We love that Mmaa baskets & bags are part of our sustainable accessories range both online and instore. Not only is Mmaa a social enterprise business producing beautiful hand-woven baskets & bags with multiple uses, but in offering these they are on a mission to promote women’s livelihoods and Africa artisans. Not only are the makers paid fairly, but for every Mmaa basket sold, the company donate a reusable sanitary kit to a girl or young woman in need – helping to end period poverty. The issues around period products is close to our hearts here at Content, which is why we choose to pay the VAT on sanitary products for all Content customers (read more about VAT free sanitary products at Content).
Meet the inspiring woman behind Mmaa baskets & bags to learn about her motivation for supporting women, a revolution in fashion, and her ambition to create positive change in ending period poverty. What is there not to love about this brand?
Why did you launch Mmaa?
Through work with CAMFED (Campaign for Female Education), I heard about this inspirational young woman, Dorcas Apoore, who came from a background of extreme rural poverty in the far North of Ghana and had set up a NGO working with rural women to promote sustainable livelihoods.
When I met her and the women she works with in July 2017 during a trip to Ghana, it was life changing. I not only loved what she was doing but also fell in love with the baskets and wanted to share them with the world!
Mmaa, which means “Mother” in the local dialect, emerged after several iterations of different designs, and the support and advice of friends in Cambridge and London. We launched last April 27 on my 40th birthday and have been blown away by the response to Mmaa baskets and story.
Where and how are Mmaa baskets made?
Mmaa baskets are made from elephant grass which is delivered directly to the Collectives. The Collectives now comprise of nearly 300 women in rural villages in the Upper East Region of Ghana.
Basket weaving is a tradition that has been passed down from generation to generation in the area but, previously, women were paid very little for their work and had to source their own straw and dye. Each market basket takes two to three days to weave by hand!
How is Mmaa part of the current fashion revolution?
We work for the artisans rather than them working for us. We are motivated by the examples of Dorcas and the women in the communities who are totally committed to making beautiful, artisanal products and to giving their children a brighter future.
I was told early on that people wouldn’t care about the story and the social side, but we have found a wonderfully supportive network of partners and clients who are with us on the journey because of the women we work with to make the baskets. It has been fantastic to see the diversity of people that have given homes to Mmaa in country estates and city flats across the UK and further afield, from Miami to Toronto to Geneva to Sydney. The revolution is global and we are so proud to be fulfilling our original mission of bringing these baskets to the world.
I actually did my PhD at Cambridge on social movements, and it is remarkable to see how conscious consumption is intersecting with other movements like the green movement and feminism to support fashion brands that allow us to literally wear our values on our sleeves.
What changes have you seen in the lives of the women you support?
It is truly awe inspiring! When I was there last November, the women in the original collective shared how they no longer needed to worry about their families going hungry when food from the harvest ran out, how they can now afford clothing and shoes, and how their children are staying in school.
In addition to the direct impact of increased income, women in the collectives also benefit from financial literacy training, including opening bank accounts often for the first time and sexual and reproductive health education. Furthermore, the collectives explicitly include women at risk of social exclusion due to mental or physical disability, or teenage pregnancy.
What triggered you to want to be part of a positive change in period poverty?
I am embarrassed to admit that I was unaware of the scale of period poverty until I became involved with CAMFED and was shocked to learn how many girls miss school due to their periods. The problem in poor rural areas can be especially acute.
Dorcas and her team connected with Days for Girls, an international NGO that trains women to make reusable sanitary pad kits that last up to three years. It seemed like a great way to launch their sanitary pad programme in local schools. With funds from Mmaa, they opened a new sanitary pad centre and are reaching schools across the region. I wish you could all hear the reaction of a new collective when we shared the fact that each basket sold would fund a sanitary pad kit – the singing and joy was unforgettable!
“Thank you. Without your support, Mmaa would be no more than a dream. Thank you for caring about the women who make these baskets and thank you for appreciating the talent and craftsmanship that goes into weaving each single one.”
You can learn more about Dorcas here: https://camfed.org/why-girls-education/stories/dorcas/ and hear more about the collectives with this Ted talk here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p9YJgdb6dew.