Innovation from Hollyhock Entrepreneur

BeadforLife eradicates extreme poverty by creating bridges of understanding between impoverished Africans and concerned world citizens. Ugandan women turn colorful recycled paper into beautiful beads, and people open their hearts, homes and communities to buy and sell the beads. The beads thus become income, food, medicine, school fees -- and hope.

Here is a letter from Co-Executive Director Torkin Wakefield,  a Co-Founder of Hollyhock:

"It is ever on just one woman, the woman to dig in the fields, and take care of the children. It is the children who are the ones to help with the digging. My husband goes in the morning. He does not tell me where. He may not return at night. I cannot ask him where he goes. It is for me to do everything or my children will starve," says an animated Collins.

Sylvia agrees. "Out of a hundred men, two might support their woman. And even then he has conditions. You must always be there for him. You do not visit anyone. You must stay in the house and be ready for him for sex. They will have to force you if you say ‘no.' They do beating also. If they ask for sex and you say no, they can even refuse to buy you food."

"It's different in Uganda. Men contribute little," says Phillip. "I was raised by my mother. She did everything. It is our culture. It can be a miracle to find a man who helps."

I am listening to a conversation that the BeadforLife staff is having at lunchtime and thinking how it reflects what is known about the role of women in developing countries. Women are often looked on as inferior and mistreated while they raise the children, till the soil, and work from early morning until bedtime. Now research worldwide shows that investing in women is a most effective development strategy. If women get a chance to make money, they will nourish and educate their children as their first priority.

  1. 70% of the world's 1.3 billion poor are women living on less than a dollar a day.
  2. Women do 60% of the world's work and earn 10% of the world's income.
  3. Women produce 70-75% of the world's food crops.
  4. It takes 15 times more expenditure to achieve a similar level in child nutrition when income is earned by the father than when it is earned by the mother.

Healing Ripple Effect

  1. When a girl in the developing world receives seven or more years of education, she marries four years later and has 2.2 fewer children.
  2. An extra year of primary school boosts girls' eventual wages by 10 to 20 percent. An extra year of secondary school, it grows to 15 to 25 percent.
  3. When women and girls earn income, they reinvest 90 percent of it into their families, as compared to only 30 to 40 percent for a man.

Sources: United Nations, CIA Fact Sheet, World Indies Bank, Inter Press Service

It is for all these reasons that BeadforLife focuses on the education and empowerment of girls and women. It is a direct strategy to end extreme poverty. The Ugandan women we are honored to partner with have our deepest respect: for their strength and resolve, and their capacity to experience both sorrow and joy as two parts of life that often come together.

To see more about the importance of women in development, check out, an innovative collaboration between Nike Foundation and many other groups to focus interventions on women.

In this time of Thanksgiving we want to acknowledge each of you in the BeadCircle for supporting our work by buying and wearing beads, hosting BeadParties, and spreading the "buzz" about BeadforLife. We appreciate everything that you do. We tell the beaders about you and how you support them. They always "holler" and "uulate" when they hear about you and your support. Women are on the rise out of poverty. Let's keep going.

A happy and peaceful Thanksgiving for you and your loved ones.

Director Torkin