Mary Fisher Bracelets Project
Mother beading a bracelet in Zambia
Beaders at work with Mary Fisher
In Africa, Mary Fisher trains HIV positive women to make bracelets, whose sale provides life-changing income for their families.
Mary is an American, an artist who is herself HIV positive. She travels the world campaigning for those who share her HIV-positive status. In 2006 UNAIDS appointed Mary Fisher an ambassador on HIV/AIDS issues, honouring her work especially with women and children.
In early 2007 Mary Fisher began establishing support groups in Africa where women infected or affected by AIDS can earn a living wage. In Rwanda and Zambia, she teaches women to make bead bracelets, then sell their handiwork online at www.maryfisher.com. So far, more than 150 women have learned to make nearly three dozen varieties of bracelets. They are given materials and training, and are paid for each item they create. The income is a lifeline in a country where many subsist on a dollar a day. After the women are paid, any surplus proceeds from bracelet sales are used to buy more materials and to train and employ more women.
With their new earnings and skills, she says, women artisans aren't just living day to day, but looking to the future: opening savings accounts, starting their own small businesses, getting their families better housing. The potential is so great, she says: "I hope that 10 years from now, or 20, if I am still alive, I will still be designing jewellery -- and still seeing it produced by my business-partner-sisters."