Sisters Are Doing It

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How fashion-minded femtrepreneurs are changing the world.

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London: Fashion Week 2016

In honor of International Women’s Day, many of us are reading about the great accomplishments of women inventors, scientists and humanitarians. Stories of how we faced seemingly insurmountable obstacles in many occupations, only to forge new paths.

One such field is Fashion. For many, it has a reputation for frivolity and social irresponsibility. But women are changing that. We’re reshaping it into ways our male predecessors never imagined.

Innovation appears when the overlooked become visible.

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As females, we see niches that our male counterparts miss. We empathize with those who don’t fit the constraints of previous generations. This can be seen in the recent body-positive movement. In it, diversity is celebrated – all shapes, sizes, ages and abilities.

One such designer is Lucy Jones. Inspired by her cousin’s wish for more independence while dressing, Ms. Jones created a way to re-engineer garments for those who have impaired motion. She calls it Advantage Blocks and it allows for ease of movement and function without compromising style. Here’s a video on how it works.

Mothers of Invention.

We can all attest that one size never fits all. Neither does one shape. That’s why, for most of us, shopping can be a real buzzkill. We try everything on. And on. And on. And still often walk away empty handed.

Wouldn’t it be great if we could bypass this process just a little? If women could share shopping and style tips online with thousands of others? Well, check your inbox, because you’ve got fashionpenpals.

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Kat and Nina: Fashion Penpals

Founders Kat Eves and Nina Asay describe their brainchild as: “Wicked style at every shape, every size, every color, every gender, and every income. If you have great personal style, confidence, and a good story to tell about it, we want to show it off.”

A group of fashionable femmes sharing style tips and photos? Sign me up!

Then of course, there’s the sharing economy. Fashion’s very own Netflix where you can rent clothing for everyday wear or formal outings. Imagine expanding or reducing your wardrobe at will. Trying new looks without blowing your budget.

Rachel Botsman, co-author of “What’s Mine Is Yours: The Rise of Collaborative Consumption,” gave a 2010 TED Talk about this new frontier of consumerism. And online rental shop, Gwynnie Bee has become so successful, they’ve started designing their own collections to help fill in the gaps.

The Big Picture.

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Aside from personal empowerment, women also care about social responsibility. We want assurance that what we buy is ethically produced and sustainable. In fact, a recent study showed that Millennial women were most likely to:

  • Buy a product with a social and/or environmental benefit, given the opportunity (90%, versus the 83% adult average);
  • Tell their friends and family about a company’s CSR efforts (86%, versus the 72% adult average); and
  • Be more loyal to a company that supports a social or environmental issue (91%, versus the 87% adult average).
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In Tanzania: Lotusland sponsored schools

But it doesn’t stop there. According to an article on Psychology Today, Gen Y offspring (born between 1978 and 1994) are much less accepting of traditional marketing methods, proving more skeptical and hard to reach than previous generations. They also tend to be more confident and socially aware, valuing equality and social responsibility over thoughtless consumerism.

As the Internet exposes everything that’s wrong with the world, both men and women want to be a part of the solution, not the problem. We all seek sustainable businesses and eco-wise, fair-trade goods. And women owned businesses are providing that.

One such designer is Heather Arellano of R.O.S.E. Clothing.

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R.O.S.E. leggings

The acronym R.O.S.E. stands for “Respect others, self, environment.”

R.O.S.E’S mission is to inspire, educate and create positive change through the stories behind its apparel. Imagery that playfully promotes learning – like pencil leggings – donates to schools. Imagery that promotes indigenous culture – like a stylized, colorful rabbit design – supports The Huichol Center for Cultural Survival and Traditional Arts. And a future collection promises to promote the Navajo Water Project.

Ms. Arellano doesn’t just give a little: 50% of her proceeds go to the non-profits that inspire her lines. Cool designs with heart. Now isn’t that a smart way to shop?

Another step in the right direction is Brooklyn based eco-luxe brand Brother Vellies.

Founder and CEO Aurora James employs many earth-wise methods for her footwear and childrenswear (e.g. vegetable dyes, repurposed/upcycled leather) while creating jobs in Africa. You can read more about Brother Vellies here.

Finally, it’s time we address the (ahem) grey elephant in the room: women over 50.

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The 50+ show, London Fashion Week

Cool your boots; I’m part of this demographic. I’ve relished our recent rise from invisible to celebrated. And I’m thrilled that market research now confirms what we knew all along:

We have the buying power and desire to be included in high fashion retail.

