The history of our ideas
At Swahili Coast, we have a commitment to ideals that are powerful. The ideas we cherish are based on the power of cooperativity to solve our mutual problems. Cooperativity - working together for common goals - is an incredible tool that builds our capacity to affect change in our communities and across the world.
When faced with a global world, it is easy to focus how language, religions, borders and nationalities create divisions and barriers for cooperation. But when faced with mutual challenges, cooperativity creates a bridge for us to walk across the river of division. And that's exactly what we do with our work in East Africa. Our partner cooperative - Usharika wa Shanga Maua Pwani - is a worker owned beadwork leather co-op that employs women and men from across faiths, languages, classes, and cultures. These ideas are not new. The ideas of mutual cooperativity existed and thrived in East African cultures long before French Monks arrived in Bagamoyo - and before Omani traders landed in Zanzibar - and even before the Maasai emigrated to the Kenyan and Tanzanian grasslands from what is now Sudan.
Four years ago, I was living in my apartment in Dar es Salaam - waking up every morning at 6am to fill our water buckets for the day. Water - the most essential good that societies distribute - is a challenge for many in Tanzania. Every morning, we would gather by the tap to fill our buckets from the pump that ran for one hour. I was living in Manzese, Dar es Salaam as a member of a community famous throughout East Africa for the urban poor folks that reside there. Parts of Manzese persist as a slum - and there in the hovels and shanties that house crowded families who have the most narrow of choices to make - I experienced a humanity and decency that much of America has forgotten. Together - Pamoja (to borrow the powerfully important Swahili word) - we gathered to get water. The strong would carry water for the old or sick. The children would watch the younger children. The mothers of the community would cook breakfast for those who labored. It was a portrait of a people whose life and and experience are poor in the goods they consume - but rich in their culture and cooperation. Objectively, we need to change the world to solve these challenges of inequality - and our challenge is to do it in a way that recognizes the agency, importance, and vitality of the rich culture of those who face adversity. And that is why I founded our partner Cooperative - Usharika wa Shanga Maua Pwani - and our brand Swahili Coast.
Your support of Swahili Coast promotes a style of development that builds capacity for Cooperation in Tanzania. What you do to promote and sell Swahili Coast products puts our partner's children through school, it puts food on tables, and clean water in the hands of our partners and their families. We work with mostly women - and it creates a generation of employed, breadwinning women who proudly shape and guide their families through life as heroes within their community.
Our challenge today is to connect to the good people across the world who are willing to listen to our story. I encourage each of you to do your part to reach out, share, and take part in making our world a better place.