In 2009, Sager Family Foundation launched Hands Up Not Handouts, an initiative that helps women artisans to design high-quality, innovative products employing their traditional handicraft skills that can be marketed at a premium price.
The goal is help the women earn a better income by training them to produce attractive, high-value products that get them a better daily wage than they have received in the past making traditional products.
Hands Up not Handouts buys these products directly from the cooperatives at a high price that honors the women’s exceptional skills and hard work, and we take responsibility for marketing the products at a premium price.
By buying the products from the women’s cooperatives and taking on the financial risk of reselling the products, we make it possible for the women to get paid more quickly and to focus their efforts on what they are best at – making these beautiful products.
In the West Bank of Palestine, we work with the Qalandia Women’s Cooperative in the Qalandia Refugee Camp to design these stylish, traditionally embroidered bracelets for men and women. In the past, these women made intricate embroidered tablecloths, bedspreads and pillow covers that took months of their time to complete and cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars. They had difficulty marketing their products at these high prices, and as a result, the women’s income suffered.
We sat down with the women and spent time with them thinking strategically about how to design and market products that would increase their income. That’s how we came up with the idea of creating these beautiful hand-made bracelets using their traditional embroidery skills that we market at prices that value the women's hard work and skills.
In Rwanda, we work with two basket-making cooperatives, Agaseke and Gahaya Links, to create earrings and necklaces using traditional basket weaving techniques. Agaseke is a program supported by the First Lady of Rwanda and the City of Kigali that trains Rwanda women to weave baskets and employs them, lifting them out of poverty. Gahaya Links, a private program, works with poor Rwandan women all over the country, some of whom are former prostitutes, HIV positive, or just desolate and out of work, to train them in this traditional skill.
For years these women have been using sisal and sweet grass to make traditional, hand-made baskets that took days of their time to complete. They had difficulty marketing their baskets at prices high enough pay for the women’s hard work and traditional skills. We sat down with the women and spent time thinking strategically about how to design and market attractive products that would increase their income. That’s how we decided to work together design beautiful earrings using their ancient weaving that are alive with color made with the sisal and sweet grass used for baskets.
To learn more visit: www.handsupnothandouts.org