BeadforLife: Sustainable, Fair-Trade Jewelry

Jewelry is usually worn to make a statement about our personal style, but they can also be used to promote awareness. To help the environment and support others, women and men are now buying eco-jewelry and fair-trade items from companies like BeadforLife.

As a non-profit, BeadforLife helps Ugandan women earn a livable wage making jewelry from recycled materials. The company was founded by Ginny Jordan, Torkin Wakefield, and Devin Hubbard in 2004. It all began when the trio had a chance encounter with Millie Grace Akena, a woman who had fled from Joseph Kony’s oppressive regime. Inspired by Akena’s story and passion for newspaper beads (a shared craft among local women), Jordan, Wakefield, and Hubbard returned to the U.S. and created BeadforLife to help these women sell their jewelry.

Earning a livable wage in Uganda can be hard for some women.

Akena earned less than one dollar a day when she crushed rocks by hand in a local rock quarry. And according to the organization, many families in the area lived in “one-room mud huts with dirt floors and tin roofs that leaked when the rain came.”

The vibrant, eco-friendly beads are made from old magazines and posters that are cut in shapes and rolled into a bead. They’re then sealed with an eco-glaze. The bracelets, earrings, and necklaces cost between five dollars and thirty dollars and are sold online and in stores. The best part of the process is that Ugandan women can earn seven to ten times more than what an average Ugandan woman does.

This organization also has other programs and products that aid Ugandan women. BeadforLife uses shea nuts grown by Ugandan farmers to make and sell shea butter lip balms, scrubs, and soaps. They have a local BeadforLife Business Street School as well. This school coaches women on important skills like bookkeeping, customer service, saving, and entrepreneurship.

BeadforLife’s Girls Education program helps local girls by paying for their school fees, books, and supplies.

In addition, BeadforLife has also collaborated with Habitat for Humanity and built the “Friendship Village,” a community of 132 homes. Through these programs, it’s estimated that this non-profit has reached over 20,000 people in 2,500 households.

To help further the cause, consider buying some of the BeadforLife goods or hosting a “BeadParty” (like a Tupperware party). You can get a kit that includes jewelry, shea butter products, educational materials, messages from the bead-makers, traditional recipes, and other goodies. Hosting just one BeadParty can fund two weeks of wages for 50 women.

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Main photo credit: amalthya / Flickr