A Women’s Movement in Tanzania Supporting Youth Education
Buy Jewelry for a Cause
Upendo Jewelry and the Made by Maasai Shop
There’s a bright girl named Rehema* who attends the 7th grade at O’Brien School for the Maasai, a primary school in Tanzania. She loves to read donated story books from her school library and make up dances to Tanzanian pop songs with her friends. She desperately wants to continue her education in secondary school, but her family might not be able to afford it. It is not that her father makes no money, it is that he spends it all on booze. Her mother became a “jewelry mama” this year in order to keep her in school, and through this work, she was able to pay off half of Rehema’s school fees. Her mother is now pregnant with another child, and worried about how she will continue to support her children, but is dedicated to making sure that Rehema continues her schooling.
Each piece of Upendo Jewelry at the MadebyMaasai Etsy store is hand-made by a mother working to support her family and her child’s education. The art of beadwork has been passed down from generation to generation in Maasai families, making these “jewelry mamas” in Northern Tanzania experts in their craft, and each piece a unique work of art. Many of the jewelry mamas are widows living in a deeply patriarchal society and may have no other income outside of jewelry work.
“Women are the Key to Ending Poverty” is advice that the O’Brien School, a primary school in Tanzania, takes seriously. Sheryl WuDunn and Nicholas Kristoff write in their book Half the Sky that while education makes a big difference in decreasing the cycle of poverty, supporting work opportunities for marginalized women is even more effective. One reason is that women are more likely than men to spend money on their families, start small businesses, and help pay for their children’s schooling.
Support Education with your Purchase
For many of the students at this primary school in Tanzania, especially for girls, the alternative to receiving an education is bleak. They are likely to be married far too young and live a harsh life that includes walking far distances for buckets of water and caring for their husband’s home, alongside co-wives. Any mama employed by the O’Brien School understands this, probably from experience, and therefore puts at least part of her income into her child’s education.
Know Where Your Money is Going—and Look Amazing.
Rehema’s mother is one of about forty jewelry mamas that I’ve worked with for Upendo Jewelry. The O’Brien School provides the materials, and the women provide their time and talent. All of the money made from selling this unique, beautiful jewelry goes straight back into buying more supplies and offering more employment to these women. I can personally promise that.
*Name changed for privacy.