In Tanzania, the locals speak Swahili. The bags are called Tuko Pamoja which translates to “we are united. This phrase is part of Support for International Change’s motto: Tuko pamoja kuushinda UKIMWI meaning we are united in the fight against AIDS. Tuko Pamoja Bags are made by artists who are living with HIV in rural Tanzanian communities supported by SIC’s HIV/AIDS services.
The Tuko Pamoja Bags are made from beautiful fabrics from Morogoro, Tanzania. Morogoro is known for vibrant fabrics, especially the batiks and viitenges used to make the bags. Although Tanzania is famous for producing delicious coffee, honey, cashews, and peanut butter, locals take great pride in designing some of the most unique fabrics in Africa.
My friend Erica moved to Tanzania five years ago to develop a non-profit called Support for International Change (SIC). SIC’s mission is to limit the impact of HIV/AIDS in underserved communities and develop future leaders in global health.
One weekend when Erica was back in Los Angeles visiting friends we had the chance to talk about her experiences in Tanzania. She told me about all of the women whose lives had been affected by HIV/AIDS – some of them had HIV/AIDS and some of them were taking care of family members or friends who were sick. Many of these women did not have a source of income; because of HIV/AIDS they had to stay home to care for themselves or a sick loved one.
It was clear that we needed to help create an income for these women. Many of the women are talented fundis, a Swahili term that is used for a seamstress (it can also be used for a craftsperson, carpenter, plumber or mechanic). Tanzania is know for beautiful fabrics, especially the batiks and viitenges. It made sense to combine the readily available sewing skills & the unique fabrics.
We picked out designs for bags that we thought would be easy to replicate. Erica returned to Africa with examples of bags for the women to see. By the next time we spoke she had already began producing the bags with the women. Within a few months she had improved the quality of the bags and she was selling them. Today SIC has sold over a thousand bags and the fundis have been inspired to create new ways to support themselves and their families.
When you purchase a Tuko Pamoja Bag you give these women a chance to use their skills to provide better nutrition and education for their families.
Your purchase makes it possible for these artists to start a shared fund with their HIV positive support groups. The women use this fund to begin other income generating projects. Many women use their income to build a chicken coop or start a community garden.
Photos via: Support for International Change