After decades of war, South Sudan became the world’s newest nation in 2011. The Roots Project employs more than 80 women from nearly twenty unique tribal groups that are known for their beaded jewelry, clothing, baskets, and gourd bowls. The colors, patterns, and styles of each piece are specific to the tribe of the maker. The organization markets and sells the beaded items through its website. Its mission is to provide creative outlets and financial opportunities for South Sudanese women. “The cycles of violence, poverty and insecurity can be broken by the empowerment of women who will provide the right conditions for children and their future,” says ROOTS founder and human rights activist, Anyieth D’Awo.
Since 2011, ROOTS has raised money to build facilities, teach jewelry-making skills, and to foster an online presence for its artists with a straightforward vision: to share the outrageous beauty of traditional, beaded African accessories with the world. These are not simple baubles; ROOTS’s artisans spend hours creating rainbow-hued, painstakingly detailed jewelry, baskets, and other items. A collar-style necklace, for instance, might have many strands of blue and white beads, with delicate sections of beaded tassels and other striking details.
ROOTS does not stop at giving women jobs, but also provides meals, a child-friendly atmosphere for working mothers, and even literacy and math classes to its artisans. According to the organization’s website, each artisan earns enough income to support 6-10 family members, an astonishing aspect of the program. Buying a beaded item from ROOTS of South Sudan not only guarantees you will have a truly one-of-a-kind object, but also guarantees continued support for this amazing organization and its mission. In 2016 Anyieth and The ROOTS Project were recognized with the Folk Art Alliance Community Impact award.