Over the next couple of weeks, we’re sharing news from our project partners around the world. A lot of work is of course being impacted by Covid-19 as countries around the world have implemented lock downs, but on the whole, the projects TRAID funds are withstanding the difficulties and our partners and beneficiaries are adapting.

This week, we’re starting with the AMMA project, a social enterprise based in Sri Lanka’s tea picking highlands.

AMMA was set up four years ago to address the urgent need for flexible and fairly paid employment in the area. It uses food waste and plants to dye fabrics naturally and the all-woman team, mainly made up of mothers, create beautiful textiles and homeware ethically and sustainably.

Today, AMMA is now one of the leading natural dye practitioners in Sri Lanka, and is committed to using this art form as a tool to empower women and advocate for change in the garment industry.

Recently, AMMA launched a wonderful introductory guide for beginners to learn how to use plants as natural dyes. It generously shares some of AMMA’s expertise and aims to inspire anyone and everyone to experiment with the plants and food waste in your kitchen to create natural dyes. Download it from the AMMA website here.

You’ll learn all about ‘mordanting’ and how to properly prep your fabric; you’ll fill your home with lovely natural smells like eucalyptus and stinkier ones like onion skins; you’ll definitely fall in love with the colour yellow; and, you’ll discover that when it comes to dyeing, patience really is a virtue rewarded by creating alchemy from nature.

In the guide, you’ll also meet Meena, the workshop manager and head dyer. Josie says, “She is AMMA (mother) to everyone and has developed a passion for turning food waste into dyes like I never could have dreamt.”

Legend has it that Meena was (probably) the first woman in the world to discover that ‘thambili’, Sri Lanka’s native famous orange coconut gives the most beautiful dusky pink colour, now used in many of AMMA’s products. Her determination, commitment and ability to find wonder in the project and process has enabled AMMA to thrive and become a locally led social enterprise.

Married at 19 and widowed very young, she had the responsibility of raising two young children. Facing cultural prejudices of not having a partner, low income and poor housing, she had earned a small salary in a garment factory. Like many of the women who live on Sri Lanka’s tea estates, she went to work in the Middle East to try to provide more income for her young family. However, during this time she was placed under house arrest by her employers and forced to work for a year longer than the two-years she had committed to. She eventually made it back to Sri Lanka with only the clothes on her back.

For Meena, previously so horribly exploited, AMMA has provided fair flexible employment that allows women to make sure their children are cared for. It means that rural communities start to thrive, local economies are strengthened and cities become less crowded. It means that women have greater control over the household finances, with less money feeding alcoholism and more money to see their children prosper and become educated.

Lunchtime at AMMA

Today, Meena’s daughter is the Director of a large Sri Lankan NGO working to help the most marginalised living on Sri Lanka’s tea estates. She is also one of the Directors of AMMA, supporting her mother to see the vision and mission of AMMA fulfilled.

With Meena, and other mothers, AMMA is gearing up to launch its first collection of products in collaboration with zero waste maker Isabella Noggin. They are planning a crowdfunding campaign that with your support will increase AMMA’s impact further. Check out their products here and we’ll let you know about the crowdfunded when it launches.

Dyeing with marigold flowers

In the meantime, use AMMA’s guide and have a go at dyeing with plants yourself. As Josie says its ‘beautiful, poetic, rewarding but oh so frustrating. Curiosity always brings me back.”

Natural dyes are just the beginning of the process. Products are made ethically and with love, completely in line with the UN Sustainable Development Goal 12 to ensure sustainable production and consumption. Support their wonderful work to build communities, empower women and be sustainable.

Visit AMMA’s website
Follow AMMA on instagram