years. I have always had an interest in fashion, so I decided to go to school for it and later on took an apprenticeship.


When I was growing up, my mother was a trader. She sold bowls, foodstuffs, and everything else. My father was a policeman. Initially my parents didn’t like that I wanted to go into fashion. However, they supported my interest, so I went to secondary school at Ghana National College. After school, I was jack of all trades. I even learned how to batik. After learning batik however, I decided I really wanted to focus on sewing."


Alice outside of her shop with batiks from the Global Mamas 2021 collection, waiting to be sewn.


"Currently, I have three direct employees at my shop, but I also take apprentices. I want to try to help my apprentices get an NVTI certificate before they leave. Hopefully soon I can grow my business. I want to move into a bigger place, with more room for employees, and maybe eventually hire someone who can manage the business for me."


Seamstress Alice with Workers and Apprentices


Alice with workers and apprentices employed by her business.


"I am supporting myself, my mother and my son at the moment. My son is fourteen. He’s very bright; I call him my professor, or Prof, around the house. I think he will do very well for himself. He would describe me as strict, principled, but very funny and interesting. I think this has helped me be successful. I am time-bound as priority, but I am nice and inside I am always happy. I am very proud that in everything I want to do, I am able to do it with God’s help. I am very hardworking. For the future, I want to continue to be very strong and healthy, and hopefully some day I can have my own store and shop where people can come and buy what I make."


Interviewed March 2021 by Batik Designer Nick Ruffalo

Shared with Permission from Alice


Global Mamas is a community made up of hundreds of women entrepreneurs like Alice- proud to offer high quality handcrafted products to the world. #WeMadeYourClothes

3/13/2021 :: Global Mamas Wages and Payments

Global Mamas leaders participating in a leadership development workshop in 2019


“How Much is Your Foreign Staff Paid?”

This post was inspired by inquiries we receive periodically, wondering how we operate as an international NGO and how our fair trade values are implemented across the globe. Recently we were asked how the wages of the staff in Ghana compare to those paid to the international staff on our team. This is a great question - especially for a brand that strives for fairness and transparency. As many of you know, we operate a little differently from other brands in that we are a Ghanaian based producer organization which also has our own international distribution channel in North America. This means we directly employ people in Ghana and the United States, which definitely makes our compensation practices more complex as we strive for fairness.


With appropriate compensation being one of the core fair trade values, we spend more time than most conventional fashion brands taking the time to establish what actually constitutes a fair wage. We also treat our compensation practices as a work in progress that we continually strive to improve. Over the years we have created a pay structure which takes into account cost of living by location, skillset and responsibility level, as well as the education and experience that an employee brings to their role. We are proud of our somewhat complex, fair-pay scale, which has been reviewed by an external auditor as part of our Guaranteed Fair Trade membership with the World Fair Trade Organization (WFTO).


Cost of Living

In order to evaluate compensation practices in an international organization it is important to ensure we are comparing apples to apples. At Global Mamas this means that cost of living by location plays a major role in determining how wages are adjusted across locations - both around the world, as well as within the various communities in which we work around Ghana. When we evaluate for cost of living we take into consideration everything from the cost of food and transportation, to school expenses and rent. We also proactively track inflation with the Government of Ghana to make regular inflationary increases that ensure that our wages keep up with price increases due to inflation.


Refer to the table below for a few examples that puts cost of living in perspective between one of our locations in Ghana and our location in the US (2020/2021):


Cape Coast


1lb of Rice



Fast Food Meal for One Person



Public Transit (shared, round trip)



Monthly Apartment Rental (1 Bedroom)



Home Ownership



1-Year College Expenses (education is a key investment of the Mamas)





As you can see from the examples above, the cost of living between the United States and Ghana is significantly different. You might be surprised to learn that the cost of living also varies considerably within Ghana as well. To account for this we’ve created a cost of living multiplier that allows us to adjust compensation for the same role and experience level based on the very different cost of living in Accra, the capital of Ghana, vs. living in Odumase, the small town where our bead production office is located. Currently, the multipliers are x1 for Odumase, x1.1 for Cape Coast, and x1.5 for Accra.


