Photo: Ben Goldstein
In marriage and myth, rings are the jewelry everyone is after. But for a growing number of African women, it's O Bracelets that offer the keys to a better life. Since the magazine debuted them in May 2007, our partner, Fair Winds Trading, has trained 250 jewelrymakers in Rwanda, Zambia, and Kenya; the women earn up to 12 times the average daily wage, allowing them to put food on their tables and send their children to school. Orders for the previous O Bracelets (May 2008) not only paid the women of Umoja, Kenya, for their work but raised an extra $47,000 to help install a water system for eight villages.
This new African gemstone collection is made by Rwandans like Marie-Rose Mukambasabire, 26, who says: "If all the girls my age had as good a job as I do, the spread of HIV/AIDS would diminish. Most girls are infected because they fall into the trap of men who offer them material things." And 10 percent of the price will go to Hope Shines, a mentoring program for orphaned girls. One supporter is Rwanda's president, Paul Kagame, who notes that the Hutu and Tutsi, enemies during the 1994 genocide, are coming together to bead bracelets. "That's where reconciliation takes place," he says. "Then to see that things they make with their own hands can bring income, and to know they are linked to women in the U.S. who are interested in their products—the whole story is one of tremendous transformation in these women's lives."