Agents for Change
Each year World Fair Trade Day provides an opportunity to refocus on what we’re doing, and why we’re doing it. On a broad scale, the fair trade movement is made up of individuals around the globe joining together to promote ethical trade relationships as a tool to create lasting social change. From businesses like Global Mamas that are committed to working within the principles of fair trade, to consumers such as yourselves that vouch for our ethical business practices by purchasing our products, we are all “agents for change”.
Beyond Global Mamas staff, producers, and committed customers, we’re privileged to work with an additional elite crew that believe in the power of fair trade: our volunteers! Each year individuals from across the globe offer their time and talents to take their impact to the next level. Many work with us for a season before continuing on their journey, but others, like Jane Graham have been coming back to visit us for years.
Jane Graham, Volunteer
As the head of a visual arts department at a school in Connecticut, Jane first volunteered with Global Mamas in 2008 and has returned each year to put her creative talents to use developing new batiks for our catalog over Spring Break. During this year’s visit our textile designer Nick took ten minutes to jot down more of her story.
How was the connection made with Global Mamas?
Jane originally travelled to Ghana to volunteer her time teaching at a school in the Volta region. After a visit to Cape Coast castle she stumbled across the Global Mamas store/office that was, at the time, located nearby. She thought it was an interesting concept and stocked up on gifts for family and friends back home. Thanks to a grant supporting service work provided by her school she’s been able to make it an annual visit. Why does she do it, year after year? She says, “I love the philosophy of Global Mamas, and that it is actionable fair trade…creating income for women, which is fundamental to development. The process of developing fabrics is exciting, fun, and gratifying”.
Of the friendships that have developed over the years, are there any Mamas in particular that you’ve grown close to?
Immediately Gina Afenyo, a batiker near our Cape Coast office came to mind. Like Jane she is a teacher, instructing girls at a local high school in the art of batik when she is not producing her own textiles for Global Mamas. Understanding the importance of education, Gina encourages all of her employees and apprentices to go back to school—even though it means she sometimes has to work alone! Early on Gina and Jane met in the Global Mamas office and the two women clicked. Ever since the pair have been collaborating each spring on developing new designs for our line. Gina also introduced Jane to Grace, a talented seamstress that crafts customized garments for Jane on each of her visits back to Ghana.
Do you have a favorite product or print?
Jane loves the reversible aprons; “I’ve bought so many and now everybody I know has a Global Mamas apron! They’re great”. The weekend bag is another favorite. For batik designs, one of the first stamps she helped develop “Sailing” remains dear to her heart and is still available in some of our kids garments if you’re curious to see it.
What are some unexpected challenges of working in Ghana?
Electricity and the lack thereof have been an ongoing challenge—some years there’s full power and others it’s very off and on. The open sewers were something that she found surprising and it took time to get used to. She says, “[Over the years] there has been so much development in Ghana and yet still so much that needs developing.”
Besides affecting your wardrobe, how does Global Mamas make a difference in your life?
People are intrigued about Jane’s work in Ghana and she often finds herself engaging in conversations about it. Other opportunities have come up over the years to bring the stories and batiks of the Mamas back to her community in Connecticut. She regularly sells Global Mamas products through events at the school—reinvesting a portion of the profits into more product, with the rest of the money going towards funding service learning opportunities.
One year Jane used a custom textile stamped with her school logo (a batik design crafted by Gina) to make aprons for her art classes. These aprons were available for parents to purchase with the profits again going toward her end goal of bringing more work to the Mamas and raising money for service learning initiatives.
Global Change, One by One
As the Akan say, “kakra kakra’, or little by little, change is made. Jane is proud of her work with Global Mamas and being part of an organization making a difference. This World Fair Trade Day we’re sharing her story with gratitude, in addition to some of the beautiful textiles that are the outcome of her time in Ghana this spring. We feel such love and gratitude for the many volunteers that have worked with Global Mamas over the years, but we also want to come back around to recognizing we ALL are agents for change. As you wear our garments, share photos of the Mamas on social media, or engage in conversations with family and friends about why there’s even a need for fair trade. This World Fair Trade Day we thank you ALL for joining us in believing there’s a better way to trade.