SAME SKY is a fair-trade company founded in 2008 by New York philanthropist, Francine LeFrak. Based in Kigali, Rwanda , the company works with Gahaya Links, a handicrafts organisation founded in 2004. The company employs HIV-positive women, all of whom are survivors of the 1994 Rwanda . The artisans are trained to crochet and make bracelets using hand-blown glass beads. Their work is done in a collective in which they are free to discuss social issues, including Domestic violence and western medicine.
SAME SKY provides the artisans with a daily stipend that covers transportation to and from work and a daily meal. All of the net proceeds from sales are reinvested into the company to buy materials, employ more women artisans, and expand to other regions of the world.
The company holds events in New York City to promote their aspirations and sell bracelets, notably in the Ana Tzarev Gallery and in Donna Karen New York (DKNY). Bracelets have also been featured in Vogue Magazine, 2010.
SAME SKY aims to be a part of the global movement lifting women out of poverty by giving them the tools to become entrepreneurs and lead self sustaining lives. The mission is to empower women worldwide by inspiring a movement of women empowering women.
The “trade-not-aid initiative” uses jewellery as the means to bring about this change.
From Ghaya Links, SAME SKY is now working with Avega and Abataka. Avega is a non-profit organisation started by 50 widows in 1995 with the goal of supporting survivors of the genocide. These women will start a new line of bracelets, “Prosperity bracelets”.
The Abataka Collective is situated in Lusaka, Zambia and employs women who participated in support groups from the Centre for Infectious Disease Research in Zambia (CIDRZ).
The glass-beaded bracelet design is inspired by American artist and author Mary Fisher, who travels the world advocating for those who share her HIV-positive status. Fisher was the first to teach the artisans in Rwanda the style of crochet that SAME SKY uses.
What’s at stake?
When discussing the inequalities between men and women in employment, topics often debated refer to wages, work opportunities, difficulties surrounding Maternity Leave and the binary choice left to women between family life or a successful career. SAME SKY brings this debate into a post-genocide nation concerning women who are HIV positive. These added layers of violence and health to the debate further complicate the matter concerning women and employment. Yet, SAME SKY is a positive example of how it is possible to find solutions. In Rwanda, it provides a solution to two problems: women employment and post-genocide restoration and peace building. The expansion to Avega can be attributed to this success. SAME SKY’s contributions to Zambia will be will have to be analysed in the future.