Over 8,000 miles away in the town of Lugazi is a workshop of women creating indigenous jewelry and earning money to provide for their families.
This Uganda hot spot of creativity is powered by Musana, directed locally by Utah County residents Linden Baker and Melissa Sevy.
The idea to employ women and give them self-sustainability skills came after Melissa traveled to Lugazi with Help International. While living there, she noticed most of the women held the economic burden for the home, and yet there were limited jobs for females.
With a desire to break the cycle of poverty, Musana was born. In Lugazi, Musana employs 20 women full-time and 20-40 women part-time. The women spend their workdays handcrafting jewelry made from indigenous materials. The profits from the jewelry pay the salaries of the women.
“Rather than people simply donating money to a charity, they are buying a product they want and then the icing on the cake is that it is empowering the artists who made it,” Melissa says.
The ultimate goal of employing the women is to give them the opportunity to become self-sustainable. At the workshop the women take classes in English, business, literacy and health. The workshop facility also houses the first Lugazi community library.
“The idea is they don’t have to work for Musana making jewelry forever,” Linden says. “They can gain the confidence, the skills and the business and management experience to leave and do something else and do it successfully.”
Musana supports the women with jobs while they develop their own businesses that will eventually lead them to employ more women.
The artisans are more than employees to Melissa and Linden —these women are their friends.
“We know very intimately the 20 full-time artisans,” Melissa says. “We’ve been to their homes. We know their children. We know the difficult situations they come from. Many of them are single mothers or widows. We have 20 moms when we go there.”
As Musana has grown, Linden and Melissa have considered ways to employ more artisans around the world. They recently launched an umbrella company, Fair Kind.
“If you go anywhere in the developing world, you see artisans with highly developed indigenous craft skills but they have no access to the global market,” Melissa says. “We’re facilitating their entrance.”
Fair Kind reaches out to companies to fulfill their corporate gifting needs while adding a meaning behind the gift. Products sold by Fair Kind include Musana jewelry, baskets woven in Rwanda and alpaca products, like blankets and scarves, from Peru.
Through orders with Fair Kind, companies can create customized products.
“We want to change the belief that you have to source from China if you want high quantity,” Linden says. “You can do good. You can get the type of product you want and source it through artisan groups, and you end up with a product that has so much more meaning.”
With the launch of Fair Kind, Melissa and Linden are giving even more women the means they need to provide for their families.
“It’s allowing us to have a greater impact,” Melissa says.
One company said in the past they had spent thousands of dollars on parties with hopes of increasing employee satisfaction, but partnering with Musana gave them even better results.
“This company told us that doing this giveback project with Musana did more for their employees in terms of morale and excitement about their jobs than any of their parties,” Melissa says. “That was cool for us to hear.”