As Mother’s Day approaches, I’d like to share with you three stories about mothers who are working as fair trade artisans trying to make a difference for their families and communities. My first story is about a group of mostly single moms who make luxury soaps from their homes in New Orleans. Fondly referred to as “Soap Box Moms”, these women are raising their children while trying to make ends meet in a challenging economy still recovering from Hurricane Katrina. Once a working single mom herself, Beth James founded the company “Queen B” to make fragrant garden scented soaps and lotions with help from local women in need of a job where they could work from home.
My second story is about artisan mothers who are part of “The Silk Scarf Project”, a non-government organization created to help struggling rural communities in northern India who previously depended solely on agriculture to survive. Children had to work on the farms, and fathers often had to leave their families for work in the city. The Silk Scarf Program teaches these communities how to grow, spin, dye, and weave silk into beautiful scarves. This project has empowered women in the villages to earn an income and operate a business from their homes, enabling their children to attend school. I purchase these amazing scarves from Dolma Designs and 108 Mala who work directly with these resourceful women.
Jann Cheifitz started her first business making T-shirts as a teen in South Africa living under apartheid. “They became my form of protest, like wearable graffiti,” says Cheifitz, now a mom living in the East Village of New York. Jann was a political activist and taught people how to print up their own designs through a community arts project. Inspired by the punk do-it-yourself ethos, Cheifitz later moved to England and sold her T-shirts on the streets of London. She finally moved to New York and teamed up with fellow South African Carole Scott to start their own company “Lucky Fish”, making unique, graphic designs on casual clothing for adults and children from their fair trade factory in Brooklyn.
I feel honored to have been introduced to these women and to be helping to support their projects through 12smallthings.com. I also feel very lucky to be a mom this Mother’s Day to my wonderful daughters and among my community of family and friends as we help support and celebrate one another. Happy Mother’s Day 2010.