Global Comparison

Once we have a clear base for what goes into establishing our wages the question becomes, how do we compare compensation across a global organization to ensure fairness and to account for differences in cost of living? To achieve this we compared Global Mamas wages against an estimate of a living wage for both Ghana and the United States. As a fair trade organization, Global Mamas strives to pay living wages as this means employees and producers can afford to at least meet their basic living needs. The Global Living Wage Coalition defines a living wage as, “Remuneration received for a standard work week by a worker in a particular place sufficient to afford a decent standard of living for the worker and her or his family. Elements of a decent standard of living include food, water, housing, education, health care, transport, clothing, and other essential needs, including provision for unexpected events.” We also included the federal minimum wages for each country to demonstrate how a living wage compares to a minimum wage.


In 2019 the living wage for an individual in the United States was $16.54/hour or about $2,900/month. The 2019 living wage in Ghana for an individual ranged between 485900 Ghana GH₵ per month depending on location. For this analysis we used the higher end wage of 900 GH₵, which equated to $173 in 2019. The table below shows that Global Mamas staff in Ghana earn about 2-3 times more than their counterparts in the United States as a percentage of living wages across a variety of roles and experience levels.



Average Monthly Wage

As % of Living Wage

As % Minimum Wage

Cape Coast Supervisor 




US Based Supervisor




Cape Coast Middle Manager 




US Based Middle Manager 




Cape Coast Director Level




US Based Director Level 






Global Mamas Ghana currently has three international employees working on our team of 90+ direct staff. International staff working in Ghana are paid more than their Ghanaian counterparts, though far less than what they would earn working in our US office, so we consider ourselves fortunate we can host them in Ghana at a significantly reduced rate. Although day-to-day living expenses are comparable, international employees in Ghana still carry financial obligations in their home country such as student loans, significant travel expenses to see their families, paying into the retirement systems, and maintaining costly health insurance. At first glance paying all staff the same flat rate might make sense, but for members of our team who straddle the cost of living between both countries we landed on a hybrid option as the most equitable solution. When taking into consideration a cost of living average between both countries, the salaries of these employees as a percent of living wage falls between 66%-302% and is below their equivalent Ghanaian counterparts at every level.



Each member of the Global Mamas community (Producer Partners, Ghanaian Staff, International Staff, Retail Partners, Customers and Volunteers) share a passion for our mission


Founders Comparison

Global Mamas strives for the women of our entire community to earn living wages high enough to allow them to realize their dreams. Although our U.S. team has higher salaries, the cost of living differences mean that achieving financial milestones can be a nearer term goal for their Ghanaian counterparts. For example Emma Myers, one of our Ghanaian co-founders, was able to retire two years ago after putting her three children through private school and then college. Batiking with Global Mamas for over 15 years, she saved enough money to purchase land and build a house for her family just outside Cape Coast, which allowed her the financial security she needed to retire. In comparison, Kristin Johnson, one of our American co-founders, is working towards home ownership, but still has 15 years left on her mortgage. She has not yet started saving for her 12 year old’s college education. She also has not been able to save any significant amount for retirement. In her own words, Kristin has a lot of saving to do before following in the footsteps of Emma.


Retired Global Mamas founder Emma Myers in front of the home she built and paid for.


We want to close by saying that every member of our global team - in every role, and at every location - works incredibly hard to achieve our mission of creating prosperity for women in Ghana. We are a mission-driven nonprofit, powered by passionate people who are highly motivated by seeing each other succeed. If this is your first time thinking through all that is factored into fair compensation across an international NGO, we hope this has provided some insight. If you’d like to become more involved with holding brands accountable for fairly compensating workers and staff we invite you to checkout the Pay Up Fashion Campaign.



11/23/2020 :: Giving Tuesday 2020: Fundraising For Our Operational Hub



As an international brand in an increasingly digital world our website is an integral hub for operations. It's where newcomers learn about our work, where volunteers and donors engage with our mission, and where wholesale and retail customers shop the products that facilitate our impact. Our ads, social media, emails, fair trade memberships, and all promotional and fundraising initiatives direct traffic back to our site. It’s unavoidable. 


As an impact driven nonprofit we pride ourselves on being innovative problem solvers. Whenever possible we DIY to keep $$$s in the pockets of the Mamas while maintaining accessible price points on products for our customers. We’re able to walk this tighter financial line thanks in large part to our multi-talented team who allow us to keep projects like catalog design, photography, and website maintenance all in house.



