Producer Spotlight: Sasa Designs
We’ve got a set of new stackable bracelets straight from
Kenya that are perfect anytime from poolside lounging to sultry midnight walks. Megan
from Sasa Designs by the Deaf gives us the scoop on the amazing artisans who’ve faced a lifetime of adversity and have come to empower themselves through minute craftwork techniques, determination, and lots of heart!
What inspired you to work with the deaf community in Kenya?
Megan: The Deaf face extremely high unemployment - we estimate it's around 85% - much higher than the average Kenyan. As someone who has lived in Kenya most of the time since 2008, I've grown accustomed to seeing people with physical disabilities forced to resort to begging as the only way to get by. While my background is in artisan production and Fair Trade - the opportunity to apply this work to a community that is much more in need was very exciting for me. I love knowing that we are truly providing jobs that simply would not exist otherwise.
What materials are used to make the jewelry?
The bulk of our pieces use glass, leather, brass, bone and stone. We import czech glass beads for our wrap bracelets - likely from the same factories that produced the original masaai beads that Kenya is famous for. We Work with local brass and bone carvers to source many of our components and are always looking for ways to apply these natural elements in new ways!
What are some of the most inspiring stories you've heard from your artisans?
We recently welcomed an artisan who has suffered tremendously. A couple years ago she was gang-raped and gave birth to twins, only to lose one. Many people would not survive such a brutal attack and the following tragedy - but though she is young, she has persevered. When one of our translators interviewed her recently in order to prepare her artisan card, she noted that throughout the chat her face was blank and she was hunched over. When it was time to ask how (if at all) her work with Sasa has changed her life, her entire demeanor changed! She smiled for the first time in the interview and shared how it has truly given her hope for both her and her daughter's life. This is why we do what we do!
How has Sasa Design helped ease the stigma of hearing impairment in Kenya?
The Deaf spend most of their life feeling "oppressed" and discriminated against. Many of their own families have told them they are "useless" and a drain on resources. When they join Sasa Designs, many of these women are experiencing income, pride and self-worth for the FIRST time. Over the weeks and months we see them grow in their personality - they literally start to see themselves in an entirely new way. For someone who has relied on family or charity for much of their life - there is the most incredible joy in discovering the ability to take care of themselves and even support others with their income.
Do you see Sasa Design expanding to other parts of Africa?
Most likely we would work with the Deaf in India next because the organization that helped us start has a campus there. We would love to serve the Deaf worldwide - but are taking baby steps for now to make sure we build our business sustainably.
Thank you Megan for sharing the wonderful stories behind Sasa Design! We're so happy with all the work you're doing in Kenya! To learn more about Sasa Designs by the Deaf click here.
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