31 Bits is a fair trade organization designed to give internally displaced women in Northern Uganda an opportunity to counter poverty.
Beaded products are made in Uganda from rolled up paper and sealed with a water-based varnish. Making beads from paper is a technique found throughout East Africa. One might find tiny differences from piece to piece, but those are called “perfect imperfections” of having a handmade product. Each piece is unique and tells a story because it was made by a real person. The challenge of learning new designs and techniques has completely shifted the way the artisans think about their lives.
The artisans in Uganda grew up during the war; as a result, each has different stories and needs. Most of them had little or no education as kids. Some are HIV positive, single moms, and/or have experienced domestic violence. Others were left without family or a home because of the war. 31 Bits implemented a five-year program that wouldn’t just care for a person financially, but holistically. The program is built on four main pillars: financial sustainability, physical/mental wellness, social support, and community impact. After five years in the program, a beneficiary is ready to graduate. This means she is educated, healthy, and confident while managing her very own business where she will have an ongoing, sustainable income.
BeadforLife works to eradicate extreme poverty by creating bridges of understanding between women in poverty in Uganda and concerned citizens worldwide. Through training and sustainable employment, women in Uganda are turning beads into income, food, medicine, school fees, and hope.
Since 2004, BeadForLife has created sustainable opportunities for women to lift their families out of extreme poverty. The most successful aspect of their fair trade community in Uganda is a bead-making collective where women roll recycled paper into beads, then paint and string them into jewelry.
During enrollment in the Beads to Business training, BeadforLife members can earn income by producing and selling paper bead jewelry and other fair trade products and increase their income by 7 to 10 times. While they are earning this money, they are also learning business and life skills that will transform their lives and the lives of generations to come. By the time they graduate, they have already launched at least one business and have the confidence and skills to continue to thrive as successful entrepreneurs. Other BeadforLife members don’t just create a product for BeadforLife, but instead already own a tiny business or have a dream of one day owning a business. BeadforLife enrolls these entrepreneurs in The Street Business School, a 6-month program providing entrepreneurial training and mentoring to help them start and scale a business. This is a cost-effective and scalable way for women living in desperate poverty to get the opportunity to become successful business women.
TEXDA promotes the growth of the entrepreneurs in textile businesses by helping women upgrade their technical, managerial, and entrepreneurial skills. The organization strengthens capabilities of the textile sector in Africa through mentoring and machinery provisions, and facilitates the manufacturing of innovative quality products that are competitive on both local and export markets. TEXDA is a center of excellence in Uganda where women develop their creativity skills in textile design and garment production. Providing hands-on training allows entrepreneurs to develop their skills and challenge their creativity.
Today over 1,050 trainees have followed courses at TEXDA and as a result they manage businesses that not only generate income, but also create traineeships and employment for others.