Zambia women in the marketplace

Meet the Zambezi Doll Company

by Marsha Winsryg

Zambezi handmade ethnic dolls cotton soft uniqueThese are the women of the God Given Gift Group. They are mothers and grandmothers of disabled children who attend the Mama Bakhita Cheshire Center in Livingstone, Zambia. In 2011 I spent three weeks working with them to develop a doll that could be made entirely by hand, and could be sold for enough money to make an economic difference in their lives. They have grown into a true cooperative, sharing the work and profits from the sales of their Zambezi dolls.
With money in their bank account they can now pay rent, clothe and feed their families and get basic medical care. Most importantly to them, they can now pay to send their other children to school. The Mama Bakhita School for the Disabled is free for low income children, but all other schools , including public schools, have tuitions and expenses. Education for their children is their most fervent desire.

African dolls of color

You will soon be able to buy these dolls directly from their own website!





conceptor's story

I used to work for an Indian woman in her shop. She sold chitenge and sewing supplies and other things. But she was very hard to work for because she did not trust anyone, and if you stood for a minute with your arms folded across your chest, she would yell at you to get doing something. Even while customers were there, she would scream from across the room, “You lazy good-for-nothing, get me more cloth!”

She would not let me eat or drink the whole day. All I could have was one small Mahel beer and a bun. But I got used (to it). Other workers would stay three, maybe four days and then they would be gone. You would just be getting used to working with them, and there would be a new one. No one could stand working for that lady. She used to treat me like a slave, making me carry her heavy bags of groceries as she walked three steps in front. But I had my children to feed and so I stood it for six months.

One day she accused me of stealing from her. I picked up my purse and set it on the counter in front of her. I said “Here. Look through my purse to see if there is anything there.” She looked and there was nothing, so I said “Ok. Now you can call your grandmother to come and help you, and your sister and your mother to come help you, from India. Because I am not going to help you anymore.” And I left.

I just stayed at home and relaxed. After three days, she sent her driver to my house. He told me that the woman wanted me to come back to work. I said No, I am not coming. He came back two more times, but I refused. For one month that woman tried to find someone to work for her. After the one month the driver came back,

” Mrs. Chanda is asking you to come back” I said Ok and went to her store.  

Her husband came down to talk to me. He said “That was very bad, you should not quit like that.” I said, “She should not talk to me that way”.

After that time she treated me well, even bringing me food from her house sometimes for my lunch. It was very hot but I got used, and then I liked it. That woman and I became friends. She even raised my pay. I worked for her for three and a half years until she moved to America.