Our Current Website 

Global Mamas' current website has been in operation since 2009 and uses an open-source platform that costs $0 in monthly plugins or fees. It has been generously maintained at a minimal expense by a family member of one of our founders. The backend of the site has been heavily customized to manage our unique business model. The website manages orders, inventory and invoicing in the US and Europe and directly ties into our production system with the Mamas in Ghana. This functionality has been awesome to manage our fully integrated supply chain, but unfortunately has also severely limited the updates we've been able to make to stay on trend with changing technology.




Why We Need a New Site Now

To cut a long story short- we regretfully accept that our current site has reached its expiration date. As we started making much-needed updates to the site earlier this year (including manually coding each page to make it mobile friendly) we started having technical issues. Customers are having trouble accessing their accounts and each page takes significant time to load. We know it is only a matter of time before more significant problems arise.


With global sales down almost 40% due to COVID, the financial timing honestly couldn't be worse...but in a socially distanced world with no foreseeable end in sight, investing in a new website feels critical to the sustainability of our organization. 




New Website Costs

Over the past weeks since reaching this decision we've done a great deal of research and spoken with multiple developers- sharing what we need for our customers, but also for internal operations. Many of our friends use 'out of the box' solutions like Shopify and BigCommerce but after reviewing our needs we’ve been repeatedly directed back to WooCommerce/Wordpress as the best solution. Estimates for creating the custom site and migrating our current content are averaging around $25,000. Although it’s a steep initial cost, the good news is that unlike other platforms, the monthly maintenance fees are far lower. Since we plan on sticking around indefinitely we’re confident that long term this is our more cost-effective solution. 


This significant expense during #CovidTimes leads us to ask for your help investing in this integral tool that connects our community and sustains our impact. Whether you’re able to give or helping us spread the word, we’d love to have you join us for our Giving Tuesday Facebook Fundraiser, December 1st.  Together we look forward to creating a new site that will help us continue spreading 'the good news' about what the Mamas in Ghana are doing.  


6/26/2020 :: Face Masks Protecting the Public & Preserving Livelihoods

By Chidera Okeke, Global Mamas Community Outreach Specialist.

For the past 17 years, Global Mamas has progressed in its mission to create a life of prosperity for women across Ghana by creating and selling handmade fair trade products. The upsurge of the COVID-19 pandemic has seen a derailment in the organization’s activities and threatened to displace the livelihoods of 330 women. Faced with this dilemma, the Global Mamas’ community of self-sufficient and creative innovators have channeled the organization’s resources to make standard protective face masks, effectively helping to slow the spread of the virus and keep the Global Mamas’ community of women earning income despite business challenges.


Global Mamas expects to produce nearly 20,000 masks to help in the fight against COVID-19. Photo by Mallory Savisaar


The mask-making project is supported by the USAID-funded West Africa Biodiversity and Climate Change (WA BiCC) Program, which also played a key role in Global Mamas launching their new line of eco-friendly water hyacinth product, Fibers of Change. Through this new initiative, Global Mamas expects to produce nearly 20,000 protective cloth masks to be distributed to under-resourced health facilities in high-risk communities, including Old Fadama, Ashaiman, Madina, Agloboshie, and Nima. Hospitals in these and other communities in Ghana are experiencing shortages of N95 respirator masks despite donations to the Ghana Ministry of Health from the World Health Organization and other donors. Fortunately, healthcare professionals can use fabric face masks like the ones Global Mamas is producing to cover their N95 respirator masks and give them a longer life as the fabric masks can be washed and reused. Recently approved by the Ghana Food and Drug Authority (FDA), the fabric masks can also be worn in public when physical distancing is difficult or at home while caring for sick family members. The masks have been shown to help reduce the spread of COVID-19 from an infected person, even if asymptomatic, through speech, cough, or sneeze.

“We feel so grateful to be working on this project,” said Mallory Savisaar, Global Mamas’ Fibers of Change project manager. “Not only are we able to preserve the livelihood of several hundred women in the middle of an economic downturn, but there is a collective pride we share knowing that we are working together to stop the spread of COVID-19 in Ghana.”


