Women's International Craft Cooperatives: Handcrafted Dolls Transform Families and Communities
Women's handicraft cooperatives around the world have enabled many women to support their families, earning a living wage in a safe and fair working environment. They are able to break the cycle of poverty and invest in their families' health, education and well-being. Among the wide variety of items that these cooperatives produce are dolls wearing traditional dress, reflecting the culture of the artist. The beautiful dolls are works of art and I see in them, the beauty of the feminine spirit at work. These women are creative, resourceful, determined and supportive of each others success. Over the years, I have bought many traditional dolls for my daughters and granddaughters.
Rising International promotes ownership of craft-based businesses by women in impoverished areas and has helped women in more than 45 countries earn a living wage. One of their entrepreneurial projects, The Afghan Widow’s Doll Project, makes Homa Dolls that help support over 60 widows in Kabul. Carmel Jud, the founder of the organization, seeks to "empower the poorest women of the world through selling their crafts, putting money in their hands and giving them a voice."
Ties that Matter is a nonprofit organization that teaches low income Haitian women to make and sell products, including a variety of dolls and Christmas angel ornaments, created from recycled and donated neckties. The mission, explains Director, Laura Martin, is to help the women learn both sewing and business skills "...helping our Haitian neighbors on the road to self sufficiency."
Poor Tibetan women exiled in Dharamsala, India, create dolls that promote Tibetan culture and identity. Known as Bopa Dolls, they have Tibetan features and dress and are stuffed with pure Himalayan sheep wool. The dolls are meant to be played with and enjoyed by children. dolls4tibet, founded by Mona Bruchmann, seeks to "...provide meaningful, life sustaining work opportunities in an aesthetically pleasing, homely environment, thinking especially of underprivileged women of the Tibetan exile community with little or no education or training and therefore limited chances of employment."