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The organisation of Under the Nile is both very similar and very different to Pebble. The simularity is in the two remarkable women who set the companies up. Pebble was set up by Samantha Morshed who moved to Bangladesh with her husband and realised she had to do something to help relieve the poverty of the workers by creating fairly paid and flexible work.
Under the Nile was set up by Janice Masoud who came to exactly the same conclusion Samantha had done when she visited Egypt .
Although the culture of the organisations are very similar the method of production is quite different.
Under the Nile works with SEKEM, a seperate company which was set up to produce healthy and organic crops including cotton, to produce its fair trade organic baby clothes. You can see more about our trip to this remarkable organisation by clicking here Organic baby clothes and toys. Making a big difference to many lives
Janice knew that she only wanted to work with a company who shared her ethical philosophies and she found this in SEKEM, a company in Egypt whose care for people and for the environment impresses and inspires everyone who comes in to contact with them. They formed a partnership and lasting friendship, and to this day all Under the Nile products are sourced solely from SEKEM.
The SEKEM Development Foundation runs a school, a medical center, a vocational training center, various programs for socially disadvantaged children and several research and training programs.
With every Under the Nile purchase you make, you are supporting SEKEM and helping to sustain its amazing and life changing programmes.
In addition to working with Sekem to promote organic cloth there is also the 13 Village project.
The area in which Sekem is based, which is about 2 hours drive from Cairo, is very poor.
The villages are known for widespread unemployment, poor living conditions, and drug abuse. It seemed like there was no way up, but in 2006 a project was formed between SEKEM and Under the Nile to stop this downward spiral.
Based on a vision for sustainable human and social development the 13 villages project was devised.
Tthis project laid out a two-step solution for the problems faced by these 13 villages: The first was to create awareness around better health; the second was to create economic opportunity.
In training the inhabitants of these communities in water and waste management, and in providing free health and dental care, the villages began to transform.
Then through the distribution of microloans, many of these villagers were able to start their own businesses. Some liked to cook, so they started their own restaurants. Some liked to build, so they started their own carpentry shops. The success rate was so high that 98% of all loans were paid back, and more loans were given to expand their businesses. Some of the women who had a penchant for sewing began to sew toys for Under the Nile. Under the Nile sent their fabric and raw materials to them in order to be sewn into fruit or veggie toys, and paid them fair wages for their work. As a result, they started become more independent, more confident individuals.
When we went to meet some of the people who have benefitted from the 13 Villages programme we met some ladies who had used the micro loan to buy a communal sewing machine. They now make Under the Nile toys in their own home earning a fair wage for their work at a time when many people in Egypt struggle to find any work
Today, we are happy to say that there are 540 new enterprises in these villages.
This is the story of the project called The 13 Villages Project. It is the story behind every fruit and veggie toy you buy from Under the Nile.
Note: All the toys created through The 13 Villages Project are produced with adherence to very strict guidelines for health and safety