Why We Do It
We aim to address the serious economic disparities existing within Burundi and eventually, across East Africa. When Kaz’O’zah began in 2012, our goal was to develop a program that addresses that 80% of Burundians live on less than $2 USD per day. By providing both product design skills and financial literacy training, we are addressing the economic disparities many Burundians face. Our emphasis on fashion and artisanal work allows our beneficiaries to grow within their skills, create their own small businesses, and bring the fashion sectors to the forefront of both East Africa and the global marketplace.
Kaz’O‘zah was created with one goal in mind - find a sustainable way to address the financial disparities faced by Burundi’s most vulnerable populations. Whereas a large portion of NGO funding has gone to developing agricultural skills and businesses, not enough support was going to build up Burundi’s artisanal sectors.
Fashion and artisanal work – whether clothing, shoes, leather work, design – are a set of skills that can be taught, practiced, and adapted across communities. Unlike other industries, the artisanal sector is not dependent on unstable variables like the climate or perishable goods. The versatility of artisanal work allows for it to be practiced alongside other jobs and forms of income. Many of our beneficiaries have several small businesses and use their artisanal skills to supplement their income.
Artisanal work is steeped in rich culture and knowledge that can be shared across communities and families. East Africa is rich in artisanal skills, culture, and readily available raw materials that make artisanal work versatile and sustainable. By investing in artisan training we are supporting community development through creativity and fashion.
Why East Africa
Our focus on East Africa for our work is a simple one – start at home. Investment in African led small businesses is growing, but it is still a rare sight. Even more rare, African-led investment in African owned small businesses. We believe in advocating for the potential of East Africa by supporting and investing in our communities. The potential, skills, and innovation already exist within our communities and are waiting to be invested and tapped into. By providing training for our artisans to hone their skills and become financially independent, we can create sustainable economic opportunities for our communities.
Why Women & Youth
We focus on the most vulnerable groups within communities – women and Youth. In Burundi and Uganda, women make up more than 52% of the entire population and youth (under 24 years old) make up over half of Burundi’s population at 66%.
Barriers to financial independence:
- Lack of stable income
- Dependent children and lack of childcare
- Gender-based violence
- Illegal to inherit or own their own land
- Unemployment rate of 83%
- No stable sources of income
- Little to no job creation
- Education system does not teach basic business, entrepreneurship, or savings and loans
The artisanal sector provides autonomy, financial independence, and a versatile skill set that can be adapted to the current market. Artisanal skills do not require a brick and mortar store front and allow artisans to practice their craft wherever they are. This is especially beneficial for women and youth, who are often constrained by school and family life. Further, artisan skills stay relevant over the years – artisans can apply their skills to product creation at any time and are not dependent on market relevancy.
Beyond fashion being a passion of our founder and team, fashion is a sustainable and dependable form of income. Despite assumptions, fashion exists outside of Western catwalks and shows. Fashion exists in every handcrafted and artisanal made product. Fashion invokes design, culture, and pride. Fashion is ever changing, growing, and timeless.
Our fashion products, whether they are a dress or leather bag, are designed and created uniquely by our artisans. Our products change as fashion changes, making our products sustainable as they are always meeting the market demands. Fashion encourages our artisans to tap into their creative sides and work to design something that is uniquely theirs.