Empowering Africa’s artisan women
Institutional discrimination against sub-Saharan African women bars them from banks, loans and credit, resulting in 85% of women working in the informal economy to supplement their very low incomes.
While many make unique, beautiful natural crafts and designs, few have the means – transportation, technology, or banking – to negotiate better rates for their wares than those offered by the middlemen, who hold the monopoly on taking products to market.
Soko launched in 2012, in an effort to upset these export supply chains, by using just bog-standard mobile phones and text message. The social enterprise’s founder Gwendolyn Floyd, who believes the site’s remit is to ‘fashion a better world,’ says, ‘designers and artisans everywhere deserve equitable access to a means to support their craft and build their business on the global stage'.
The platform helps artisans to bypass intermediaries to gain a greater share of the profits of the global craft industry. While customers browse and buy their products online, all the vendor needs is a basic mobile phone to upload their profile, product images and descriptions via SMS. They get paid at designated kiosks, meaning they don’t even need a bank account.
Women in Africa produce 60 to 80% of the continent’s goods, but only earn 10% of the income. ‘[We want to] empower craftswomen to become global entrepreneurs by transforming the ubiquitous mobile phone into a tool that expands access to economic opportunity,' says Floyd. ‘When women are able to overcome the institutional description they face in the workforce and earn incomes, they make more equitable decisions about sons’ and daughters’ diet, education and health, they favour sustainable environmental practices, and domestic violence rates go down.'
Image 'FolkArt-2014-african woman with necklace' courtesy of Kathy Knorr
Last updated: 28th of May, 2014