The Women of Zambia

In visits to a village named Muchila in Zambia’s Southern Province starting in 2007, the Options team encountered a women’s group that met for conversation, singing and dancing.  The group titled itself “Penga Ujane,” meaning “We Thrive” in the local IciTonga language. Options’ interaction with the women led to the idea of a microfinance project in which the women made baskets that the team brought back to the U.S. for gifts and giveaways at fundraisers.  The funds generated were returned to the women who, for the first time in their lives, had their own money.

Because the baskets were bulky and hard to transport, the project evolved into a new embodiment.  Donna Golemme, an Options Director, is a businesswoman but also a master bead craftsperson. She and her husband Rich, also a Director, manage a shop — “Bead Cache” — in Mansefield, Massachusetts south, where they sell bead jewelry made by Donna and others she trained.

In 2010, the Options team brought a supply of beads to the village.  In addition, Donna had aprons constructed emblazoned with “Penga Ujane” and that could store beading equipment.  She also brought reading glasses for the older women to engage in the fine work. While others on the team engaged in the annual dental prevention project, Donna sat on the ground with the Penga Ujane women and taught them how to make bead jewelry.

Many of the women were quite adept, and the kinds of pieces shown emerged.

The items are sold at Bead Cache as “Muchila Impressions” and also at a gift shop in a museum on the main road of Zambia’s Southern Province.

The Penga Ujane women were thrilled with the revenue the project brought them.  They showed their appreciation with ceremonial dancing and singing whenever the Options’ team arrived in the village.  The team was made to feel like rock stars.  After a long journey, this treatment sure makes one’s day!

Donna teaching beading in Zambia
Penga Ujane woman beading

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