When you look at the beautiful hand-crafted paper beads created by Proverbs 31 Women, you are looking at a symbol of hope. These beads represent a new life for women who have been victims of exploitation. Most are widows who are HIV-positive because of the unimaginable choices they’ve been forced to make in order to care for their families.
In Uganda, when a woman’s husband dies, his brothers can come and take away everything, kicking her and her children off the land. The government is making reforms to this tradition, but in the bush, the women have no choice but to turn to prostitution. Proverbs 31 Women offers training and hope for women who are trapped in this cycle of poverty and sickness. Their illnesses often prevent them from doing hard physical labor, but they are able to sit and roll paper beads. The artisans are also able to watch their children as they bead, so they don’t have to seek childcare.
We recently had the opportunity to speak to Wayne and Mary, the couple who helped start Proverbs 31 Women.
Mary tells us that the beading group started a little over nine years ago. The group developed from an existing group of women that sold sewing projects. Some of the women wanted to learn to make paper bead jewelry. Mary invited a friend to come and teach a two day jewelry making seminar to get the group started.
“I want to personally thank you on behalf of all the women – you can’t imagine what it means to have an income. So many have suffered. Their work through WorldCrafts has saved their lives.”
The beads are made from paper, hand-cut in specific patterns. After the paper is cut, the beads are rolled. They are then varnished at least three times. The materials come from a variety of places. Some are purchased, but some are donated by churches. One church even donates its posters and church bulletins.
Currently Proverbs 31 Women has artisans in five different villages throughout Uganda. An African woman named Helen helps lead the groups. She rides her bicycle back and forth from the villages. She visits one village per week, bringing supplies and messages, and inspecting finished products for quality control. After her inspections, Helen takes the finished products to the city for shipment.
The impact of the partnership between WorldCrafts and Proverbs 31 Women through the WorldCrafts Support Freedom Campaign is immeasurable. The women often use their income to start small businesses for their families. It allows them to pay for uniforms and supplies for their children’s school. Some of them even use it to pay for transportation to their AIDS and HIV treatments. Though these women often care for the children of deceased family members as well as their own children, selling jewelry allows them to overcome the financial hardships of a large family. And through their involvement with the bead group, all of these women are able to hear words of eternal hope.
To those who purchase the beautiful beadwork created by Proverbs 31 Women, Mary says, “I want to personally thank you on behalf of all the women – you can’t imagine what it means to have an income. So many have suffered. Their work through WorldCrafts has saved their lives.
“By supporting WorldCrafts, you are supporting women and their families – it has made all the difference in the world.”