Mama Africa Designs ( Help In the Eastern Of Congo Through Fashion)


It is with love and a lot of admiration that I'm writing this post of import matter. Democratic Republic of Congo is where I came from  and it's with heavy heart to know that my country is one of the top 5 country in the world that have the highest number of women violence, this fact alone hurt. Not only those women are rape, they get rejected by their community with no hope and no future.

I know there are many organizations out there that help those women, but what about their life ? I always wonder, who want to be labelled as rape, war  or poverty victims and only live on help ? No identity, no career, no value, no nothing ? How those women feel mentally ?

The war in DRC has brought a lot of violence and destruction. But the destruction of the congolese women , both mentally and physically is a lot to bare. That's why help is needed, to rebuilt those women spirit, to give them hope, strength and their identity back.

Mamafrica  Kitenge Tee

That's where Mama Africa Designs come in the picture. I was very impress with their idea, not only they are helping those women, mainly war survivals, but they are giving them an identity , career as well as hope for their children through fashion. They are an organisation as well as a fair trade brand with a clothing and accessory line, which generated jobs for women in eastern of Congo.

Mamafrica began in the summer of 2012 when Ashley Nemiro  met Aline Malekera who was working as a translator when Ashley was conducting research on the "efficacy of group based mental health treatment for survivors of sexual violence".

Papyrus Basket
Papyrus African Basket by Mamafrica
As an outsider Ashley saw a group of women who, regardless of their horrific past, presented themselves with resilience, determination, and eagerness to start a new life in a city where community was shattered. Most of these women ended up in Bukavu, a city that lies on the border of DRC and Rwanda. Following the Rwandan genocide of 1994, fighting erupted in eastern Congo which subsequently displaced thousands of families living in the north and south Kivu region.

As for example an woman name Zaina, who was displaced from her home in Kindu, shared with me her story of resettling with her five children to Bukavu after her village was attacked. Zaina’s is a common narrative among the other displaced women who resettled in Bukavu. Many of these stories include loss of children due to preventable causes. After fleeing to Bukavu, these women ended up in an area where the unemployment rate for females is 85%. Most of them held the equivalent of a second grade education and survived by subsistence farming. Many women were selling local produce on the side of dirt roads making less than one dollar per day. Ashley Nemiro and Aline Malekera wanted to serve not only as a training program but also as their place of stable employment. While developing Mamafrica they asked the women what are their needed to succeed beyond just holding a job, and they expressed interest in basic literacy, nutrition, community building, and a savings plan for their children’s education.

Mapenzi Makeup Bag
Zawadi Makeup Bag

So they both decided that Mamafrica would be a place where a full approach of creativity to empowering those women by providing education, economic opportunity, and healing arts programs. There Mamafrica aims to take part in the economic growth and recovery of the country by creating long term employment for women living in Bukavu. 

 When putting together the model of Mamafrica, they wanted their impact to stretch beyond the women, meaning that with a secure income, these women are able to educate their children regardless of gender because in a country where 75% of the population is under the age of 18, the children will be the only ones who can change the current state of things in Congo.Mamafrica items serve as a way to break negative stereotypes and paint a more realistic picture that in fact Congolese women are absolutely essential to the livelihood of the community.

 "When someone purchases or sees our product, this starts the conversation about the situation in Congo. As a woman born into a country where it is easy to express my voice, I am able to tell the women’s stories through the products.  Because of conflict and gender norms present in Congo, it makes it difficult, if not impossible, for the women to have their voices heard by a far reaching audience." Ashley  Nemiro  

The products serve are handmade, fair trade items that are directly changing an artisans’ life.
Mamafrica Men's Top
Their goal is not to depress people about what is happening in Congo but to break stereotypes and give an honest depiction about what it’s like to be a woman there which is very different than what it’s like to be a woman in other parts of the world.
Mamafrica designs is recently a member of the fair trade federation and follows the principles of fair trade helping artisans by building capacity, creating opportunities for artisans, and supporting safe and empowering work conditions.


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