In Kenya, unemployment rates for the deaf are as high as 85%, as the deaf are generally considered to be unsuited for work. This discrimination is heightened against deaf women, who are often mistreated by their spouses or families.
Much of the Kenyan jewelry you will find in HumanKind is helping improve the lives of disabled artisans who, without organizations like SASA Designs or Bombolulu Workshops, would struggle to find employment. Sasa Designs by the Deaf was founded in 2011 to combat the stigma of deafness, and to offer jewelry-making jobs to deaf women who otherwise may never have been able to earn a living. The artisans at SASA are mostly single mothers who work hard to support their children by making enough money to feed them and send them to school.
Furthermore, in the developing world, there is a higher proportion of deaf individuals in the general population–the result of a lack of access to medical care in early childhood. Most of the artisans SASA works with were not born deaf, but became deaf in early childhood after high fevers. Most have then faced a lifetime of
discrimination and exclusion, even from their own families and many SASA artisans have experienced severe trauma and discrimination in the past. Flora, for instance, one of SASA’s artisans, lost her hearing at age seven following a bout of illness. She got married at an early age and was abused by her husband. She was able to separate from the abusive relationship, but afterwards struggled to provide for her children. Flora is thankful for the opportunity to work with SASA Designs, which allows her to pay her rent and the school fees for her children. “Thank God for SASA Designs,” she says. “One thing I know is that God has never forgotten me.” SASA invites women like Flora to work in their workshop and shows them their potential, despite what they have been told in the past. Consistent, fairly paid work is a key indicator of a person’s ability to break out of the cycle of poverty. SASA’s sustainable business, therefore, is empowering deaf artisans in Kenya and helping them create better futures for themselves and their children.
SASA also sources materials from 7 local businesses in Kenya, some of whom are individual artisans creating brass, bone, and horn pieces. Others are larger job creation projects, like Kitengela Glass, which creates beautiful handmade pieces out of recycled glass. This gives the artisans the ability to directly impact their local economy and help others as well. Developing local leadership and management of SASA’s workshop is important to the organization, and SASA is currently managed by a local team of deaf artisans and one hearing manager. By purchasing our “Hammered Brass Circle Hoops” or “Hammered Brass Beaded Hoops,” you can help a deaf, single mother in Kenya provide for herself and her children, giving them the possibility to break out of the cycle of poverty.
Bombolulu Workshops is another organization providing jobs to artisans in Kenya who are blind or physically disabled who would otherwise have virtually no chance of employment in the mainstream labor market. Currently 113 artisans create jewelry and other products for both local and export markets. Beyond employment, Bombolulu provides numerous other benefits to their artisans including housing, medical aid, and adult education.
Bombolulu Workshops is a program of The Association for the Physically Disabled of Kenya that operates several workshops and a cultural center through which it offers social and economic rehabilitation and empowerment of people with disabilities, enabling them to realize their full potential in their lives. Bombolulu Workshops envisions a Kenyan community where people with disabilities are economically and socially empowered, self-reliant, and fully integrated members of their communities.”
Bombolulu is governed by a set of values that distinguishes them from other organizations and helps them realize their vision of empowerment for the disabled community. Their values are as follows:
1) Fairness- We conduct our business without fear or favor and in a manner that is fair to all.
2) Excellence – We conduct our business in a professional and competent manner. Client confidentiality and excellence in our work are core aspects of our professionalism.
3) Empowerment – As the organization seeks to empower people with disability, we truly believe that all processes of our engagement should be empowering. We believe in empowering engagements both with our staff and other stakeholders.
4) Integrity – We conduct our business with utmost honesty, integrity, transparency and in an accountable manner. We believe in mutual respect for each and every individual.
5) Learning Organization – We learn from our experience and are always looking for innovative ways of improving our work.
6) Teamwork – We carry out our work as a team.
By purchasing our “Disco Night” earrings or “Metal Disk Cluster” earrings, you can help support disabled Kenyan artisans at Bombolulu Workshops, enabling them to improve their standard of living and showing the general Kenyan society that disabilities do not define an individual’s potential.
To see some of the artisans at SASA Designs and Bombolulu Workshops, check out the videos below.