Dear Ibu Allies,
My name is Wafae Safar, and I am a proud member of the Cherry Buttons cooperative in Sefrou, Morocco. Our beautiful town is known for its olives, cherries, and the silky buttons, knotted by hand and used to embellish traditional Moroccan dress. Originally, the city’s large Jewish population dominated the button trade, but as a gesture of goodwill, they taught the art to their Muslim neighbors. The founders of Cherry Buttons cooperative, Amina, Aziza, and Halima, learned the craft in this way, and decided to teach other Moroccan women so they too could benefit.
Our cooperative, which was established more than twenty years ag0, has grown from three to almost one hundred women, forty of whom are official members. I have been a very active member for the past eleven years and enjoy the work immensely. Growing up in this legendary town, I learned to make buttons at a young age and I am grateful for all the women who made our cooperative an available path for others like me.
There have been many challenges along the way, but Cherry Buttons’ founders fought to achieve success that has empowered many women in our community. In the beginning, it was difficult for the women to sell our buttons without an intermediary. The dressmakers—mostly men—paid a low sum for our work, then turned around and sold the buttons for a great profit. In time, and with the help of Peace Corps Volunteers, the women learned how to promote and sell their valuable work themselves, reaching national and international customers. I have great respect for the ambition, strength, and patience of the cooperative’s founders.
It is because of this hard work that we have an alliance with Ibu! I take off my hat to the entire organization, and especially Susan Hull Walker, for the excellent relationship we have developed. We have also received important funding from the Ibu Foundation to help cover workspace, salaries, and equipment. My situation, and that of my team, has strongly benefitted from our partnership over the past seven years. Thank you, as well, to all the honorable clients who believe in our art—you are a source of motivation.
With these opportunities, I am able to grow my ambition for the Cherry Buttons cooperative, and I am full of hope that we can expand our work and make room for more women to join us. As a woman in a marginalized society, the encouragement that you provide empowers me and allows me to shine. Thank you very much for recognizing the kind of women that the world really needs.
Manager, Cherry Buttons Cooperative