Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Beads of Change

A couple of years ago a good friend of mine told me about 31 Bits, a jewelry company that supports women in Uganda. Intrigued by the idea of such a thing I decided to check it out. What I found was incredibly inspiring.

Photo credit 31 Bits
Paper beads. A product commonly found on the missionary table at church. While the idea of making a bead by rolling up a thin string of recycled paper was extremely crafty, the appearance lacked appeal. Appeal or not, making and selling paper bead jewelry is a craft many women in developing countries rely on for income, especially if they were never given the opportunity for education. In 2007, founding member of 31 Bits, Kallie Dovel visited Uganda and saw this trade as a successful method of development but she dreamed of more.

Along with some friends, Kallie founded 31 Bits in 2008 and the girls took paper bead jewelry to a whole new level. They made them beautiful. With simple but creative design changes, 31 Bits pieces have become a unique and vibrant fashion statement.

Photo credit 31 Bits
31 Bits is now a successful, socially driven business supporting 99 Ugandan women through the purchase of their craft, but that is just the beginning. Women in the 31 Bits program are also recieving english training, health education and vocational training so that after three to five years the women can graduate from their role with 31 Bits and create their own small business.

The most incredible and important part of this revolutionary business is the empowerment they are instilling in the women they work with. In Uganda, like many developing countries, women are oppressed and often stripped from their right to an education, sending them even deeper into the cycle of poverty. With the income from their role with 31 Bits, these women can now sustainably support their families, have funds to send their own children to school and become strong female members of the community.

I recently got to meet Jessie Simonson and Alli Swanson, two of the founding members of 31 Bits at the Invisible Children Fourth Estate Summit when they stopped by the Nika Water booth I was running. I was simply starstruck to meet such inspiring, female entrepreneurs only slightly older than myself.

31 Bits offers a unique and extensive line of necklaces, bracelets, headbands, bags and even an elegant wedding line. Visit to shop their amazing designs and read the incredible stories of the women whose lives are being changed every day because of this creative collaboration between consumers and a cause.

A Dream Story // Jackie from 31 Bits on Vimeo.

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