We are delighted to showcase the unique jewellery of Voice International. Established by Natasha Katumba in 2013, Voice International empowers women through their creativity and community. We asked Natasha about her inspiration, hopes and dreams for the future of this inspiring project.
What was the inspiration behind establishing Voice International?
Voice International was inspired by my moving to Uganda at 19 to work alongside a charity working with women and children from slum communities. Every morning we would spend a few hours in these communities building relationships and getting to know the true need of these beautiful people who had become our friends. It was during this daily routine I became increasingly aware of the lack of opportunity, employment and creativity offered to women in Uganda. Some were fortunate to have local vegetable or charcoal businesses, but they wouldn’t make enough to keep them afloat. So I started to dream my own idea of how to impact and change this reality, but in a new way. A way that incorporated my love for creativity, fashion & design which would sustainably empower and change the lives of many living in poverty.
What led you to Africa?
The first pull on my heart to visit Africa was when I was six when I met some family friends who lived in Uganda and I was mesmerised by the idea. 10 years later some other friends moved out and began the charity I moved to be with. At first I visited for a few months, but it soon became clear I had found where I was to thrive and my journey of falling in love with a country holding so much creative potential had commenced.
What do you love most about Uganda?
People & Culture. Two things that come hand in hand really, you can’t walk 200m through the village without being greeted by neighbours and strangers. Amidst extreme poverty in parts of Kampala there is a deep joy rooted within the culture here.
What are the aims of your business?
Our aims are to empower women through creative, sustainable employment which enables them to rise above the poverty line, provide for their families and achieve their dreams. At our HQ in Kampala we have a dream box, holding pride of place. When an artisan joins the Voice team they are encouraged to write down their dreams and desires and what they hope to achieve by being in employment with us. Our box is then locked with these inside and we produce keys for sale, cut to directly unlock our box. Our Unlocking Keys!
Where do the creative design ideas begin?
Our designs initially start by focusing on shapes and colours. Sketching ideas, making prototypes and then developing these. Our courage collection was inspired by geometrical shapes and the use of brushed brass complimenting our new favourite material Ankole. Quite often during the prototype process where we play with different options, brand new ideas are formed & then chosen!
Where do you source the beautiful Ankole (Horn) from?
Our Ankole bi-product horn is sourced from within Uganda. We like to design our collections using materials used within both British and Uganda culture so we have worked hard in finding suppliers locally in Kampala who we can also support. Agriculture is a huge part of life and income for families in Uganda so ensuring we are supporting farmers throughout our horn sourcing is important to us. The most beautiful part of using this material is that the colours and gradients are uncontrollable, meaning every piece is completely unique.
What are the biggest changes you have seen in the lives of your artisans?
The biggest change for all our artisans has been stability. Having an income which guarantees the rent can be paid & food can be provided. Our women are now able to afford school fees for their children and begin saving towards their own dreams and plans.
What are your hopes for Voice International?
Our biggest hope is to continue empowering women, not only in Uganda, but worldwide. We hope our empowerment cycle of providing creative, sustainable employment will ripple far and wide ensuring more women are able to rise above the poverty line, provide for their families & achieve their dreams.
Voice International jewellery is now available at Yours Sustainably