Meet Mama Toti, Me to We Artisan
For 10 years, Mama Toti dreamed of owning a goat as a source of milk and income. With a goat, she could relieve the debt she’d accumulated from years of providing her children with nutritious (and expensive) milk: with a goat she knew her children would look up to their mother with pride; with a goat Mama Toti could finally feel like a strong woman.
But her daily responsibilities of caring for four children—cooking, cleaning, collecting water and much more—prevented her from making a consistent and sustainable living, which was the key to owning that goat.
About a year ago, she joined a community beading group for Me to
We Artisans. Upon receiving her first pay cheque she proudly bought not one goat, but two! With the next pay cheque she bought two more. As her herd grew, so did her confidence. Mama Toti now has 12 goats—which she uses for breeding, milk, and an extra source of income.
In September, Mama Toti combined this income with her savings from Artisans and built a brand-new house for her family. After spending her entire life in a dwelling made of mud, cow dung and sticks, she now has a tin house so big, she jokes, she could get lost in it!
By earning a living through Me to We Artisans, Mama Toti has not only improved her life and the life of her children, she now stands tall—proud, self-assured, and most importantly, happy.
Mama Toti is just one of over 400 mamas in Free the Children communities who have been empowered through our Artisans program. Previously, these mamas, who have not been able to complete their schooling, were dependent on their husbands for income. The Me to We Artisans program has provided these mamas with the opportunity to be strong and independent and raise income in their households.
Me to We Artisan mamas earn fair wages for their work, which directly impact their children and their communities. With their income, they are able to buy food and clothing for their families as well as putting money towards educating their children.
The Artisan program also has a deeper meaning for the mamas that take part in it. Beading is part of the Maasai culture—from generation to generations, mothers have taught their daughters the traditional art of beading. Now the mamas are about to share their talents and traditions with the world, when their jewelry is sold overseas through Me to We Artisans.
The handmade jewelry the mamas produce are inspired by traditional Maasai designs. All the accessories crafted are original and made out of ethical, locally sourced materials.
As members of Me to We Artisans, mamas come together in a “Merry Go Round” beading circle, where they bead together, share childcare duties, exchange business ideas and learn from each other’s experiences. Each week, members contribute a portion of their earnings into a collective pot, which is then given to each mama in turn. Whether it be building a tin roof for her home or paying school fees for her children, each artisan is empowered to take a step towards a brighter future—often for the very first time in her life.
The Merry Go Round is the first time she will earn her own income, receive financial literacy training, open a bank account, and discover that her skills, her ideas and her hopes have value.