Our increasing visibility is partially due to some excellent blogs and news exposure out there. The most glamorous being London Fashion Week last month, where they hosted the first 50+ show in history. It put the spotlight on the obvious: that high fashion looks amazing on women over fifty. And we’re not shy about wearing it, either.

In Vancouver, BC, Bodacious Lifestyles gets it. Their clothing, in sizes 10 to 24, looks great on any age. Because really, there’s no “appropriate age” for flattering style, is there?

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Bodacious Lifestyles jacket with Lotusland Cuff

Our future.

Regardless of age or background, what’s remarkable about women isn’t just our creativity and vision. It’s our ability to utilize these gifts despite our roadblocks. More than ever, we’re finding ways to combine our knowledge and resources with other women. We’re not afraid to leave behind old methods and invent new ones.

You don’t have to be a female entrepreneur yourself to have something worth sharing – or worth changing. Volunteer your skills or time to someone who needs it. Or just spread the word and support other creative women. Two blogs doing so are Fashion Fights Back and Better Dressed Blog. And the remarkable website, Redefining Disabled is beyond inspirational.

So, on this International Women’s Day, let’s examine our visions, needs and goals. And join others in reaching theirs – because together, we can change things. For all of us.

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Meme from fashionpenpals

 

Regina Tuzzolino is a writer, avid traveler and 10 year fashion design veteran. She currently lives in Canada where she vacillates between American and British spelling. Apologies in advance.

 

 

 

 

Unearthing the messages behind traditional jewellery

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Image Devotion, bravery, status. Love, womanhood, marriage. Unity of family, harmony of community and balance of nature.

These are just a handful of the core concepts the Maasai people hold in high regard. Though ideas circulate amongst generations, consolidated by the advice of mothers and the command of elders, nowhere is social value granted a more elegant expression than in the art of beadwork undertaken by the women of each community.  Women of the Maasai have the age-old habit of gathering together before, after and in-between their daily chores to craft beautiful jewellery. More so than simply pursuing aesthetical quality, these women make jewellery to the ends of social and personal expression, and the grandest meanings can be found in the tiniest motifs. From the length of a pendant to the color of an ornament each piece of jewellery is rife with symbolism; so rife, in fact, that an insider can even tell a woman’s status by observing it.

The talented Maasai women pour their love and care into their beaded work. Every necklace is unique. Do you ever wonder what meaning can be attributed to your own Lotusland piece? We thought it’d be cool to do a little investigation into the motifs of Maasai jewellery – let’s find out!

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Colors

Crowds of foreign travellers and European fashionistas scouting for the next big trend have long been attracted to the sheer vibrancy of Maasai attire and jewellery. And all for good reason, too – they are simply breathtaking! Jewellery is where color lends expression to ideas, where a shade speaks a thousand words about an intriguing culture.

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Red

The color of blood can refer to the blood of the lion that a Maasai warrior must slaughter for honour, or equally the blood of the cow that the community sacrifices on the occasion of gathering. Red can thus mean the savageness and danger of the wild and the ferocity and courage the moran man exercises to protect his people. It can also denote unity of the community and even the daily trials and tribunals that the Maasai must learn to overcome.

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Blue

Nature’s beauty, blue represents the sky and the waters that nurture the Maasai’s cattle and provides the livelihood and sustenance for both people and animals of the land.

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Green

Green is intimately tied to the notion of land and territory since it is the colour of the grass that stretches across the vast Tanzanian plains on which Maasai dwell. It is the land that provides food for livestock and people, and where the people’s roots lie. Because so many facets of Maasai culture are inextricable from their physical land, land has sacrosanct status. However, recent land disputes between the government and local farmers coveting the same resources have raised many concerns about Maasai communities. On another note, in the Maasai community a kind of green plant called the olari grows lush and tall – the Maasai hope their people will flourish just like these plants. Green herein can symbolize growth and hope.

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Orange

This is the color of warmth, hospitality, generosity and friendship mainly because it is the color of the gourd in which Maasai people offer milk to their visitors. The color itself is a smiling greeting to both intimate acquaintances and new friends alike; it is a reflection of typical Maasai amiability.

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Yellow

Yellow is also symbolic of traditional Maasai hospitality because it is the color of the cow hide with which guest beds are covered for comfort. In addition, yellow is the color of the majestic sun that gives the world light, warmth and energy, prompting the growth and keeping the health of people and livestock.

