Name: Margaret Kadi
Location: London, Sierra Leone
You have started a project called ‘Project Sierra Leone’. Explain to us what that project is:
Project Sierra Leone is all about empowering women in Sierra Leone.
The whole ethos of Project Sierra Leone is that everything we sell is handmade by talented Sierra Leonean Artisans. We work with Sierra Leonean Artisans that will bring you cutting edge collections and work on private orders just for you.
Our hope is that you will find a collection of merchandise that has been put together with the fashion forward, unique woman in mind.
I had lived away from Sierra Leone for 17 years and recently went back for a holiday. I was so inspired by the wonderful craftspeople my country had to offer. I met with a few artisan women and watched them make the most amazing beaded products like placemats and clutch bags. After that, I then decided to get them to make a selection of accessories in simple designs that could hopefully be presented to a wider market. Sierra Leone is one of the poorest countries in the world so there is little demand for these products. The only time they sell their wares is when an influx of tourist arrives in the port which is not very often.
We work with predominantly women and all of them are paid a fair wage. By this we mean they are paid the prices that they set for each product. They are also paid 50% deposit for all orders that are placed in advance of production.
All of the products we use are locally sourced.
You were born in “Sierra Leone but have been living in the UK for the last 17 years”. How do you remember your childhood in Sierra Leone? Was it as conflicted in war as we hear of it nowadays?
I remember my childhood with great fondness and feel very privileged to have grown up in Sierra Leone as prior to the war, it was considered to be one of the most peaceful and loving countries in Africa. In addition to this, I was fortunate enough to have come from a middle class family which enabled me to enjoy an extremely fulfilling childhood and the best education possible. However this was severely cut short following the decade long civil war, which resulted in me emigrating to England in 1993. Nevertheless, whilst I was away from the country during the worst atrocities, my recent visit in 2010 brought back all the old memories and feelings and made me realize that home is where the heart is.
What sparked your initial response to start creating bags for a cause?
The buzz of the place was so inspiring to me. Meeting the women I work with made me realize how so many of us have our priorities the wrong way around. They were the happiest people you could ever want to be around even though they were not selling much of what they made. I am not a designer or anything but I left them thinking that surely there must be a way that I can help. I have a passion for a cool handbag as I am the proud owner of well over 100 bags myself so I thought that could be a great starting point! I know fashion can be quite personal but I just tried to keep things as simple as we possible could. I love different textures so we have bags made out of beads, raffia and fabric. The raffia bags are definitely my favorite because we started off with plain colored raffia and dyed them in different colors. All the bags are lined in the finest African Cloth and they have a zip for easy access.
You gave up a great job in pursuit of this project. What were you doing at the previous job?
My previous job was as Personal Assistant to the Director of Operations, Sky Sports. It was my dream job as I am the biggest football fan I know (besides my husband)! I was very privileged in that my job allowed me to work on lots of major Sporting Event, including Community Shields, Carling Cups, FA Cups, Champions League matches, as well as the PFA Awards in 2008 and 2009. No two days were the same but I totally thrived in that sort of environment. I was disappointed to leave but when I came back form holiday I realized that I was destined for more than what I was doing. Project Sierra Leone evolved as a result of this and is now giving me the chance to reward people and help improving the circumstances/lives of the women who are now very dear to me.
How did it feel to leave everything that people would consider “stable” and “secure” and leap towards your passion?
Under different circumstances, it would be very difficult to leave a position one would consider to be extremely stable and secure, as we would 9 times out of 10 take security over freedom. However, as a great African Hero (Mandela) was quoted as saying whilst incarcerated at Robyn Island:
“We can all be the Captains of our own Destiny”.
As such, this gave me the courage I needed to leave a job I extremely enjoyed at Sky Sports and pursue an altogether more passionate and fulfilling life, as well as playing my part in helping alleviate some of the extreme hardships suffered by my fellow country men ad women
What would you say to a person who wants to take the same leap of faith towards their dreams?
This is not a decision for everyone; however, my advice would be to think things through before you take that leap of faith. Also, listen to your instincts and gut feeling and speak to the people closest to you including friends & family.
Is there a place where we can buy your items?
My website is currently being developed but it will be ready in a few weeks. In the meantime you can contact me by email firstname.lastname@example.org or you can call me on +44 7947 761 820 with your queries.
What is your greatest attribute?
I have a very strong work ethic, bubbly personality & my husband always tells me that I have a great spirit.
Words of wisdom……….
Never commit to anything if you cannot give it 100%, as my father always told me that anything worth doing is worth doing well.