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The Power Of Craft | How Made51 Is Transforming The Lives Of Refugees

The Power Of Craft | How Made51 Is Transforming The Lives Of Refugees

Made 51 is an UNHCR initiative, bringing creativity and dignity back into the lives of refugees in 23 countries, through the power of craft. 

”When refugees flee” the Made 51 website explains ”they carry with them traditions, skills, and craftsmanship”.

These rich crafting traditions infuse the designs with a unique quality which is impossible to replicate on a mass scale. From the black smithing techniques of the nomadic Tuareg of northern Mali, hammering metal and combining with leather to create jewellery and decor, to the Syrian embroidery, recognised by UNESCO as an intangible cultural heritage, refugees can continue to practice these crafts as a way of connecting to their heritage and others in their crafting community.


Sustainable Solutions

The programs not only consider how craft can be used to foster sustainable incomes, but sustainable solutions for problems with waste. The fabric dolls sold on Made 51 are made by Afghan women, refugees in India, from leftover fabric from the fashion industry.

Moreover, refugee artisans from the East African program RefuSHE, specialise in hand-dyeing textiles, ”using natural colours and tying techniques that create one-of-a-kind pieces”.


The Made 51 Model

Made 51 stands for Market, Access, Design, Empowerment and the 51 references to the 1951 Refugee Convention which, influenced by the aftermath of WW2, shapes how many organisations and countries help refugees today.

So how does Made 51 cleverly combine the skills of refugees around the world into a business model where you and I can buy the stylishly designed products online? By creating the right partnerships with social enterprises and marrying modern skills with an understanding of ancient crafts.

Made 51 first recognises refugee artisans, then partners with experienced and local social enterprises to work with the artisans, managing production and logistics whilst making sure the projects actually have a sustainable impact. Then Made 51 bring in the fresh designs, business and marketing needed to promote and sell the products.

art and craft

Meet Artisan Ana

Ana, a refugee from Ethiopia is living in a refugee camp in South Sudan with her five children. Ana left Ethiopia to protect her children who would have been forced to join the Ethiopian military or face death. In Ethiopia she was a nurse; now, in Sudan, she crafts beaded necklaces and bags with the Roots social enterprise there. As a member of the Anayuak tribe, craft is a part of her heritage with skills passed from generation to generation. The handcrafted items made by Ana and the Gambella Women's group at Gorom will eventually be sold on the Made 51 website, providing a source of income and satisfaction for the group of women.

Did you know? 85 percent of Made51 artisans are women.

Also read "Why are craft-gifts often more appreciated than store-bought gifts?"

”When these orders come and we are notified by the Roots, we feel happy, and it makes us busy all day until we finish” Ana tells the UNHCR.

Intricate beaded clutches, fabric dolls, colourful rope bowls, printed cushions: the website hosts a plethora of stunning designs, beautifully handmade, combining style with stories of hope and heritage.


When it comes to buying Christmas presents this year, you are sure to find something to delight everyone on Made 51: family, friends and at the same time, those who crafted the gift by hand.

Providing so many stories of hope for its artisans, the Made 51 initiative epitomises the phrase ‘handmade with love’.

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