Priscilla, a quality control staff member in Cape Coast, proudly wears her face mask. Photo by Nicholas Ruffalo


Global Mamas’ three-ply, high-quality, long-lasting fabric face masks are made with two layers of Global Organic Textile Standard-certified organic cotton and a layer of stiffening in the center. The masks are being made in Global Mamas’ Cape Coast and Akuse production centers under strict hygienic and social distancing rules. The “Mamas” have been split into different teams (piece cutting, sewing, finishing, quality control, and packaging) to increase efficiency. An infographic made from Global Mamas’ water hyacinth paper is attached to every mask produced, detailing steps for effective mask usage and care.

Thus far, 8,890 masks have been made and distributed to local communities currently working with Global Mamas in the Akuse area. The project has also garnered support from corporate bodies. One such group, Total Family Health Organization, offered to use their ties with various health facilities in the country to boost the distribution of the masks.

“Total Family Health Organization, as a local non-profit organization, is pleased to support local manufacturing capacity in this manner, said Demi Duah, the organization’s technical director. “Through our collaboration with Global Mamas, these FDA-approved face masks will be made readily available to the Ghanaian populace, thereby supporting in reducing the spread of coronavirus.”

 As the pandemic spreads across the country, there is an urgency in ensuring that these masks are readily available to frontline health workers and the most at-risk members of the country. Samples have been sent to some health facilities in Ghana and Global Mamas has received positive reviews. Major strides have been taken to ensure that increased effort is applied to meet the project’s objectives by the end of June. Three-ply face masks are available for purchase at Global Mamas’ store in Osu, Accra. Two-ply masks with filter pocket (filter not included) may be purchased by international supporters through the Global Mamas website. 

Designer Elizabeth Adams (left) and Production Manager Amos Kporshiebu (right) of Global Mamas make a mask delivery to the Akuse prison. Photo by Mallory Savisaar

5/7/2020 :: Educating on Healthy Pregnancies

By Rebecca Fogel



Global Mamas’ Krobo office with members of the Marie Stopes team. 


Earlier this spring Global Mamas staff and producers in Krobo, Akuse, and Cape Coast participated in workshops educating on pregnancy and delivery, facilitated by Dr. Akpene Nyamadi, Clinical Quality Advisor at Marie Stopes International in Ghana. Marie Stopes is a global organization that has been educating and providing family planning services to Ghanaian women and girls since 2007. 


Dr. Nyamadi discussed the stages of pregnancy, what to expect during pregnancy, antenatal care, and the labor, delivery, and post-delivery process. Emphasis was placed on good prenatal care to improve pregnancy outcomes, including taking extra folic acid, avoiding drugs and alcohol, exercise, blood tests and physical exams, and a healthy diet. Dr. Nyamadi went over the early signs of pregnancy in addition to educating the Mamas on what changes it’s normal to expect during a health pregnancy in the the first through third trimesters.



In recent years Mamas have requested more opportunities to learn about better health for themselves and their families.


Dr. Nyamadi shared about the Focused Antenatal Care (FANC) model, which includes at least four antenatal clinic visits during pregnancy for screenings, immunizations, and monitoring. He also shared the many benefits of engaging in exercise during pregnancy. Exercise reduces the risk of complications, eases discomfort, promotes healthy and steady weight gain, boosts mood and energy, and reduces stress. 


The Mamas greatly enjoyed and appreciated this workshop, commenting on the importance of antenatal care, safe sex, and maintaining a healthy diet while pregnant to ensure a healthy mother and baby. Thanks to the team at Marie Stopes for taking the time to share their expertise with so many of the Mamas!


4/30/2020 :: Educating Communities on Rights to Natural Resources

Akuse, a town near the Volta River in Ghana’s Eastern Region, is home to Global Mamas’ newest eco initiative. In collaboration with local communities our team is using invasive water hyacinth as the raw material for an all-new collection of natural fiber products. 

Known locally as the “poison flower,” the hyacinth earned its nickname from area fisherman who over time have identified that wherever the plant grows, fish and other aquatic life fail. This effect is caused in part by the weeds’ aggressive growth, forming thick mats across the surface of the water and blocking sunlight. Water hyacinth also has thick stems which efficiently suck oxygen and other necessary nutrients out of the water, harming native species. 


Women from the cooperatives harvesting invasive hyacinth. Photo credit: Eric Senanu 

Presented with this ecological challenge, Global Mamas saw an opportunity to restore biodiversity, but also create economic opportunity for individuals living in affected communities. Through this initiative over the past six months we’ve been able to create jobs not only for weavers and paper makers transforming the fibers into home goods, but also for those actually harvesting the weed from the river.


