Product Stories

About us

In rural Ethiopia, many women have little or no access to medical care during childbirth. If labour becomes obstructed, they can be left in agonising labour for days. They almost always lose their baby and many are left with a fistula, causing permanent incontinence. Pushed to the edge of society, these women are among the most marginalised in the world. At Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia, women receive free surgery, counselling, physiotherapy and loving care.

Founded by Drs Catherine and Reg Hamlin in 1974, the organisation is now a healthcare network of 550 staff servicing six hospitals, a rehabilitation centre, and the Hamlin College of Midwives.

Over 45,000 women have received free treatment and the network operates purely on philanthropic donations. For more information, visit http://hamlin.org.au/

When you buy a gift from our online store, the proceeds support the work of Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia, helping to restore the lives of these brave, beautiful women.

Bullets to Beads jewellery, Ethiopia

In the mountains of Northern Ethiopia, farmers supply bead makers with artillery shells (from former war conflicts) that are found on their lands. Through traditional techniques passed down for generations, the village artisans melt these shells down to produce handmade, delicate beads.   The beads go through several stages to achieve the final polished look, and then they are sent to Entoto Mountain where a project employs women from the area. The ultimate goal is to provide employment for all women in that area of Entoto. These women skillfully create beautiful jewellery in a loving, community environment. What was once intended for harm now brings hope and life. Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia orders enough stock to keep at least 5 women in full-time employment at all times in the company with more than 120 production team women and 40 staff being led by the owners.

 

  

   

 

 

Handwoven textiles, Ethiopia

Our gorgeous Fairtrade textiles are handmade in Ethiopia.

The cotton is hand spun and the textiles are woven using techniques inspired by ancient weaving traditions. All of the dyes are eco-friendly, made of local plants, herbs and some tried natural products from around the world.

Hand weaving is an intricate process that takes a lot of time and results in richly textured fabrics. Every step of the process is handmade, from the spinning of the thread to weaving the cloth and even finishing the details on each of the products. A weaver can usually produce only 3 scarves per day. 

Our supplier is a member of the World Fair Trade Organization and operates a wonderful facility in Addis Ababa where spinners and weavers are employed in a safe, supportive and comfortable environment.

Cotton is sourced from smallholders around Ethiopia. Some of the cured patients from the Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital are now earning an income by spinning cotton for this supplier.

Here at Hamlin, we provide full time employment for 5 weavers and 5 spinners by ordering enough stock monthly.

          

 

 

Kisii stone hearts, Kenya

 

 

                   

These Fairtrade hearts are handmade from Kisii stone, also known as soap stone by artisans in the south west of Kenya. Perfect as paperweights or ornaments, they look beautiful when arranged as a collection in a bowl or basket.

The name ‘Kisii’ is from the regional capital and is also a language spoken by the local Gussi tribe. The stone is found and mined by hand in the Tabaka hills - and the process is truly incredible.

Stones are carved using hand tools such as machetes, saws and knives. They are then sanded and dyed before being handed to designers who carve patterns into the stone. Polishing is the last step, done done using floor or shoe polish and shredded sisal rope.

Traditionally only the men did the carving, but traditions are evolving and these skills are now being taught more widely.

The carvers truly take pride in each of the sculptures they produce and it is reflected in all of the pieces we receive. Sales of these carvings promote Fairtrade and social justice through increasing local employment and promoting equal working opportunities. As a Fairtrade project, artisans are assured of a fair wage and working conditions.

 

 Zanele beads, South Africa

 

Zanele and her sister Stella from Zimbabwe run a jewellery project which helps women gain empowerment through employment. The sisters teach their skills to women from the Ndebele people of the Nguni Tribe. Southern Ndebele people are known for their skilled artistry with house painting, beadwork and ornamentation. 

Originally, beadwork was done using seeds and grasses. Since the 1800’s, when Europeans introduced glass beads, the artform has been extended to include more intricate designs. Often, inspiration stems from colour and patterns from decorated houses. One necklace can take up to two days to make.

  Kazuri ceramic beads, Kenya

Kazuri means “small and beautiful” in Swahili. The Kazuri project began in 1975 as a tiny workshop experimenting on making ceramic beads made by hand. The factory is located in what used to be part of the Karen Blixen Estate (of the Academy Award winning film ‘Out of Africa’).

