What To Expect From AMMA in 2021
Happy New Year from the AMMA team! We wanted to kick off 2021 by sharing with you our 5 key commitments which will form the intention for AMMA this year.
2020 ended with the joyous celebration of AMMA raising £13,667 through our Kickstarter campaign to keep our workshop open and our AMMAs employed on their full salaries. So we want to start this post by expressing our deep gratitude for all the support shown. We have lots of thoughts about the lessons we learnt last year and how fundamental 2020 has been in shaping and refining AMMA, but for now, we wanted to look forward and share with you the commitments we are excited about.
Motherhood is in AMMA’s DNA. Our workshop is led by a mother who leads as a mother and we prioritize providing flexible employment for mothers.
“Just as the name of AMMA means mother, I feel like I am leading this business as a mother who takes care of her children. As a shepherd who takes care of her sheep, just like a mother.” - Meena Selveraj
AMMA is a women-owned and led social enterprise and it feels right to allow AMMA the freedom of choosing the path it was always destined to take, but until now has been lacking the resources to do so.
“Mother is the greatest temple”
Our commitment to motherhood in 2021 is multifaceted. It includes understanding the challenges faced by the mothers we employ and in the wider tea picking community. Since day one AMMA has worked to solve the issue of women having to migrate to large cities or the Middle East to find work, leaving both themselves and children vulnerable, by providing fairly paid employment locally. However, the challenges faced by women living within our community are complex; poor diets, malnutrition and high anaemia rates are also large concerns with 35% of children below the age of five reported as being under-developed on Sri Lanka’s tea estates.
Through developing products that serve the global mother and baby population our vision is that the revenue generated can be used to contribute to solving these problems on our doorstep.
A Radical Embrace of Daily Life
Intentionally welcoming the ebbs and flows of life to create, refine and grow AMMA. We are told that productivity comes from compartmentalizing our life. Neatly separating work from daily life or integrating daily life into the workplace in the form of adequate moments of celebration when structure allows.
We thrive best as a team when the concerns of daily life are voiced and listened to and when empathy is exercised.
Sri Lanka is the country with the second most public holidays in the world - 25! Allowing celebration to infuse the workplace is natural. Those who celebrate together form friendships not “working relationships”, you look out for your friends, you go the extra mile to support them, help out during a crisis or pick their kid up from school when needed. When we feel a responsibility for the happiness and wellbeing of those around us we function as one body, not individual parts.
AMMA is based in the agricultural hub of Sri Lanka. The cooler climate and heavy rainfall creates a generous environment for growing flowers, vegetables, plants ...and tea! It’s common for families to maintain a vegetable or flower garden to supplement their household income or to provide fresh food. We are super excited about the opportunity we have to turn a barren plot of land into a beautiful garden that can provide fresh food, dye plants, employment and beauty! We want to be a model of a regenerating textile economy in Sri Lanka and this new piece of our journey will help us reach that goal.
In addition to this, we are committing to source a transparent and organic source of fiber for the basis of all our products, cash flow challenges and large MQO from mills in India have prevented this from happening so far but we are excited to partner with like minded organisations to make this happen.
Communal over Individual
Our experience of operating within the SME and social enterprise network in Sri Lanka has taught us that collaboration is the way forward. AMMAs growth over the last 4 years from 2 mothers to 10 mothers and occupying 4 different workshops has only been possible through collaborations and partnerships. We want to see long term impact by creating employment for many mothers living on Sri Lanka’s tea estates and we see that being possible by mirroring the culture of community that is already embedded within daily life.
“Society tells her to want independence, but she has declared her interdependence.. Society says, Try to rise above and be better than; she says, No, I will walk with, serve, and come in under. Society says, Cultivate with the self-interested side of your life; she says, No, I will cultivate the whole of myself. Life goes well only when you are living with the whole of yourself.”
- David Brooks
Communal also means sharing what we have learnt both the practical aspects of natural dyeing and weaving but also the gems of understanding that we’ve collected through building a grassroots organisation with just £1000 and no pre-established infrastructure. Society looks to the elite, the well educated and the politicians for leadership but we have witnessed leadership blossom on the margins. Movements and change often grow from the places people forget to look, within the hearts of the people society dismisses. Communal means giving women from marginalised communities the opportunity to lead and be recognised for the positive impact they are making. Celebration is love.
The Creative Flow
Creativity is as present in the business model we develop as it is in the handwoven products we design. We have learnt that entrepreneurship is a creative act and to isolate, confine or label the forever flow of ideas finding form in whatever context is only to our own disadvantage. So we commit to creating space and dedicating time for unplanned experimentation and to view the failures as simply a step towards the successes.
Some of our most treasured products and colours have happened in the quiet times between orders, team members sharing skills with each other and collaborating together across disciplines to usher in something beautiful. Again, it’s important to note that creativity doesn’t only abide in the art schools and co-spaces of this world but is just as alive and fierce within the boundaries of materials, place and financial constraint.
Thank you for taking the time to engage with what we do at AMMA. Please always feel free to reach out and say ‘hello’ and we hope you have a hopeful 2021 that surprises you in many good ways.
Written by Josie Mackenzie