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White

White is the classic shade of purity, chastity and virginity. For the Maasai white means even more, because it is the color of milk, a staple of their diet and a core source of nourishment for the people. According to Maasai belief, the cows that provide this milk are pure and chaste animals that the heavens bestowed upon the people to help sustain themselves.

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Black

Black is the color of the people, color of the night and color of communion in the face of difficult times. The Maasai know that many difficulties are present in every individual’s life. They believe trials and tribunals are only natural and that harmony and solidarity are indispensable in overcoming them.

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Another recurrent motif you may have noticed in our jewellery is a round beaded disc layered together by rings of colourful beads. This disc is reminiscent of the “circle of life”, a part of the Maasai system of beliefs about the universe and their natural environment.

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In the feral African plains, life and death are not associated with injustice. Instead, they are but a part of a larger circle of life that reigns over all of Earth’s living things. For example, the gazelle mother may lose her baby to the hungry cheetah, but it is not so much a regrettable act of animalistic cruelty than an unavoidable result of a natural hierarchy of predator and prey. Because all animals need other forms of life for their own sustenance, and are themselves the source of sustenance for others still, life is fragile and volatile. But that’s how things are. Life is a jungle and everyone must be on guard at all times.

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Indeed living on the open plains of east Africa means that communities must learn to coexist with a great diversity of animals. Though they draw their subsistence from cattle, the Maasai are deeply reverent of the wild creatures and beasts that share their land and rarely interfere with this circle of life they respect.

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Unfortunately, man encroach more and more upon the kingdom of animals and interfere with the natural procession of predator and prey. Biodiversity and animal populations are being rapidly razed by global economic growth. Preoccupation with development means that perhaps much more weight is accorded to the latter than to the former. Yet for the Maasai, priorities are inversed.

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The prominent circle of life motif symbolizes life and death just as nature intended. Working beautifully in concert with colors encapsulating age-old Maasai wisdoms, our jewellery brings you a breath of air from the heart of the untamed African plains.

Hot Topic – Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) in the Maasai culture: Beyond Cultural Relativity & our symbolic jewellery alternative

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Fusion Traditional Bracelet shows beauty of Massai cuff, yet relaxes permanence and rigidity with addition of elastic corsetting

What makes a piece of jewellery great is not only its beauty but also the presence of a profound symbolic meaning in its form. Such meaningful jewellery becomes a portable piece of art.

You may be pleased to know that your Lotusland necklace is really more than an intricate string of beautiful beads. It is also a capsule of a vibrant indigenous African culture that thrives millions of miles away from us on the feral grasslands of Tanzania and Kenya. Behind every motif carefully embedded in your jewellery lies a perennial cultural value centuries old, told from paradigms far beyond our wildest imaginations by people who uphold lifestyles radically different from our own. Yet through all the far reaches of the globe, transcending cultures however beautiful or peculiar runs the common thread that ties us all back together: a thread of humanity and the desire to live our own cultural beliefs and be recognized as unique human groups. By fusing the unique Maasai culture with Italian design – the conceptions of beauty on our side of the world – we hope that our jewellery provides a platform for a special form of intercultural exchange.

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Many distinctive cultural Maasai values are symbolized in our jewellery. We will explore a few of them, beginning with perhaps the weightiest issue surrounding the culture today: the ongoing practice of circumcision on young girls as a rite of passage into womanhood.

Our traditional bracelet cuff is inspired by the wrist cuffs a Maasai girl typically wears after she passes her circumcision ceremony. She will adorn herself with her most beautiful accessories after being formally recognized as a full-fledged woman. But her beauty can mask the suffering and pain of circumcision she has so bravely endured.

The actual act of circumcision is the core component of a larger annual four-day ceremony comprising festivities that momentously mark young girls’ passage into womanhood. Yet the grim reality of circumcision is hardly worthy of celebration. The widespread term coined for the process, Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), is indicative of its horror.

As with various other Middle Eastern and African groups, Maasai circumcision involves the partial or total removal of the external female genitalia – without anaesthesia. This procedure is usually performed by a hired local cutting “expert” who uses knives, glass and other blunt objects to make the incision on girls as young as seven years old. The fact that it takes multiple adults to hold down a seven year old child during the procedure is a testament to the degree of inhumane torture and pain of the process. The initiate’s suitor is the likely sponsor of the procedure, and he will take her as bride only after she is cut.

