All Women Live Under the Same Sky

by: Sarah Kess

July 7, 2012

The fair-trade company Same Sky is known for its signature pieces: the crocheted, hand-blown glass bead bracelets that have been worn by everyone from Liza Minnelli to Chelsea Clinton. The popular bracelets look like they could have been made in a fashion house in Italy, or by design students in a SoHo loft. They are, in reality, made by HIV positive women in Africa, many of whom survived one of the worst massacres in recent history.

Like most conflicts, the Rwandan genocide of 1994—in which an estimated 800,000 people were massacred in just three months—profoundly and disproportionately affected women. The International Criminal Tribunal estimates that 250,000 Rwandan women were raped during the genocide. Of the survivors, 70 percent are HIV positive.

In 2008, Same Sky launched its inaugural project in Kigali, Rwanda, with a mission to empower these women to rebuild their lives and communities. Same Sky trains women to be artisans, who personally produce every bracelet and necklace. In 2011, Same Sky expanded to Zambia, where one in four women are HIV positive.

Women employed by Same Sky earn a wage that’s about 15-20 times greater than what the average women makes in Rwanda or Zambia. Yet more than financial security, Same Sky seeks to restore in women a sense of dignity so often lost. Elizabeth Long, Same Sky’s Director of Sales and Business Development, says of the company’s “trade-not-aid” mission:

It’s not like this is jewelry made by a company in the U.S. and the proceeds go to help these women. The women are actually making the jewelry. We’re giving them a job.  And with that, they can now serve as role models to their children and other community members. They regain their self-confidence.


To learn more, visit


Order The WTF Issue Today

Order The WTF Issue Today