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Global Mamas is Changing Women's Lives in Ghana

Global Mamas is a non-profit and fair trade organization that helps women in Africa to become economically independent through the production and sales of their traditional handicraft. As part of their field lab to learn about the role of nonprofits and fair trade in developing countries, students in Laurie McNown’s comparative politics class, America in the World, visited the Global Mamas factory in Tema and the retail store in Accra. Global Mamas creates over 200 products that are exported to countries around the world, including the United States. Fair wages give African women the opportunity to improve their standard of living while creating more prosperous communities. As part of the field lab, students also met the founder and executive director of Global Mamas to learn more about the process of starting and running a nonprofit organization.

The program director for Global Mamas explains the batik process to students and why the stamping process is done with sponges in Ghana instead of with wood to make the carved designs. Tyler Adams of Rhodes College, Molly McVay of DePaul University, Andrew Smith of the University of Cincinnati and Jacob Zimmer of Bentley University (all l-r), are in the foreground.
Elizabeth Virgl of the University of Tampa and Abbie Lund of Dartmouth College are among the group of students observing the stamping process, which is done by dipping a carved sponge in to hot wax and then applying it to fabric.
The stamping process with batiks requires steady hands, careful artistry, and patience. The wax prevents the dye from staining the fabric. The more ornate the sponge, the more beautiful the pattern.
At left, after the fabric is dyed and dried, it is soaked in boiling water to remove the wax. Once boiled, the wax is collected and reused in future projects. At right, students observe one of the “mamas” dying a piece of fabric in a plastic tub.
Fabric is submerged in dye. Since dye stains everything it touches, rubber gloves are worn to protect the skin.
The dye sets in and patterned fabric is line-dried. Once the fabric dries, the wax will be boiled off and recycled. The blue fabric (shown above) still contains dye in the wax on the pattern-stamped areas. Once it is boiled off the patterned area will be white.
Fabrics ready for sewing are folded and stored neatly in cubbies. In 2003, Global Mamas made only five products. Today, the “mamas” produce more than 200 products.
Each of the “mamas” needs to skilled in a variety of areas, such as batiking, dying fabrics, sewing, and trimming. (left) At right, Global Mamas’ executive director shows the SAS group some of the group’s latest prototypes, which are made from fabric scraps.
Global Mamas strives for quality, creativity, and continuous improvement in all of its products.
The Global Mamas tagline, “LOVE your product. KNOW your producer. CHANGE her life” rings true as thread passes a needle and finishing touches are made.
SAS Prof. Laurie McNown (left) and her students listen to one of the organization’s directors discuss the Global Mamas supply chain. Directors must be sure the right fabrics and the correct sizes make it to the right customer.
Spools of lavender, cerulean, sky blue, turquoise, and purple thread await sewing.
Every product proudly displays the handmade tag. Workers receive 34% of the revenue. The rest is reinvested in the company.
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