Artisans in Swaziland are creating jewelry using old magazines
Women are finding a voice and economic freedom through the artisan collective
Quazi Design is small and green, yet empowering and elegant. Its mission is two-fold, aiming to fight the stereotype that recycled means ugly and help women in Africa’s last absolute monarchy be independent.
It all started in 2009, with a Swaziland local magazine distributor called Flotsam who wanted to put all their wasted paper to use. They teamed up with British eco-designer Doron Shaltiel and hired 14 women to create handmade jewelry and home design objects out of magazine pages. Quazi Design objects are now available internationally and sell in Europe, the US and Australia.
The female artisans choose the color palette and pages that suit their design, only resorting to paint when opting for gold. They stitch the paper-made beads with fabric from local markets.
Employing women is continuous with Swazi traditions, where it is mostly women who sew and make crafts. “I learned about handcraft all throughout my school career, starting at a young age through to high school,” Cebsille Nzimandze, one of the artisans at Quazi Design told CNN.
But despite having these skills, before starting to work for Quazi Design in 2012, Nzimandze, like most female artisans, was unemployed. She is a single mother, and says that making jewelry has enabled her to support her son through school as well as help her mother.
“Being a single mother is hard. But with the work I do at Quazi Design I can afford my son’s school fees, his clothes and to rent an apartment closer to work”, Nzimandze says. “It’s good for women to learn to use their hands. And by using our raw material they can make crafts to support their families”.
She follows in the footsteps of her mother. “I don’t know how my mom survived. We are four girls. Growing up, she worked at a sewing firm and worked 12 hours a day, starting at 6 am. I don’t know how she did it, but she managed to make ends meet and she put us all through school with the little she earned”.
Quazi Design is one of several initiatives empowering women in Swaziland – a new trend in the country’s history.
“Up until 2006 women had the status of minor children under the law,” says Julie Nixon, country director for Fair Trade Swaziland. “In 2006 we had our new constitution, which brought equality. So now it’s important that women are the breadwinners because when you put money into a woman’s hand the first thing she does is she empowers her family.”