Meet Hanna, one of the artisans that worked on the limited edition of refugee-made keychains UNIQLO released in June in honor of World Refugee Day.
The UNHCRxUNIQLO #WithRefugees Keychains were beaded by forcibly displaced women in Kenya and South Sudan. The design brought together the colors of UNIQLO and UNHCR, representing the organization’s longstanding partnership.
To coordinate the production of this collaborative product, we worked with our local partners, Bawa Hope in Kenya and Roots in South Sudan. Over 135 refugee women completed thousands of pieces of beading.
We were honored that some of the women working on the order shared their stories and reflected on the ways that artisanal work positively impacts their lives.
The second artisan who took time to share her story with us is Hanna, a 54-year-old refugee living in South Sudan. She fled Gambella, Ethiopia with her children in 2003.
When did you come here and with who?
I came from Gambella in Ethiopia in 2003 with my children, due to what happened in my homeland.
Do you have children?
I have five children, aged between 18 and 33.
What was your occupation in your country of origin?
I was a traditional midwife.
What is the skill you used in making these pieces and how did you learn it?
Working with beads is what we learned back at home, it’s in our tradition for clothes, for traditional dances and to decorate the home. Here in South Sudan, I learned new styles, different varieties of designs.
Did you have to learn anything new to make these keychains?
Back at home, we only mixed the colours randomly. But here, there’s a selection. You might have 5 or 10 threads, and the threads have to be symmetrical. So the beads have to reflect a design, it’s not just done at random. It’s like a mathematical knowledge, it requires calculation. The Roots team (MADE51's social enterprise partner in South Sudan) taught us.
What is it like to work as part of a group of artisans on these large orders?
The group that I’m in currently is actually quite amazing. We are gaining different kinds of knowledge. We share that knowledge and we chat. We also sing while we are making the beads.
Has being an artisan, and earning a living, empowered you?
I divide up my earnings and I budget. If one of my children needs shoes, I put money aside for that, so that they can buy the shoes. When Christmas approaches, I put money aside so that they can buy clothing for themselves. Also, the food ration that we get here is very small, so this allows me to supplement our food. And then we have health issues... If something unexpected happens, we have money for treatment.
What is your dream?
I would like to make enough to open my own shop to sell the beads. I might even name it for our counterpart, the Roots project.
Is there a message you would like to send to the people who will buy the keychain?
It’s hard for us, because we haven’t been able to see them to show our appreciation. But you have come today. We would like to thank you.