Reef Sandals Feature Ugandan Designs

Reef purchased paper beads from displaced women in Uganda to adorn a t-strap leather sandal. The women create the beads from recycled magazines and newspapers.

Last year, we reported on a great community project underway in Uganda in which women make colorful beads and jewelry out of recycled paper as a way of earning much-needed income.

With help from Barbara Moller and the newly created nonprofit Paper to Pearls, a U.S. market was born for the eco-friendly jewelry. Paper to Pearls beaders earn as much as $120 per month, four times greater than the average annual income of just under $340, proving a viable market and business model for the women.

With the success of programs like Paper to Pearls, other Ugandan women have found accomplishment in the earned income from recycled jewelery and crafts as well.

Nonprofit 31 Bits sells jewelery made of 100 percent recycled paper, posters and magazines by internally displaced women in Gulu in northern Uganda through fair trade practices. The organization and the women recently received a boost when Reef became a partner, pre-purchasing the beads for the “Ugandal” sandal.

The handcrafted beads adorn the straps of the sandal, made of chrome-free leather, recycled hardware and water-based adhesives. In addition to providing a for-profit opportunity and international marketplace for the recycled crafts, 1 percent of the proceeds from the sandal will benefit the Reef Redemption Fund, Reef’s humanitarian and environmental organization.

“31 Bits is centered around using the creative art and entrepreneurship already present in the women to help get them out of poverty,” said 31 Bits Co-founder Alli Swanson. “Partnering with Reef is another opportunity to give the women an international voice and to share their story.”

For 31 Bits Ugandan designer, Ketty, the recycled craft program has been vital to her and the community. A 76-year old widow who lost loved ones to death and abduction in war, Ketty holds the spot of goalie for the local soccer team and volunteers for an organization to help abused children. With her income from the recycled beads project, Ketty has cared for loved ones and sent four local orphans to school with the money she earns from the program.

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Women in Uganda Turn ‘Paper to Pearls’

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  1. This is a great partnership. Recycled paper beads have lifted many women out of poverty here in Uganda. Starting with BeadforLife ( there are now nearly 100 organizations exporting these beads. I love the fact that organizations are finding ways to partner with companies to enhance products with a message.

  2. Hi, thank you for promoting Ugandan crafts.

    hope you don’t mind us leaving a note to tell you about our fabulous Ugandan Recycled Paper Mzuribeads, Barkcloth, Banana leaf, and recycled Glass beads ON SALE at

    Here you can check out a selection of ethical and eco beads all made by groups building sustainable businesses and promoting environmental awareness.

    Thank you for your support, and for promoting sustainable bead projects.


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