Craft Link Kenya: Making More Than A Handbag

This is a remarkable video, on so many levels. I crochet, always on the lookout for new ideas. These women are part of a community based organization called the Kibera Integrated Empowerment Group, seventy women, ninety percent of them HIV positive, who live in one of the sub-Sahara’s most crowded slums. This clip was shot by Charles Stuart Gay, a remarkable man who runs Humanity Unites Brilliance, dedicated to promote opportunities for some of the world’s most disadvantaged people – and you don’t get much more disadvantaged than being an HIV positive woman living in an African slum – through education, micro-loans, and small business schemes to “create self-sustainability.” That’s a fancy way of saying “make a living.” He also works with Craft Link Kenya, a fair trade market organization working with designers and retailers around the world to provide distribution for the Kenyan artisans creating a wealth of handmade goods, strongly focused on combating poverty while at the same time promoting environmentally friendly enterprises.

They employ over one thousand women in the Kitui district who weave sisal products. Eight hundred rural Maasi woman in Sambura, Magadi and Kajianda who produce beaded goods tailored for a Western market. One thousand men in Nairobi carve exquisite wooden products, and four thousand people in Mombasa working to orders coming in from Europe and North America. But by far, for me, the most impressive group of people are these women in Kibera, crafting amazing handbags out of recycled plastic carrier bags. Because not only are they creating a product that is helping them make a living, they’re consciously environmentally active, aware of and dedicated to whatever they can do to help save our planet.

Yet it’s even more than that – these woman have so little, and yet this video was made so that they could show you how to make your own bag, if you prefer. They have nothing but their intellectual property in designing these bags, and what they can make selling them in the world market – yet their generosity of spirit is so humbling I was close to tears. That’s all they have – and they’re willing to share it with you, and me. So as embattled as we are while we’re fighting for the future of the 99%, let’s take a moment to remember that the vast majority of the world’s 99% doesn’t even live in Europe or North America.

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