The sheer shock a young girl experiences during cutting is often enough to scar her for life. The extent of damage to her sexual and maternal health and even her livelihood and survival are beyond the control of cutting “experts” and local healthcare providers – some initiates die of infection from crude sanitation or contract HIV/AIDs from sharing contaminated cutting objects with other girls in the same ceremony. Those who survive even lose the ability to experience sexual pleasure and often live with painful complications. Horrendous aftereffects of FGM are plenty, but those who endure them remain remarkably secretive. The bottom line is that in Maasailand, FGM continues to be glorified and these easily impressionable young girls are raised to believe that FGM brings the promise of womanhood.

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Why is such a flagrant abuse of girls’ rights still allowed sacrosanct status in any culture? Cultural relativism is the likely answer. Its proponents are usually Western academics, elite Africans, nationalists and many Maasai tribesmen themselves who collectively resist the push to eradicate FGM.

In this case cultural relativity is so intractable because the Maasai live in a sort of cultural enclave in Africa that is remarkably resilient to the Westernization and modernization happening around them. Closed to the outside world, Maasai communities and societal structures operate on different moral values even compared to most Kenyan and Tanzanian societies in their proximity. With FGM so historically engrained in their culture, the tribe itself readily gives a host of rationales for the practice, such as helping women preserving their chastity and fidelity by removing the organ responsible for sexual pleasure or keeping marriages in order since wives are so disinclined to cheat. Others believe that the abolishment of FGM would undo centuries of history, insult the ancestry and bring curses to the communities affected.

These kinds of culture keepers are not necessarily malevolent by wanting to deliberately harm the young girls. They are often elders and men in charge of Maasai communities who justify circumcision as an act of love and care to help girls better find husbands and preserve moral purity of sexual fidelity amongst their people. Their basic defenses all come down to the fact that the culture needs no outside scrutiny since it has worked this way for so long and should not be changed.

A Maasai saying goes: “It takes one day to destroy a house; to build a new house will take months and perhaps years. If we abandon our way of life to construct a new one, it will take thousands of years”. But even culture strengthened by time cannot diminish a glaring truth: FGM is a form of human torture.

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Even so, culture keeping makes the cause against FGM difficult to operationalize. Within the intractable patriarchal framework of the Maasai men automatically reject and shame uncut women. Since men are the heads and commanders of Maasai society, the unwed girl has little choice but to comply if she wants to be accepted by her people and find a husband. Worse yet, many grandmothers and mothers force their daughters to go through the same excruciating pain they themselves experienced since they view FGM as an absolutely necessary step towards true Maasai womanhood. Such adults are predetermining concepts of womanhood, sexuality and marriageability for the younger generation. Other adults non-compliant with the tradition have trouble finding alternatives due to inadequate education and economic difficulties. When no one can stand up for innocent young Maasai girls, the torture of FGM becomes an unavoidable part of their futures.

No matter how intense external pressures may be, the ultimate end to FGM starts from within. After all in a cultural enclave people pay more attention to their own kind than to foreign preachers of human rights. Though communities are far from abolishing the practice completely at least more and more women with access to education develop the awareness and courage to stand up for themselves and their daughters against FGM.

Young men’s attitudes need to be changed as well. Their continued rejection of uncut girls – labelling them as mere children unfit for marriage – is the primary reason why most Maasai girls are still gritting their teeth through FGM instead of revolting. Fortunately organizations such as AMREF are working on the ground to effectuate much-needed attitudinal shifts. They begin by informing elders about sexuality and womanhood. They then pass enlightened knowledge to young men searching for their future brides. Success is slow but steady.

Hope also lies with the “new face” of the Maasai female: educated girls who have rejected circumcision themselves and resist scorn from their communities to teach others about the cruelty and dangers associated with cutting. Many have even run away from their predetermined destinies to seek freedom. The international community can help by giving these strong women more opportunities to speak out when they are silenced. They are bravely revising the traditionally warped notion of womanhood with the power of knowledge and confidence. Their ideas are incredibly valuable.

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 A symbol of strength. Click to show on official site.

Re-examination of FGM is a product of the clash between rigid tradition and the internationalization of knowledge and ethics. Parallel to this fusion of values our particular wrist cuff harmoniously fuses together European chic with very traditional Maasai beauty. Our Milanese student designers have replaced traditional wire with elastics to string the beads together in this unique combination of styles. The result is this stunning symbol of the versatility of tradition, of our successes in altering oppressively strict binds of culture in favour of humanity and positive change. As with the case against FGM the import of Western values into Maasai tradition does not mar its strength; instead, fusion makes tradition all the more beautiful and its adherents more free to express their individuality. We dedicate this cuff to the Maasai women’s courageous fight for rights in hopes that with every passing day they can find new hope for brighter futures.

