A short while ago, I was on the hunt for any employer that would give me a chance – being 17 and still in high school, I wasn’t qualified for most job opportunities here in Tampa’s competitive and experienced job market. Sita Monti, the owner of LivAfrika, is a close friend of my mom’s and I knew she took frequent trips to South Africa and was in need of extra help. My mom explained that Sita needed someone to work part-time at her store, which is only a few minutes away from my house. I was both thankful and excited when Sita called me up and asked if I was interested in helping her out at her shop.
LivAfrika is, in a word – exotic. It’s filled with beautiful, Fair Trade items made of everything from Czech glass beads to Ostrich eggshells. There’s beaded necklaces made from recycled paper magazine strips, chicken statues crafted from old plastic bags, and even jewelry created from the leftover horn and bone of cows. All of the merchandise is hand crafted and meticulously made by women many of whom are suffering with HIV/AIDS in South Africa, Swaziland, Kenya, and Sudan. Though a majority is made in South Africa, all of the items for sale are Fair Trade produced - this means there are strict guidelines in place to ensure the artisans are not exploited in any way, they are paid a fair wage, and many other rules that must be followed to be certified Fair Trade.
Through the trust of co-operatives such as churches, AIDS clinics, non-profits, and NGO’s, these women are given the opportunity to work fair labor for fair pay, something that isn’t always available overseas.
- Moderate poverty levels in South Africa are at 45.5% and extreme poverty is at 20.2%. Approximately 5,800,000 people in South Africa live with HIV/AIDS.
- 3,400,000 women have HIV/AIDS along with 410,000 children.
Can you imagine how helpful any type of income is to these women, and their families?
It’s easy to breeze through the statistics, but they are staggeringly real. Fully 5.6% of children are married by the age of eighteen, along with 0.8% of children being married by the age of fifteen. Three women in South Africa are killed on a daily basis and even more horrifying is the fact that every 8 hours a woman is killed by her intimate partner. While homicide rates are decreasing, domestic violence crimes and reported rapes have increased. Thirty-seven percent of men in Gauteng Province have admitted to raping a woman at least once. An estimated number of over 30% of girls will have been raped by the time they’re eighteen.
Sita exposed me to the lives of these women and their families in South Africa and we both believe it’s important to be aware of what’s going on in the world and have an understanding of the differences in lifestyles of various countries.
That doesn’t mean you have to feel guilty for taking a hot shower every day or for drinking pricey, corporate brand coffee in the morning. It means taking the initiative not to turn a blind eye towards the bad in the world, even though you’re privileged enough to not have to think about it.
I’m fortunate enough to be surrounded by kindhearted people who want to make the world a better place for others. Sita is one of those people. She’s someone who I truly believe has a passion for empowering these women artisans in Africa. That’s where LivAfrika’s roots are planted - Giving women the opportunity to better themselves.
My first job is turning into the adventure of a lifetime…
By Ryanne Eppard