about a w a v a .

Awava is the Luganda word meaning source or origin.

At Awava, we believe in order to reach sustainable peace in Uganda and beyond, access to resources is essential.  These resources include access to a reliable financial income, clean water, education and food.

Our mission is not one of charity, but of economic empowerment, for you “give a woman a fish and you feed her for a day.  Teach a woman to fish and you feed her for a lifetime.”  In assisting Awava’s artisans with design and providing Western market access, we at Awava are not only providing a space in which marginalized Women in Uganda can sell their masterpieces, but ensuring that these products will sell.  By ensuring the sale of these products at a fair price, Awava’s artisans will be able to gain access to precious resources, therefore empowering themselves through their skills.

The idea of Awava started in the summer of 2006 when Kate von Achen and Lauren Parnell Marino traveled to East Africa together with United Students for Fair Trade (www.usft.org) to study fair trade coffee production in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda.  During their visit, von Achen and Parnell Marino experienced firsthand the positive effects of socially conscious business practices on producers and identified ways in which the system needed to be improved.  
Awava has now become a reality with von Achen and Parnell Marino finding themselves back in Uganda studying and working within the fair trade world

von Achen moved to Kampala, Uganda in August 2007 to obtain her Masters in Peace and Conflict Studies with a focus on Women in Post-conflict Development at Makerere University. 

Parnell Marino returned to Uganda in June 2008 to resume working with Uganda Craft, a fair trade craft store in Kampala through which she had previously conducted much of her undergraduate thesis research before graduating from Northwestern University.

Upon Parnell Marino’s return to Kampala, the two began discussing their dreams of starting a business which went beyond fair trade, hopefully impacting the future of the fair trade movement.  Awava is working with Women artisans from the following areas:

Gulu District (northern Uganda): northern Uganda is a region which has been terrorized by a 22+ year civil war with Joseph Kony and the Lord’s Resistance Army.  While the peace accords have yet to be signed, a cease fire agreement has been respected since 2006.  People are slowly starting to move out of the internally displaced persons (IDP) camps and back to their villages.

Karamoja District (north-eastern Uganda): The communities living along the Omaniman River, who are primarily agro-pastoral, have felt decades of protracted insecurity and armed conflict exacerbated by aridity.  The cyclic persistence of poverty, a poor asset base, low agricultural production, low education and perennial marginalization has increased violence and destitution.  Lotome sub-county is one of the driest lowlands and more vulnerable to conflict that any other section of Karamoja making alternative income generating activities (IGAs) even more crucial.

Kampala (the capitol city and its suburbs): The people of Kampala come from all over the country in search for income.  The informal economy is booming with street hawkers selling food, new and used clothing and accessories, various knick-knacks for the home, etc.  It is difficult for most to find a steady income, Women especially.  While Kampala and its surrounding areas may not be experiencing violent conflict, conflict is still very much present.

Awava aims to be different from other fair trade businesses by focusing not only on conflict and post-conflict development, but also instituting a “raise system” which will provide a set system for labor payment increases.  Every six months, if seventy-five percent of an artisan’s or artisan group’s products sell, we will automatically increase their labor payment one percent.  One percent does not sound like much, but we need to keep this structure sustainable while providing an incentive program promoting quality. 

Awava also invests ten percent of their annual profits in various social programs to benefit the women with whom we work.