Eight years ago, photographer Sofi Seck and teacher Rosebell Komugisha, met and became friends in St. Louis. This year, the two reconnected and, after a six-hour brunch, came up with Expedition Subsahara, a company that aims to empower women in Africa.
On Tuesday’s St. Louis on the Air, host Don Marsh talked with Seck and Komugisha about their mission. Their local company sells handmade jewelry, baskets, bags and home goods from countries including Morocco, Senegal, Uganda and Madagascar. Part of the proceeds will help fund trade schools for women in sub-Sahara Africa.
Seck and Komugisha draw their inspiration from the experiences of hardworking women in their native countries of Senegal and Uganda, respectively. Their goal is to increase educational opportunities for women.
“When you come from nothing, you have to hustle to get anything,” Seck said describing the work ethic of many women in Africa.
Seck gave the example of her divorced mother who made handmade dolls and sold them for years to pay for her and her daughter’s plane ticket to the United States. Despite her hard work, Seck said her mother always wished she could read and write.
The company’s first project, through crowd-sourcing and fundraising, will be to build a secondary school for girls that also serves as a literacy center for the community in Fass Cabolone, Senegal. The proceeds from the company will help sustain the school’s needs.
“Education is the first step. We want Expedition Subsahara to be this place where we change the narrative about Africa … and helping Africans realize that they don’t need to leave,” Komugisha said. The company also ensures fair-wage products by providing sustainable wages to the artisans who make the products.
Seck said the support from St. Louis businesses has been overwhelming. Expedition Subsahara collaborates with other businesses to set up pop-up shops and fundraisers for the project.
“Our community has been so strong and we are so thankful to them,” she said. “We just want Expedition Subsahara to be a St. Louis brand as much as it is a sub-Saharan brand.”
Listen for the full discussion and more details on their project:
St. Louis on the Air brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. St. Louis on the Air host Don Marsh and producers Mary Edwards, Alex Heuer and Lara Hamdan give you the information you need to make informed decisions and stay in touch with our diverse and vibrant St. Louis region.