Each year, on March 8, International Women’s Day celebrates women’s achievements while calling out inequalities. The Ibu Foundation staked our claim on International Women’s Day—publicly launching in 2019, then hosting, last year, our first Global Champions event. Next month, we will honor not one, but seven Global Champions at The Fringe Revolution event on March 8. Each of these resolute leaders works tirelessly with women in their communities building a livelihood through the art of their hands. Their light is changing the world.
Let me introduce you to each of these brilliant honorees who will be in conversation with each other, Susan, and Ibu Ambassador Pat Mitchell, at the Charleston Library Society on March 8 at 10:30AM (purchase tickets here), and will be at our at our festivities that evening honoring their work.
For years, women in Zaria City spent hours crafting beautiful hand-embroidery, only to learn that they received half of the income their male counterparts earned for similar work. This inequity inspired Hassana Yusef to found a cooperative, taking its name from the 16th century’s celebrated warrior, Queen Amina, of Nigeria. Inspired by their traditional fine techniques used to decorate the Grand Boubou robes for men, Ibu partnered with Hassana to employ those skills to also ornament women’s dresses, caftans, and pillows. When an order was late in arriving, Hassana explained, Our artisans have to stop their work at sundown because they can’t see to embroider on black cloth at night. They can’t finish their work because they don't have lights.
In this moment, the need for support beyond a marketplace became clear. The desire for a 501c3 began here, and five years later, the women of Zaria City, Nigeria, work with solar lights in their homes and gather to work as well in a new workspace built for them, finished with upgraded equipment—all funded through Ibu grants. This enterprise, under Hassana’s leadership, has grown from 5 to 27 women, now shining their light on the community around them.
Read more about Hassana here.
I believe women can do anything. I don’t want to hold back. Not anything. I want to be everything I can be. Wafae Safar lives in the rural town of Sefrou, Morocco, where women craft the intricate (and tiny) buttons lining the traditional Moroccan djellaba. Wafae’s mother-in-law, Amina Yabis, saw the possibility of cutting out the middleman earning all of the profit from women’s efforts and organized the Cherry Buttons Cooperative, growing from ten women in 2003, to over 100 artisans today. Wafae worked at the side of her mother-in-law until, through the support of the Ibu Foundation, she took over management of the cooperative, employing their traditional soutache embroidery to make Ibu jackets and vests, while adding weaving looms, natural dying, and constantly training women with no other opportunities for employment. Training sessions, leadership stipends, sewing and office equipment, and emergency relief during Covid from Ibu allies have given Wafae an opportunity to rise as a Global Champion in her own right, carrying on the ground-breaking work of her mother-in-law to the next generation of women.
Read more about Wafae here.
Despite grave political unrest, gang violence, and soaring inflation in Haiti, Dayanne Danier will not give up. From her home in Brooklyn and frequent trips to Port-au-Prince, this Haitian-American continues to do everything in her power to keep the women of Bien Abyé safe, while celebrating their embroidery with the world.
With funds from the Ibu Foundation, she has moved the women from a site rife with daily violence to a safer area of town. Ibu also provided funds for Covid relief, equipment, training sessions, marketing funds, and emergency relief after the 2021 earthquake. Says Dayanne to Ibu allies, You allowed them to move into a safe space that might have saved their lives.
Read more about Dayanne here.
As the Minister of Education of Afghanistan, the founder of Kandahar Treasures, and co-founder of a school in Kabul, Rangina Hamidi lives a life of courage. Rangina was born in Afghanistan, fled with her family to the United States as a child, graduated from the University of Virginia, and chose to return to Kandahar—where her father was killed by the Taliban—to create a safe space for women to earn an income. I will not stop and let the hate that killed my father win, she says. Her desire to start Kandahar Treasure, in a region where the literacy rate for women is only 13% and embroidery is the language they know, has resulted in elevating over 250 artisan women. Rangina negotiated with the Taliban to allow Kandahar Treasure to reopen and the women to work, even with the current restrictions preventing women from attending school above 6th grade or working for NGOs. When Rangina returned to the US after the government take-over, Ibu jumped at the chance to bring her to speak in Charleston in 2022. Her talk created an opportunity to apply for a US State Department grant to support heritage craft by women in Afghanistan, and Ibu was awarded $400,000 last fall. Her work continues from afar, giving women in her country hope that they are not forgotten.
Read more about Rangina here.
Don’t let their charm fool you—these two savvy men are focused on elevating women creatives throughout Colombia and beyond. Juan Sebastián Rivera and Juan Pablo Gomez are the true epitome of He-Bu men. Whether collaborating with a rising star like designer Mercedes Salazar, or alerting Ibu to the needs of an indigenous group of women in remote La Guajira, they are focused on bridging gaps between language, culture, and communities. Ibu Foundation funds have enabled a new weaving center for Wayuu women, and Covid relief for over 300 women. These partners'oversight and quality control have allowed Ibu to design with over 20 indigenous groups in their country.
Ibu is leading a trip to meet some of these artisan groups in Colombia at the end of April, hosted by El Dorado Edit and Mola Sasa. If you would like to learn more about this fundraising effort, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Read more about Sebastián and Juan Pablo here.
Craft is an invisible bridge between two worlds, Samina wrote in a letter to Ibu Allies. In rural Pakistan, you will find Samina working with women to revive textile traditions. Many of the artisans that she works with are refugees that have fled from Afghanistan, or local women who live in extreme poverty. With over 30 years of experience in the textile and clothing industry, Samina understands the craftsmanship and attention to detail required to create a successful business. She has set out on a mission to improve livelihood opportunities for these women—working with five groups of 20-25 artisans—and SheWorks creates high-quality products for the luxury market. SheWorks has received Ibu Foundation funding to create marketing materials, such as photography/video and an upgraded website, as well as sewing equipment and emergency relief funds during Covid. Samina is a bridge builder.
Read more about Samina here.
The Ibu Movement could not succeed without leaders like these luminaries who, in more than challenging circumstances, bring light to the women of their region. We are honored to work with them, and to applaud their remarkable efforts on International Women’s Day this year. Join us, you who are near and far, in gratitude and joy for these Global Champions.
Director of Artisan Support
Image: Tolga Ildun/ZUMA Press Wire/REX/Shutterstock
Our artisan partners in Turkey and Syria are reeling from this week's earthquake, which damaged many of their homes and workspaces. We heard from leaders Rania Kinge of MadeByWomen and Yildiz Yagci of Anatolian Artisans that most artisans are safe but many have been displaced and some have lost family members in the tragedy. The Ibu Foundation is working to send relief funds to both groups. If you would like to contribute to these efforts, please click the donate button below and include "Turkey/Syria Relief" in the Gift Message field to designate your gift.