The Artisan Collective is a social enterprise program of RefuSHE that empowers refugee women with the education and opportunities they need to become skilled, confident, and economically independent entrepreneurs.
The collaborative arts-based curriculum allows members to express themselves creatively through the design and production of hand-dyed scarves and textiles, acquire transferrable leadership and business management skills, and earn an income to support themselves and their families.
100% of proceeds from your purchase support RefuSHE's mission to protect, educate, and empower orphaned, unaccompanied, and separated refugee girls in Nairobi, Kenya.
It started with Dahabo.
Orphaned as an infant in Somalia, Dahabo lost her leg after she was caught in crossfire at age 14. Unable to access sufficient assistance at various refugee camps in Kenya, Dahabo was eventually referred to RefuSHE where she began to thrive physically and emotionally. After enrolling in the Girls Empowerment Program (GEP) in 2009, our staff recognized a special spark in Dahabo and sponsored her to participate in a training program to learn the centuries-old craft of resist dye. After completing the class, Dahabo was eager to teach her peers this traditional East African art and share the creative ideas she had as a self-assured designer.
Dahabo is now resettled in the United States, where she continues to serve as an ambassador for RefuSHE. Many of her designs are still produced in our Nairobi workshop today. Her leadership and passion helped the Artisan Collective grow into the established social enterprise it is today. Since Dahabo, the Artisan Collective has worked with over 160 refugee artisans from all over East Africa.
The artisan sector is the second largest employer in the developing world.
Generating over $34 billion each year, the artisan sector keeps traditional arts and handicrafts alive while providing a much-needed source of employment to countless individuals around the world, including vulnerable communities and refugees.
Unlike many other artisan initiatives in which textiles pass through multiple hands before reaching the consumer, there is no middleman or “agent” selling Artisan Collective products. We control sales and distribution and, in turn, the integrity of the story behind the scarf. We maintain high profit margins to benefit program participants and ensure that all of our artisans are paid promptly and fairly. Business is conducted in a transparent and accountable manner, cultural identity is respected, and working conditions are safe and free of child labor.
Our holistic model provides artisans with transferrable skills so that regardless of their long-term settlement, they are able to earn an income. After graduation, Artisan Collective members have gone on to work with local fashion houses and start their own businesses, despite limited opportunities for employment in Kenya.