Cooperative member processing the hyacinth to be dried in the sun for one week. Photo Credit: Mallory Savisaar 

Global Mamas is now working with cooperatives in five different communities that are harvesting and processing the raw water hyacinth into fibers for our production team. Each week co-op members deliver their hyacinth to our Akuse office. They are paid upon delivery for both the wet stalks required for paper, and the dry stalks required for weaving. In addition to the agreed upon price, Global Mamas pays a 5% premium into an overarching community fund, which is managed by a Community Resource Management Area (CREMA). 


Weavers turn the dried hyacinth into beautiful woven products. Photo credit: Mallory Savisaar. 

The CREMA approach was initially developed by the Wildlife Division of the Ghanaian Forestry Commission, to address wildlife management outside protected areas and forest reserves. Due to the models great success with community based resource management, the program is now being used to manage a variety of natural resources. With our partners at Nature Conservation Research Center (NCRC)  we’ve been participating in meetings, training and workshops aimed at educating community members on the rights they have to advocate for their own natural resources.


Leaders form the CREMA communities together after a training session. Photo credit: Mallory Savisaar

The 5% premium Global Mamas pays to the CREMA is used at their discretion for projects that will benefit the entire community, such as sanitation projects like toilet construction. This puts the community in a better position to have a say over their own local natural resources.The real power of the Fibers of Change project is not just its ability to create jobs, but to open up a community wide discussion about environmentalism, natural resource protection, and a community based approach to resource management.


4/17/2020 :: Learn More About Invasive Water Hyacinth

Community partners working with Global Mamas to harvest water hyacinth.


Water hyacinth, a profuse natural resource that we are using as the base material for our new Fibers of Change collection, is known around the world for it’s aggressive growth. Certain species of hyacinth are known to double their size in just two weeks - meaning an initial ten plants may multiply into over 600 specimens in a three month span. This rapid growth clogs waterways while a well-developed root system readily absorbs oxygen and available nutrients, depleting resources needed for native plants, fish, and other organisms to thrive. This combination of factors makes the water hyacinth a threat to biodiversity, water quality, water transportation, and human health wherever it’s found. 


 Water hyacinth located on an abandoned fish farm on the Volta River.


Originally from the Amazon Basin, water hyacinth may now be found in waterways around the world. Spread has occurred in part due to its deceptively pretty blossoms that are found desirable as ornamental pond plants.  Once established in a wetland or water body such as Ghana’s Volta River, the weed can spread through wind propulsion of floating plants (or plant fragments), through water currents, and on the feathers and feet of local species and migratory waterbirds. (source) The construction of the Akosombo Dam, located just north of the area where we are sourcing the weeds, has created favorable conditions for water hyacinth colonies to flourish. Every time the Dam opens more weeds float downriver to our partner communities, meaning mechanical or chemical means to eliminate the plant are not a viable long-term solution. Under the Fibers of Change* Project Global Mamas is working with communities in the Lower Volta River to find truly sustainable ways to protect the biodiversity of the river while providing fairly paid livelihoods for community members affected by the water hyacinth infestation.



*This project is funded by USAID through the West Africa Biodiversity and Climate Change program (WA BiCC)


 Global Mamas staff training community members on the benefits of harvesting water hyacinth.


Harvesting the water hyacinth by pulling it from the water whole has been recommended as the most sustainable way to mitigate its spread. Removing the plant by hand prevents secondary pollution caused by using chemicals or pesticides, and it also creates sustainable livelihoods for community members as they harvest and sell the hyacinth to our handcrafting team in Akuse.


It turns out the water hyacinth plant is rich in fiber which makes it useful for both papermaking and weaving. To create woven goods such as ropes, baskets, and bags Global Mamas weavers take fibers harvested from the river and dry them in the sun. Global Mamas papermakers use the plant fibers while they are still fresh, grinding and crushing them into a pulp. In combination with other materials such as the batik textiles and recycled glass beads already being crafted by Global Mamas artisans, our team in Akuse has been developing eco-friendly water hyacinth products since Fall 2019.  Various colorways of the innovative products shown below are available online now.



 We hope you love this unique and eco-friendly line as much as we do! 

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