Zambezi Dolls Are Born

by Marsha Winsryg

Zambezi doll ethnic natural fiber

Zambezi Dolls were born when it became very clear that there are not enough dolls of color in the world. It is also true that we do not need more plastic polluting our environment, so these dolls needed to be made of natural materials. Add to these truths the need for meaningful work for economically challenged women everywhere, and you have reasons that Zambezi Dolls seemed like a very good idea.

Eight years ago I decided that a simple, handmade doll could be a valuable product that the mothers of children at the Mama Bakhita Home for disabled children might be able to produce. I hoped that in time these dolls might generate real income for the women who were determined enough to learn the craft.

But it was not at all easy. In a spirit of industry and cooperation, the doll makers have shown true perseverance. Gradually every detail has been studied and practiced and the quality of each stitch is evident. They are rightly proud of their achievements and sing a song called “Our Talent Goes Wherever We Go”.

YouTube Preview Image

At first each woman was expected to make her own doll from beginning to end. This did not work well because everyone had a different level of skill in handwork. Some were able to make five well-made dolls in the time it took another to make one less well-made doll. Sister Agnes Daka, then director of the Mama Bakhita Cheshire School, solved the problem beautifully. She suggested they break down the doll making into steps from the cutting out of the body patterns all the way to the making of the clothing. Everyone was capable of doing several parts of the production and together they were able to create finished dolls.

Zambezi doll ethnic natural fiberZambezi doll ethnic natural fiber

The families whose children attend the Mama Bakhita Cheshire special education school and others who come to receive other services are among the poorest in the area, with minimal income and no government services available to them. They are able to come at all because the Mama Bakhita’s school and services are free and they offer transportation that collects the school children each day.

Imagine how happy the mothers and grandmothers are that this opportunity exists for their children. Until the Mama Bakhita came into being in 1996, there was very little for them to do. They stayed at home.The school and services at the Mama Bakhita Cheshire Home are a huge improvement in their  children’s lives. Still, the lack of work and the minimal pay scale for what menial tasks the women could find left them struggling to pay rent and feed their families. And having handicapped children made working that much harder.

Zambezi doll company


betty Abah girls rights nigeria

Unprogressive societies hold women down, says Betty Abah, the Joan of Arc for Nigerian girls and women. Betty Abah is (and I quote from the Daily Telegraph Newspaper in Nigeria) ” an award-winning journalist, author, women’s rights activist and founder of CEE_HOPE, a non-profit child’s rights and development organization.” She is a personal hero of mine, having dedicated her life to improving the lives of women and girls.

With her books he has tried to bring gender inequality into the public consciousness in Nigeria: The Sound of Chains, Go Tell Our King, among others. In 2014 her children’s rights focused journalism won her the Wole Soyinka Award for Investigative Journalism for “Child Friendly Reporting” and the list goes on and on.

“We must make child marriage history and this takes government’s sincere commitment and citizen’s action.” She talks the talk and walks the walk. Betty Abah wants to shed light onto some of our world’s darkest corners: the systematic disregard and mistreatment of girls and women.

Please look at her short documentary film on child marriage and the promotion of educating girls:


betty abah girls' rights to education in Nigeria


Dolls of color, natural fiber

Many of you have already contributed to our on-line campaign to raise money to finish the Zambezi doll makers website. We still have a ways to go and difficult work ahead so we ask that you consider a gift to the on-line campaign or purchasing a doll from the website that can now securely accept credit and debit cards through PayPal.

If you want to boost morale and income for the Zambezi ladies, please look at their selection of dolls, in all their diversity, and purchase one or a family of dolls, for someone who would appreciate the variety of skin tone.

You could do this for mother’s day and we will write your mother a note if you include her name and address in the special instructions part of the order.

There is a heap of editing needed in the copy on our fledgling website, which we are slowly getting to, so please ignore the typos and grammatical errors. Getting everyone on board with writing content and marketing is a huge learning curve, but we improve  each day and finally our payment system is reliable.

With your help, this site will reach kind and tolerant people all over the world, like yourselves, who agree that this world needs a doll that represents every kind of person and every combination of colors in a family.

Thank you, once again.


Thank you for Believing in Us

by Marsha Winsryg

We have put all of our time and energy into getting the Zambezi Doll on-line store up and running. When we ran into snags with the credit card payment company and marketing challenges, I didn’t know how we would be able to work these things out and continue to pay salaries and other expenses until sales could cover them. How would we get to the sought after “break even” point? More importantly, how could we stop now that so many people had worked for so long and achieved so much? How could we fail them now?

So I started a crowd-sourced fundraising campaign through, praying that many of our friends and well-wishers would contribute something, anything, and that this would add up to enough to sustain us until we could swim on our own.

It worked!! We have raised half of the money in a week!

We are so grateful at the out-pouring of contributions. It is a wonderful feeling to be supported by all of you in our efforts to create steady and meaningful work for these women who have worked hard to achieve skills and independence. It takes a village.

With humble thanks for your generosity and faith,