“Same Sky provides a hand-up instead of a hand out,” says founder Francine LeFrak. “Each bracelet not only supports the artisan who crafted it, but also impacts her entire family. We provide transportation to and from work, and also provide meals for our artisans so that they are strong enough to take their HIV/AIDS medication. These women earn a wage 15 times the average wage of women in sub-Saharan Africa, so as to ensure that they can provide food, education and healthcare for their families.”
While Same Sky artisans are helped financially, they are also helped emotionally. Employment helps these women rebuild their confidence that was lost after the trauma of being raped during the genocide. Their health has also improved immensely as their red blood cell levels have increased.
Same Sky is partnered with a local handicrafts center where Same Sky artisans work in a collective. Within the collective, women are free to discuss
social issues of the day, such as handling poor nutrition, western medicine and domestic abuse. In addition, working in a collective has helped in reconciliation from the 1994 genocide. Outside of the collective, women are encouraged to take the beading skills they’ve developed to their local marketplace, providing further opportunity to sustain themselves and their families.
Same Sky bracelets are part of the growing ethical shopping movement. Every Same Sky bracelet comes with a signature of the woman who made it directly connecting the bracelet’s owner with the individual artisan who crocheted it. “Our message is that women are in this together, owning our power, all living under the same sky,” says Ms. LeFrak. “With the purchase of a bracelet, you become fashionable, socially mindful, and part of the powerful circle connecting women everywhere.” All proceeds from the sale of Same Sky bracelets are used towards expanding the business and employing more women. Same Sky started out employing four artisans, and today employs more than 30.
“What has surprised me most is how much I have benefited from this project,” says LeFrak. “When I first began the project, I knew that I would be helping the women. I did not realize how much they would inspire and teach me. These women survived unspeakable things and can now concentrate on the future. Every day I continue to be inspired by their strength. Working with women in Rwanda has been a phenomenal ride for me. I never thought that it would capture me the way that it has. I feel as committed to these women as they feel to me.”
It was during the eight years that Francine LeFrak spent in pre-production for her film 100 Days of Darkness that she first explored the devastating impact of the 1994 Rwandan genocide on women living in the country. Though the film has not yet been produced, Francine was left with a keen desire to assist the 250, 000 Rwandan women who were raped and the 70 percent of that number who were consequently infected with HIV/AIDS. The majority of these women were left destitute after their husbands, brothers and sons were murdered. Same Sky was born out of the vision of empowering women to rebuild their lives and communities.
Same Sky’s goal is to ultimately empower women worldwide by giving them the tools to become entrepreneurs and lead self-sustaining lives. “We want to see women learn to help women, to support women, to empower one another, and to bridge gaps with men who support us. We want to help women learn how to work as a team under the Same Sky,” said Francine LeFrak.
Same Sky bracelets are $160 and are available for purchase on www.samesky.com.