The Paper Crafting Artisans of Eco Africa
The paper crafters of Eco Africa are mostly women who live in the high density surburb of Chitungwiza, which is situated some twenty-five minutes from the capital city Harare. They are in different situations and have diverse backgrounds – some are married with families of their own, some are young and unmarried, and some are even grandmothers.
They all have one thing in common: a desire to earn money of their own, to be able to lead better lives and to help their families lead better lives too. They all acquired a love of crafting, of seeing something beautiful emerge from unlikely components that they previously took for granted before becoming Eco Africa crafters. Many are employed for the very first time, in a country where the unemployment rate is around 90%.
The skills training programs funded by Eco Africa Social Ventures offer a way out of endemic poverty and provide hope for a better future.
First time crafters are amazed at what they find when they join the training programs. Cotton rags discarded by t-shirt factories magically become colorful sheets of paper. Piles of fleshy sisal plants are transformed into bales of strong twine that bind books and journals. Chips of soap stone cast off by sculptors are miraculously carved into tiny elephants to decorate books and journals. The possibilities for recycling waste are endless.
They are all proud that they have become skilled at what they do and they have become candidates for work when Eco Africa Papercraft fulfills new orders from around the world.
Eco Africa Papercraft is the social enterprise that has created a hub in which women, (and a handful of men) from the Chitungwiza community are invited to be trained in the skills of crafting. Once trained, the women are called upon to produce craft products to be marketed world wide to craft loving customers who, by purchasing the products, know they will be helping to sustain the families through much needed income.
Crafters learn a number of skills other than crafting. Some shine brightly in their new environment and become table leaders, component managers and supervisors, all of which can qualify them for other employment opportunities in the future.
Eco Africa Social Ventures funds the initiative by giving seed grants to sustain and maintain the workshops and the training programs. Eco Africa Social Ventures also funds supplier crafters and crafting groups to improve equipment and other needs.
Here’s what some of the crafters have had to say about Eco Africa.