As a college student, I can understand the struggles of not being able to afford anything. But I, and many other American students, have the luxury of having parents who help out with purchases that are needed to get by.
For people in many African countries, not being able to afford anything is a reality that isn’t going to be made better by parents who can afford to pay for their needs. Most African countries have corrupt government officials who pocket the money and resources that are supposed to go back into the public economy, which is one of the biggest reasons so many Africans live far below the poverty line.
Women, in particular, face an even harsher struggle because women have no power. Many are forced into marriages, encounter violent brutality and have very little legal rights.
Although these women struggle to meet their most basic needs, there are many organizations that help work relentlessly to help them gain access to the resources they need.
Bead for Life is a nonprofit organization that helps women improve their lives and gain independence. The organization works with women in Uganda by running their organization like a business, except all of the profits made go back to the Ugandan women.
The way it works is the Ugandan women make jewelry out of colored recycled paper. They then hand the jewelry over to the organization workers who sell the jewelry on the Bead for Life website or ship out the jewelry to people who wish to host what they call “Bead Parties.” Bead Parties are are when ordinary people who want to help the organization, order jewelry, at no cost to them, and sell the jewelry to their friends and family and tell them about the cause. They then send all the money they made and unsold jewelry back to the home office and the money gets sent to the Ugandan women.
The money helps the women get educated, including developing business skills, they can purchase or get the funds to build their own homes, pay for their own food and supplies, and take care of their children.
The jewelry is beautiful and inexpensive. I’ve purchased two of their bracelets.
These bracelets, the Sanyu (Lugandan for 'joy') bangles, are $5. These bracelets, one of the most popular jewelry items, make great gifts and go with any outfit.
I participated in a Women and Activism Fair on my college campus and I got to sit at a table and sell some of the Bead for Life jewelry and tell people about the cause.
It was a great feeling the expression on people’s faces when I told them the cause behind Bead for Life. They got excited that they could have the chance to help out the Ugandan women get the same opportunities that they had- the opportunities for education, and purchasing a home- all just by purchasing a piece of handmade jewelry.
All of the jewelry is hand made from recycled paper and the detail on them is absolutely beautiful.
The Ugandan women not only can make fair trade money but more importantly, they gain confidence and independence when making the jewelry because they are essentially working to help themselves, no one is handing anything out to them. They know that the pieces they are making are beautiful and they know that through their work, they will be able to provide a better life for themselves which makes it a satisfying experience to both them and for people like myself who are just trying to help the cause.
So, if you’re looking to help a great cause and purchase some unique and inexpensive jewelry in the process, check out the Bead for Life site to get involved with the organization or to purchase jewelry and other items like all natural, handmade shea butter soap. All items range in price from $2 to $30 and a purchase of an entire collection of products is about $50 is you’re looking to get more for your buck. Having bought some jewelry myself, I can say that I felt so much satisfaction in knowing that my money was going to improve the life of another woman. To make purchases and see where the money from your purchase will go, check out beadforlife.org.
Janet, College of Saint Elizabeth, 2012
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