About Dsenyo Fair Trade Gifts
Dsenyo is a social enterprise, ethical fashion brand and fair trade gifts company. We believe business is a powerful way to address social and economic problems. After living in Malawi, artist Marissa Perry Saints founded Dsenyo in an effort to create opportunity for hard-working, African women. We follow Fair Trade principles working to create maximum benefit for the women, artisans and communities in which we work.
Dsenyo works to create sustainable jobs for women and artisans in communities where opportunities are scarce or simply nonexistent. We also commit to offering our customers high-quality, unique and marketable fair trade gifts and ethical fashion items.
Dsenyo aspires to empower a generation of women and artisans in Africa and Latin America eager to address the challenges facing their communities.
About Fair Trade
Dsenyo is an active member of the Fair Trade Federation. Fair Trade is an alternative approach to international trade and is a movement leveraging the power of our everyday consumption to create opportunity for artisans around the world. In general, companies and organizations that call themselves "fair trade" commit to following an internationally agreed upon set of principles or core values. These principles look at fair trade as a holistic approach making it not only about paying a fair wage, but also building capacity, committing to work with marginalized people who need these opportunities the most, being good stewards of the environment, respecting cultural traditions, working collaboratively and engaging the producers in the decision-making process and developing long-term relationships among other things. For a full list of these nine principles of Fair Trade please visit www.fairtradefederation.org.
Dsenyo makes every effort to use low-impact dyes and sustainable fibers like buriti palm, jute, and organic cotton where possible. We reduce waste by composting organic scrap material, and we re-purpose textile remnants for use in other products. In our USA operations we always use 100% recycled paper, our marketing materials are printed using soy-based inks and we do as much of our business digitally as possible to avoid unnecessary printing and paper usage.
About Dsenyo Producer Partnerships
Dsenyo partners with women and artisans in Africa and Brazil. By creating long-term relationships we are helping our producers build their businesses, improve their skills and work their way out of poverty. Through their work with Dsenyo, producers benefit from a vital boost to their business. We provide them with the training, support and all materials needed to fulfill our orders. With the fair labor wage they earn, most producers reinvest in growing their local business, paying school fees for their children, and buying clothing, fertilizer and household goods that they couldn't otherwise afford.
Being a member of the Fair Trade Federation, we follow all fair trade principles including but not limited to paying a fair local wage. Our partner artisans make the equivalent of a local teacher's salary which is 3-4 times above the minimum wage. In Malawi that comes out to about $100-$120 per month, whereas minimum wage is equal to only around $24 per month. In a country where 51% of the population lives below the poverty line, working with Dsenyo is a huge boost for these women and their families. In addition to wages, our partners also receive free technical and business training and order management support. They also receive a 30% - 65% deposit from Dsenyo in order to complete our large orders. This last point is crucial since they don't have the capital to be able to buy their own materials and accept big opportunities like this on their own. For frame of reference, outside of the fair trade system it is typical business practice for a company like Dsenyo to be able to ask their supplier (artisans) for Net30 - Net90 terms. We are flipping this system upside down in order to serve the needs of our producers and instead of asking them to carry the financing burden of production, we carry it for them.
We also work hard not to create a relationship of dependency. Dsenyo offers free training in several areas (sewing, business, fair trade, product design, quality control, etc) contributing to producers overall business development. We encourage them to pursue local markets and other fair trade customers. By empowering groups to grow their business and not rely on Dsenyo for 100% of their income, we are helping them create a more stable future for themselves.
Vipambi Women's Group (Malawi)
Vipambi Women’s group is a sewing cooperative with a mission to train women in business and sewing skills enabling them to become more successful. The majority of women working at Vipambi have begun their own tailoring businesses, and many have used earnings to send their children to the university. As one woman shared, “In only 3 months I’ve done a lot. I used the money as capital for my business. It was down but now it’s up. I also used some money to send my son to Dowa College; he’s at a teacher-training program for 3 years.”
Mwayiwathu Women's Group (Malawi)
This group is comprised of 17 members, primarily women, who have been afflicted by AIDS (either personally or within their family). Just over one third of the women are widows who have lost their husbands to the virus. Widowhood, in Malawi, often leaves women economically disempowered and socially excluded. Mwayiwathu creates opportunities for change. The women in this group use their wages to send their kids to school, pay for transportation to receive their ARVs from the hospital, make home improvements and invest in side-business ventures.
Mulberry Mongoose (Zambia)
Mulberry Mongoose is an artisan initiative in the South Luangwa Valley. Located in a rural area, these artisans design and craft jewelry inspired by the African bush. They use locally and ethically sourced materials such as tagua, semi-precious stones, wooden debris and collected snare wires. Mulberry Mongoose is committed to giving back to the community and supporting conservation efforts. For every piece of snare wire jewelry sold, a $5 donation is made to nonprofits focused on wildlife conservation and anti-poaching efforts
Segue o Seco (Brazil)
Segue o Seco (Brazil) is a cooperative of artisans in northeastern Brazil. Sustainability is central to their mission, and they use materials and processes that have minimal environmental impact. All items in the Brazil collection are made with sustainably harvested Buriti palm fiber. This fiber is hand-dyed with natural dyes and then woven or crocheted. More on our blog.
Umoja Cards (Malawi)
Umoja Cards is an income-generating project for people with disabilities at the Dzaleka Refugee Camp in Malawi - refugees primarily from Rwanda, Democratic Republic of Congo, Somalia and Ethiopia. This group makes greeting cards from recycled paper and bright, colorful African fabrics, some of which are repurposed scrap fabric from Dsenyo’s textile products. As one woman shared with us “All the family is proud of my work with this group. Before I felt a lot of shame because my children would ask for things like soap and I couldn't provide it… I hope the project progresses and my family would be living in good condition.”