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Shanley Knox, Feelgood Style: Treating HIV/AIDS in Ethiopian Women with Economic Independence


Raven + Lily: A Fusion of Compassion and Design
by Shanley Knox, August 31, 2011


Jewelry Made from Empty Artillery Shells 

In Ethiopia, the sick travel to Entoto mountain by the thousands. There, on the highest peak overlooking Addis Ababa, it is said that a pool of holy water can cure HIV/AIDS. For women that remain unhealed by the pool, ostracized by their families and without financial hope, design companyRaven + Lily is providing a different kind of healing.

“Our ultimate goal is to help as many women as possible break the cycle of poverty and experience dignity and hope through sustainable economic opportunities and design partnerships,” CEO and co-founder Kirsten Dickerson said. “Ultimately, we believe than an ethical business relationship is an effective way to empower women.”

As a design company exclusively featuring collections from marginalized women, PR Manager Lauren Holdsworth calls Raven + Lily a fusion of compassion and design. In Ethiopia, the fusion begins with artillery shells farmers find on their land left over from former war conflicts. The shells are are melted down and finished through a set of local techniques that produce handmade, delicate beads. These are sent to Entoto mountain, where women suffering from HIV/AIDS are given economic opportunity through creating exclusive designs for Raven + Lily.

While their Ethiopian collection empowers marginalized women through necklaces and bracelets made from bullet casings, Raven + Lily’s second collection, from Northern India, empowers marginalized Muslim women through employing them to make sustainable jewelry, handmade journals and other goods from locally sourced leathers, hand-carved wood, recycled cotton paper made from textile remnants and hand-milled, natural soaps.

These pieces represent a true redemption story,” Holdsworth said. “All of the pieces in our collections are named after women in our partnerships, their stories are all over our website, their faces are in our offices. We are not just a company that creates a beautiful product, we take part in the beautiful stories of these women across the world.”

You can shop Raven + Lily’s jewelry line, and check out their paper line. All products are made from locally sourced recycled goods. Opportunities for involvement are listed here.

Photos via Raven+Lily, used with permission. Photographer: Esther Havens.

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