A Life As A Human interview with Katie Mogan Graham
We believe that every product has a story, and that this story should be told. Global Mothers works with NGOs in the Global South, helping artisans design and make fair-trade products for women and children in North America. We are committed to sharing the stories of our artisans with our customers, and vice versa. Help artisans in the Global South care for their families and communities by choosing to Buy Good.
LAAH: What exactly is it that you do?
KMG: I am the co-founder and Creative Director for a Vancouver-based non-profit, called Global Mothers. Global Mothers partners with NGOs in the Global South, and helps them design, import and sell fair-trade handmade products in Canada. The majority of the artisans we work with are mothers, and our main customers are women.
LAAH: When did you start?
KMG: My dad, Peter Mogan, has been actively involved in poverty alleviation efforts for the past two decades. He approached me in the spring of 2010 with the vision of providing market access to impoverished artisans in the Global South. We began researching groups to partner with and visited our first group of artisans in East Africa in the fall of 2010. This initial trip was followed by two years of research and product design and several trips to meet with new artisan groups. We launched our online store on Mother’s Day in 2012 with 8 NGO partners and 80 products. We have just passed our one-year anniversary and are now working on a partnership model for Canadian corporations and community groups to join our “Buy Good” movement.
LAAH: Why do you do it and what is the motivation or passion that keeps you going?
KMG: I studied art and design in university, and have always been very interested in product design and the fashion industry. When my dad approached me with his vision for Global Mothers, I was intrigued by the challenge and creative potential for designing products that would appeal to Canadian consumers and still be ethically sourced. However, my intrigue turned to real passion and dedication after our first trip to East Africa in 2010. Meeting the artisans in their homes and seeing the pride and passion that they had for the products that they were making was overwhelming and very inspirational. It is the artisans, and their stories, that keep me, and the Global Mothers team, going each day.
LAAH: Do you feel that what you have done so far has made a difference? If so, can you explain how?
KMG: It can be hard to feel that a real difference is being made when you are faced with poverty statistics and stories of despair like the one surrounding the recent tragic events in Dhaka, Bangladesh. I am fortunate enough to receive regular updates from our NGO partners, which show that by partnering with Global Mothers, these NGOs are now able to work with more women in the community, providing clinics, community gardens, education for children and skills training for adults. The artisans themselves often send us letters detailing their successes and hopes for the future. In the most recent letter we received, Berthilde, a Rwandan artisan who makes bracelets for us, shared that she can now “pay for health insurance for [her] household … school fees for [her] child” and also “help with the needs of others.” This tells me that we are making a tangible difference in the lives of women and children and in their surrounding communities.
LAAH: Who are your allies and supporters in this enterprise?
KMG: Our allies and supporters vary from “everyday” people who buy our products as gifts for their friends and family, to larger corporations who are starting to see the value of providing opportunities for sustainable change in the fight against global poverty. We recently tested a “lunch and learn” program at a local media company, and the response was very encouraging. Staff members began to see how small actions, like buying a necklace, can make large changes in the lives of women like Berthilde.
LAAH: Do you have plans to grow your involvement, to expand the scope of your project? If so, can you elaborate on these plans?
KMG: We currently partner with 8 NGOs in 5 countries across Africa and Asia. These 8 NGOs work with 3,000+ artisans, who in turn provide food and basic needs for approximately 15,000 household dependents. Our goal is to increase the number of NGO partners each year, allowing our customers to make changes in the lives of 10,000 – and some day 100,000 – artisans. At the same time, our hope is that in the next five years, our Buy Good concept will be embraced not just nationally, but internationally. We dream of the day when every person considers the difference they can make with an everyday purchase.
LAAH: Like anything in life worth working for there must be difficulties and struggles too. Can you share with us what have been your greatest challenges?
KMG: Some of our greatest challenges have been logistical ones. Coordinating product testing, quality control, shipping, customs clearance and distribution here in Canada are daily challenges that we face. We have also dealt with tragedies in our NGO partner communities, as some of our artisans have passed away, leaving behind child-headed households. Finally, we’ve encountered national strikes, natural disasters and various forms of “red tape” as we bring things from remote communities to urban centers in Canada.
LAAH: How can people help you?
KMG: There are many ways that people can get involved in our work. The simplest thing someone can do is purchase a Global Mothers product from our Global Mothers website, or share our story with friends using Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest or YouTube. We are also looking to engage and equip a growing volunteer base to help share our story across Canada. One way of doing this is by signing up to host a Global Party. Finally, we are now offering partnership packages for corporations and community groups. The best way to learn more about any of these opportunities is to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Listen to Katie and Peter speak about Global Mothers – “Buy Good”http://youtu.be/jTpTJOnJqfA
The Life As A Human team thanks Katie and Peter for all the great work they are doing and for giving us this interview. If you know them, or if their work has touched your life in some way, please leave them a comment.
All Photos Are © Global Mothers