Incubated by TNF, Sawa Life is a sustainable, social enterprise initiative that empowers at risk women. Through the creation of hand-finished headphones and bracelets sold globally, via e-commerce, Sawa Life not only showcases the beauty of designs synonymous with African culture but also offers sustainable employment and independence to the women who create them. Kibera’s female artisans reframe tech accessories using craft skills indigenous to Kenyan culture and paper beading techniques that originate from Uganda’s Luo tribe.
The Sawa Life office is established in the heart of Kibera (Africa's largest slum) and employs vulnerable women who have encountered such hardships as human trafficking, homelessness, extreme poverty, and HIV. Within their framework the artisans have a fair and dignified working environment and are paid three-times the national average wage. Eco-sensitivities and sustainability remain firmly at the heart of their enterprise, whereby Sawa Life works with upcycled or repurposed magazines.
HOW IT BEGAN
The company was incubated by the non-profit, The Nourafchan Foundation (TNF), the world’s first open-source philanthropy whose mission is to improve the human condition through social and economic development.
In the summer of 2017, founders Emily, Abigail and Stephen were on a philanthropic mission with The Nourafchan Foundation to Kibera, East Africa's largest slum. They worked with the local community to install a borehole at a school and create a self-sustaining water project. They also met a diverse collective of artisan women, and they fell in love with their positive energy and beading techniques.
During this trip, inspired by a diverse collective of artisan beaders who banded together after enduring a range of hardships like sex trafficking, HIV-AIDS infliction, and extreme poverty, the SAWA founders devised an innovative program to leverage the artisans masterful and intricate beading skills with a unique way of upcycling magazines into one-of-a-kind handcrafted beads.
SAWA Life was born.
We started SAWA because we saw an opportunity not to lift up others, but to empower from the inside a community that needed it. With just a little boost, these women could help themselves."