In the beginning, there were only two Kenyan women, but soon after discovering major need in employment for single mothers in the near by villages around Nairobi. Kazuri became greatly driven by desire to provide a regular employment for them and made it their mission to grow and have a large work force skilled in the making of handmade jewellery.

Further application of their knowledge in ceramics and the artistic flair has made their necklaces so attractive, in the design and production of their own unique range of pottery-ware, which reflects the culture and wildlife of Kenya. Each bead and piece of jewellery is hand made and hand painted in rich colours and their range is extensive.

Currently, over 300 local women are working at Kazuri workshop, which brings a great change to the local region, empowering women through providing employment!

 

Candles, Swaziland

 

Our candles are handmade in the small African kingdom of Swaziland using the age-old technique of “milleflore’’.

The Milleflore, or “thousand flowers” technique first surfaced in ancient Alexandria, but was perfected in the great glassmaking cities of Murano and Venice. On the African coast, beads from Venice were used as a form of currency to barter for gold and ivory. They proved to be popular, so North and West Africans came to make their own variations. African trade beads were born. The art of milleflore continues today in Swazi Candles. Candle makers of Swaziland use a special hard wax to create their colourful designs, instead of glass.

The Swazi Candles workshop is a member of the World Fair Trade Organisation. Workers are included in all decision-making processes and provided with health care, insurance, food and travel allowances. 

Despite the popularity, each candle is still made and finished by hand and no two are the same. 

  

Scarves and wraps, fistula patients in Ethiopia

Desta Mender, which means Joy Village, is a place where long-term obstetric fistula patients can learn skills and gain independence so they can return to village life later on.

These beautiful wraps and scarves are hand crafted in the Desta Mender village by those long-term patients.

They are knitted from raw Ethiopian cotton, which is full of character, and each is supplied with a name of the patient who made it. We are grateful for the support that patients get, as well as Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia.

  

 

Paper bead necklaces, fistula patients in Ethiopia

Patients at the Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital take part in many enriching activities while they wait for or recover from surgery with a typical stay usually lasting three weeks.

A full time staff member runs craft activities for the patients to enjoy. The necklaces are made by these brave, beautiful patients, using the pages of magazines, cut to size and rolled to form brightly coloured paper beads. 

Proceeds from the sale of this necklace go directly to the patient who made it and also benefit the work of Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia.

Just take a moment to consider the journey of a fistula patient while you look at this necklace. She has gone through so much, but at the time she made this necklace, in the grounds of the Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital, there was hope for a brighter future. When you purchase this piece of her handiwork, you play an important part in her healing journey.

 

Hand-knitted friends, Zimbabwe

This project supports more than sixty knitters in four projects across Zimbabwe.

Unemployment in these areas is a huge problem (it currently stands at around 97%). The aim of this project is to provide meaningful employment for women, as well as hope as they have the opportunity to use their craft skills to build a future for themselves and their families.

Knitting is an ideal activity for generating income as it can be done anywhere, anytime and suits the lifestyle of Zimbabwean women.

Proceeds from the sale of these gorgeous animals help the women of Zimbabwe and the brave, beautiful obstetric fistula patients of Ethiopia.

                  

 

Telephone wire bowls, South Africa 

Who would have thought telephone wire could look so classy?

These bowls are works of art, a talking piece and a practical gift. Each one is unique. They have started from using telephone wires, but now expanding to other wire materials as the work amount has grown substantially.

This project was established in areas where unemployment is close to 80% in a subsistence farming area of KwaZulu-Natal province in South Africa. Over 400 people are employed as a direct result of this project and have become skilled in various basketwork, beadwork, and sewing techniques.

Some crafters work regularly and some produce occasionally, when they are not busy with other commitments.

This project has also helped to build a crèche for the community, as well as implementing a food scheme. Older boys are using their incomes to help put themselves through school.

  

Woven baskets, Swaziland

For over twenty years, this project in mountains of Swaziland has grown and prospered and currently over 700 rural women are making income weaving these beautiful baskets.

Aim is to create innovative contemporary designs using traditional hand skills and locally sustainable raw materials.

Swazi women harvest grass from the mountains, which is dried then woven using traditional techniques.

Many of these women are mothers and grandmothers, so being able to work from home enables them to maintain a traditional lifestyle and to care for their own children and many vulnerable or orphaned children within their community.