Educating and Empowering Girls, One Bag at a Time

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Educating the international female population isn’t child’s play, but it did spawn from a child’s nickname. Founded in August 2012, The Catrinka Project’s threefold tagline seems simple enough: “Buy a bag, employ a woman, send a girl to school.” Their in-depth business model extends beyond that, though, since those bags, women, and girls are from 10 different countries – Afghanistan, Cambodia, Egypt, Ethiopia, Haiti, India, Nepal, Peru, Sierra Leone, and Uganda. Talk about global innovation.

The Catrinka Project co-founder Megan Cayten is passionate about female empowerment, education, and being a mom to her own 5-year-old daughter, “Catrinka.” Inspired by the movie “Girl Rising,” The Catrinka Project became incarnate when three motivated women decided they wanted to make something bigger than themselves. Their product? Bags – from all over Planet Earth. “Girl Rising” documents how education (or the lack thereof) transforms the lives of 10 girls in 10 different countries. Catrinka’s founders teamed up with 10×10 (the organization responsible for much of “Girl Rising”), and created a means of getting the word out about their socially responsible and stylishly fabulous bag line.

With 7 produced bags and 3 currently in sampling, The Catrinka Project strives to keep their production going long term with bags that are designed and built in the country of their inspiration and origin. “I think bags are a natural sort of landscape for textiles,” Megan said. “It’s very important for us to work with local materials, although we face challenges along the way, like not having elastic available in Sierra Leone.”

Anena Beach Bag from Uganda

The Catrinka Project is linked to each of the 10 involved countries and their respective charitable organizations. For a full link of artisans from each country, as well as causes that specific bags benefit, make sure to check out http://catrinka.com/the-countries-artisans/.

Design is very country-specific and dependent on the resources available in a given location (especially with local artisans). Afghan bags are embroidery-heavy. Some bags are made entirely from scratch (like those from Nepal), while others rely on artisanal skills. In Uganda, The Catrinka Project girls pick already-made textiles and just change the bag color or silhouette slightly. In Ethiopia, one woman’s daughter took part in designing a tote. “With limited execution and re-design abilities, we have tried to choose silhouettes that the designer already makes, where we can just change color or accent on our own,” said Megan. “We have limited sampling abilities because of cost, and channel complications or production constraints.”

From May 1st, profits have been split three-ways to global charities: Future for children (of Sierra Leone), Commit to Change (of India), and Woodward Ethiopia (of, you guessed it, Ethiopia). $150 can send a girl to school for a year, and 40 girls to date will be educated because of The Catrinka Project.

But it’s not just the girls that benefit. As TCP’s tagline says, “Buy a bag, employ a woman, send a girl to school.” Megan’s most memorable moment has been a woman in Sierra Leone who was trained specifically as a tailor for the Sierra Leonean Catrinka bag. Tailoring in Sierra Leone is a male field, but this woman’s demonstrated skill got her hired by men for her exceptional work. Talk about girl power. A child born to a literate mother has a 50% higher chance of living to age 5. Help The Catrinka Project help girls get the education they need to become literate, intelligent, and independent members of society. Spread the gift of education by purchasing one of their items on Designed Good or by visiting The Catrinka Project’s website and becoming a collaborator to the cause. Visit http://catrinka.com/the-collaborators/

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