The good news is that positive changes are under way thanks to gradual acceptance of international values by the Maasai. For starters, “experts” who perform the cutting are often operating with more sanitized instruments to minimize chances of infection. Furthermore, some women have themselves designed an alternative “cutting with words” rite of passage for girls which consists of a three-day-long educational session about sex and self-confidence as well as festivities to replace the actual act of physical mutilation. The education raises girls’ awareness of self-worth. It steadily chips away at their conception that inferiority to men is an unalterable reality. More and more families are investing in young daughters by sending them to schools. These changes, however gradual, are extremely significant in the long run.

The future looks bright. Gradually phasing out FGM need not mark a slippery slope into undoing the Maasai culture altogether, because a culture does not have to be static to be strong. We hope young Maasai girls can soon grow up into women without having their livelihoods and development compromised by harmful rituals.

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Those who fear that changes run up against centuries of Maasai history may want to consider that in the case of FGM, the culture has little else to lose than a sanction for cruelty.

What is your take?

Meet Our Beading Partners in Kilimanjaro

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When it comes to craftsmanship, there is certainly no lack of incredible talent amongst the women of the Maasai. Yet as individuals they are much more than just artisans, wives and daughters – they are strong and independent-minded women with personalities and histories as colourful as the beads that adorn their bodies.

From the outside looking in, the Maasai way of life can be quite bemusing. For the inside scoop, we’ve sat down with some of the amazing women we’ve been working with in Mkuru, Tanzania so they could tell us their stories. Here’s what some of them had to say.

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            Meet Elyamani Oiaia Lekoor.

The 38-year-old Elyamani possesses spiritedness and intelligence that go a long way back to her childhood. She enjoyed attending primary school in her village, but her educational experience was unfortunately cut short after she married and was obliged to move to a small rural Tanzanian town with her husband to fulfil her compliant role as a spouse. She never did obtain the results of her completion exam. “I never knew if I had succeeded,” she says. But she remembers how she loved learning about English, geography and history.

She tells us she “would have loved to continue studying.”

But her husband did not allow her to do so. Although primary education is public in Kenya and Tanzania, less than 50% of Maasai women are educated. This is largely due to early marriage and family duties.

School kindled Elyamani’s passions for knowledge and self-expression, values to which she still stays true. In fact, she is one of the most opinionated and courageously outspoken women we have interacted with. Her intelligence shines bright and fuels her continual fight for her rights in the community.

Despite everything, life in her current village isn’t easy on Elyamani. The contrast between childhood in the schoolyard and her current dutiful matrimonial life often fills her with nostalgia. She doesn’t really like it in Kilimanjaro – her dreams are painted with the grassy colours of her bucolic home. Sometimes her dreams even take her beyond her city and her continent, all the way to Europe. “Maybe in Europe people are nicer. I don’t know, because I’ve never been there!”

Herself bound to her husband’s side, Elyamani tell us of hopes to send her children to Europe where they might one day pursue their own education. Her last daughter Elizabeth is intelligent just like her mother. We hope that she will attend school and eventually become part of the management team for our ethical jewellery project!

Elyamani is incredibly inspirational. She is a testament to the empowerment education can bestow on women of the Maasai.

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            Meet Miriam Alais.

Like most other Maasai women, the trajectory of Miriam’s life has been difficult and riddled with painful experiences. She is one of the respected elders of the group and currently helps Theresia, chief of the Mkuru women’s community, to translate speeches into Swahili. She is also a fundi, or expert, of Tanzanian Maasai women’s art – her beading is delicate, precise and nothing short of magnificent.

In addition to undertaking a multitude of community engagements, Miriam shoulders the burden of caring for her family all on her own. Unlike other wives in wedlock, she hasn’t a husband for support. At a young age she was “gifted” as a wife to a man she didn’t love. Following their marriage, her husband took other wives and fell prey to alcoholism.

“He would come home every evening drunk and would beat me. Alcohol had changed his mind, and he didn’t love me anymore. One day he threatened me with a knife and said he would kill me. I decided then to escape and go back to my parents’ boma” (village with a livestock enclosure).

