How much of a difference can Fair Trade jewelry make?
When one Kenyan woman heard of the opportunity to earn a living making Zulugrass jewelry, she pulled together enough money to travel a great distance to another East African village by bus to learn the trade.
She quickly became the highest producer of jewelry in the Maasai Tribe and asked the founders of the program to set up a training site in her area. In doing so, the founders discovered that she owned a small store in her village, and that her customers had little or nothing. She had never been able to turn her back on them… which meant she had many outstanding bills because of their debts. She made this financial investment in herself and her community so that her neighbors could not only afford to pay their debts, but they could also make a better life.
The workstation was a success! Her neighbors paid their outstanding debts within two months. Less than a year later, she earned enough money to buy a plot of land in the town and build a larger store to accommodate the needs of the village.
Zulugrass Jewelry by The Leakey Collection
The Leakey Collection is a Fair Trade certified company that designs jewelry and home decor items – all handmade by the Maasai women and men of Kenya. Founded by Phillip and Katy Leakey in 2001, this amazing company employs more than 1,200 people and uses only sustainable resources.
The Leakey family lives among the tribe in Kenya’s rural Rift Valley where the Maasai women work under the shade of acacia trees. Phillip says they were conscious to “design a system that doesn’t interrupt the lifestyles of the Maasai people. We made our business fit their lifestyle, rather than having the Maasai change their lifestyle to fit our business.”
What Is Zulugrass?
Previously burned because cattle don’t eat it, Zulugrass is now sustainably harvested and used to make the jewelry Katy Leakey so carefully designed. The grass grows with a hole inside it and is hard and durable. Colored with eco-friendly textile dyes, the grass takes on a luminous and vibrant color.
This jewelry is not only beautiful, sustainable, and a huge opportunity to the Maasai people of Kenya, The Leakey Collection company has launched a Beads for Learning program that donates 100% of the profits to pay for local teachers’ salaries. These bracelets are beautiful, and they’re only $12.95.
Since 2002, The Leakey Collection has received awards and recognition such as…
- The Environment Conscious Award from the Association of Makers & Exporters of Gifts and Allied Articles of Kenya
- Co-op America’s Green Business Network approved
- Finalist in the 2008 BBC World Challenge
I’m overwhelmed with admiration for what the Leakeys have done to help the people of Kenya. They were kind enough to send samples of the jewelry and a set of the Beads for Learning. I don’t wear flashy jewelry – I really prefer a more earthy look. I’ve found that Zulugrass is perfect for that. Some days I wear them as necklaces. Other days I wind them all around my wrist, and I always receive compliments on how beautiful they are.
Even more than that, is the connection I feel to these women, half a world away, who made these by hand. And who were able to help support their families by doing so. I didn’t buy much assembly line jewelry before, but I’m certain I’ll only buy Fair Trade jewelry from now on. Mostly for the opportunity it gives people with less resources, but also for the way it makes me feel.
The Leakey Collection sent me a set of Zulugrass and Beads for Learning to review, but all opinions shared are strictly mine. Please see our Disclosure for more information on reviews.