One year ago, three women set out on a nearly 1000-mile charity cycling tour around Malawi, Africa. One year later, we get to play in big, beautiful piles of rose quartz and call it "work."
MAWIMA : Malawi Women in Mining Association
When we set out to work with Malawian women in mining, our goal was to employ 5-10 women. After months of planning and eager anticipation of heading back to Malawi, we made our way to the mountainous northern region of Mzimba where we were greeted by our Malawian Operations Manager, Chikomeni Manda. Upon arrival he mentions that he had arranged a special meeting for us. We arrive to our new headquarters welcomed by not 5, not 10, but 17 women miners!
Some of the women in our collective have been in mining for over 20 years! The stones they shared with us over the course of a few days were beyond beautiful, even in their raw form.
While the stones we were able to see were in abundance, the opportunity to turn their talent of mining into an income falls short. Malawi is ranked as one of poorest countries in the world, with a GDP per capita just over $800 (for scale, neighboring South Africa is 6k while the US sits around 59k). So, these women have spent years perfecting their craft, but are presented with no market to sell in or overshadowed by males in the same market.
Hearing this disconnect was what ignited the AKAZI x MAWIMA partnership.
The partnership is simple: the women of MAWIMA to do their incredible work in mining, and Akazi operates a lapidary education program. Whats lapidary, you ask? The art of gem or stone shaping. So, with the help of resident expert, Chiko, the women will be taught lapidary skills in a safe work environment. After the gems are shaped, we purchase from each woman to incorporate into your jewelry that is handmade here in San Diego, CA.
Each purchase of Akazi jewelry helps to provide expert instruction, electricity (solar, coming soon!), running water, and soap for the facility. With new skill comes new opportunity and not just from us at Akazi. It opens up the market for our MAWIMA crew (who we can't wait to introduce to you!).
As any Malawian will tell you, Malawi is known as the warm heart of Africa and you can't help but feel this as soon as you arrive which is why we are are thrilled to be headed back - this time we're ditching the bikes and focusing on forging a lifelong bond with other women whose stories we want to share. In March of 2018 (yes, just weeks away!) we will touchdown in Blantyre to kick-off our journey that we call The Akazi Project.
Malawi is one of the most impoverished countries and since 2011 they've had the highest cervical cancer rates in the world. This (primarily) preventable disease is devastating for families, and our goal is to reduce these numbers.
We are partnering with a local Malawian NGO that provides screenings and treatment and this is where our customers join our story! Proceeds from each piece directly support the funding of our cervical cancer program, while simultaneously contributing to female empowerment, education, and creating sustainable employment for women.
These proceeds go directly into the hands of the community members who work tirelessly to improve the health of women. We’re following suit and working to creating some beautiful jewelry pieces to share with you all!
Already, we have to thank YOU for the overwhelmingly positive response and for being part of our story. To see the reaction, support, and eagerness of future patrons and partnerships about our vision means everything. THANK YOU for joining us on this journey and helping build a platform for positive change for the women of Malawi!
Things are moving fast for us. Check back soon for an update on our trip and to view our collection!