Love is a luxury for the Maasai marriage. But love, however, is not lost on Miriam. She recalls the spirited pre-marital days, when she loved to spend time with young men and became infatuated with one in particular. She would always carefully prepare and decorate a calabash of preserved milk, take it to him and spend her time delightedly watching him dance. Yet Miriam, like most other women in her tribe, have no say in their choice of spouse and can be offered like commodities to men they don’t love. If luck is on her side, a woman may end up with a caring husband. But in reality she often has to endure abuse and live alongside her husband’s other wives.

Miriam strongly believes that women need to be independent. They should be able to stand up for themselves and make decisions alongside their husbands. Thankfully, albeit very slowly, we are beginning to see such shifts in some Maasai families.

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Meet Lea Olenatii.

Lea has a real penchant for the arts: she takes part in the church choir and one of the best artisans in the group. She also has a cheery and strong personality – all the more admirable when we discovered the distressing events of her life.

After marrying her husband Isay Olanatii, the pair became distressed since Lea was not able to conceive for a long time. As per Maasai tradition Lea was gifted a newborn child, Joshua, from the wife of Isay’s brother. She cared deeply for little Joshua, but Isay continually reproached her and beat her for being infertile. Eventually he left Lea for another woman who went on to bear him six children.

Lea still endures marriage problems today. In addition, things aren’t looking good for 8-year-old Joshua. He has recently contracted a serious illness. Although currently in a stable condition, the doctors anticipate an early death for the boy. Despite everything Lea still holds high hopes for young Joshua to attend school, but this may not be possible given his health condition.

It is truly hard for us to imagine how difficult Lea’s life must be in light of her son’s predicament and her failed marriage. Yet remarkably, like a true Maasai woman, Lea remains tough and lives spiritedly.

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Because of the culturally prescribed status of Maasai women, our artisan partners often endure incredible hardships and continue to shoulder tremendous burdens on a daily basis.

We recognize their plight and we greatly cherish their partnership – we hope participation in our ethical jewellery project will open new doors for them and bring them the hope, joy and love they truly deserve.

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Visit our site to see photos and find out more about the gorgeous handiwork of these women! Click on the image below.

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White Theresia bracelet

Monaco Royalty wears our jewellery at Monte Carlo Charity Ball!

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Princess Caroline, elegant daughter of Grace Kelly & Prince Rainier III, and heiress to the throne of Monaco, is known for her stunning fashion sense and is a true fan of our Fair Trade collaborative work.

Princess Caroline of Monaco this evening proudly wears her Oldende necklace from our 2010 Collection.

Princess Caroline and Prince Albert loving their jewellery! A striking combination of high fashion and social responsibility that even the royal family endorses.

Not Just Jewellery

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Lotusland Imports, of West Vancouver, British Columbia proudly introduces Canada to the stunning jewellery of Tanzania, East Africa, designed in Milan.

In 2006 Tanzania Maasai Women Art Ltd. (TMWA) was founded in partnership with Instituto Oikos, Oikos East Africa and Instituto Europeo di Design of Milan, Italy. The concept was to create new and vastly improved business and educational opportunities for the talented Maasai women of Tanzania whose income came previously from the illegal sale of charcoal.

Within two years, under the passionate care of Swiss conservationist Marina Oliver, Tanzania Maasai Women Art Limited grew and evolved and achieved registration as a Tanzanian non-profit company. The stylish retail shop was opened in the bustling heart of Arusha, at the base of Mount Kilimanjaro.

Today TMWA is a thriving all-woman business with a full staff compliment, providing employment and empowering 180 Maasai women from Mkuru, who now enjoy much improved living conditions and are now able to pay school fees to send all their children to school, breaking the multi-generational cycle of illiteracy. Due to their business success, for the first time ever, the men in the tribe have given the women land of their own to conduct their beadwork artistry, an acknowledgement of their remarkable business achievements. TMWA not only offers a generous income alternative with good working conditions, but has also created awareness of the importance of the protection of natural resources.

In Tanzania women use jewellery to enhance their beauty, attract mates and communicate their status within the community. Thanks to the collaboration of Milan designer Francesca Torri Soldini and her students at the Instituto di Design, these women are now using jewellery as a means to gain independence and create better lives for themselves and their families.

Exporting to many countries, it is now possible to see these remarkable pieces in Paris and New York. It is our hope that people who purchase and wear our beautiful jewellery will help to carry the story of Maasai women, to create awareness of the hardships women face in Maasai communities.

As of 2011, these stunning Italian-African works of art are now available in Canada through Lotusland Imports of West Vancouver.