The Cherry Buttons Cooperative
BY Annie Waterman | January 3, 2013
Making buttons for a secure future
Based in the picturesque city of Sefrou, which is situated in the Fez-Boulman region of Morocco, The Cherry Buttons Cooperative has been gaining recognition for their finely crafted hand knotted buttons. The idea first came into fruition in 1997 when founder Amina Yabis, a mother of four, decided it was time to break away from the norms of society and create her own job.
Historically, hand knotted buttons were used to decorate Moroccan attire for special occasions and were first introduced by Jewish residents of the region. Amina saw this craft as an excellent way to not only revive a traditional art, but also empower Muslim women who are often stuck in the confines of their own homes. Prior to the cooperative, artisans saw little profit as merchants took control of the trade, leaving a meager income for the women. In 2000, The Cherry Buttons Cooperative was officially established and now over two hundred families are taking part in the revival. It has become an extremely supportive initiative for female artisans, and has allowed them to regain ownership of their craft.
Since its founding, the organization has been growing steadily each and every year. Amina states, "With the recent acquisition of a number of horizontal and vertical looms, we have been able to expand our product line to include carpets, scarves, shawls, and many fabric accessories for the bedroom which are adorned with our buttons." The women are free to use their imaginations, as they are now embellishing traditional Moroccan slippers as well as designing unique necklaces, bracelets, earrings and shag rags made out of naturally dyed wool.
The work of these women has been a success as they are now selling all over the globe. Their profits are creating access to a steady cash flow and they are now able to participate in their community and feel what life is like outside of their homes. The Cherry Buttons Cooperative is also collaborating with their sister non-profit group which assists two hundred and fifty women from Sefrou, Bhalil, El Menzel, and other neighboring villages. The association organizes literacy classes for women, and offers other training in operating a business, weaving and the use of natural dyes. Since 2005, they have been aligning with the Peace Corps by forming an annual young girls’ empowerment camp for the Middle Atlas region called Buttons' Leading Our World, aka GLOW. The retreat encourages young girls to think about their future careers and increases one's confidence as they go out into the world.
Amina adds, "Each purchase of our handmade products raises the economic status of the women in the Sefrou region, enabling them to thrive as dynamic artisans.’ It also helps the next generation of Moroccan women achieve their goals."
The Cherry Button Cooperative currently sells to various wholesalers and local tailors throughout Morocco, and attends The Santa Fe International Folk Art Market. In 2013, from January 27-29, they will also be joining Artisan Resource, a production-sourcing venue for overseas artisans that’s part of the New York International Gift Fair.
For more information, please visit http://cherrybuttonscoop.wordpress.com.