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Gone Rural is a revolutionary leader in social enterprise. Inspired by 750 women weavers, we rethink & transform craft, taking it to new heights globally.Company Overview
Gone Rural started organically in the 1970s and was officially registered in 1992. Our founder, the late Jenny Thorne, co-founded a series of shops across Swaziland which sold local crafts. Through these, she saw an opportunity to use handcraft as a means to empower the women of Swaziland.
Until recently, Swazi women had very few rights and were forced to rely on men to support them – not even allowed to own a piece of land in their own name. But up in the mountains, where the indigenous lutindzi grass grows wild, Jenny saw women weaving and saw an opportunity to help them use these skills to secure a sustainable, independent income with which to support themselves and their families.
Today, Gone Rural works with more than 750 artisans in 13 groups across Swaziland – from young women to gogos (grandmothers) and often with three generations of women from one family. By providing our women with self-employed, home-based work, we empower them with a sustainable income, while still allowing them to fulfill their traditional duties and provide care to dependents.
Today, we supply our woven products to hundreds of retailers around the globe, allowing us to quadruple artisan incomes in the last few years. We also invest (at least) 30% of annual profits into our community development organisation Gone Rural boMake.
Gone Rural boMake (meaning ‘women’) complements our income generation work with empowerment programmes, including sponsoring school fees, drilling boreholes and providing mobile clinics. To date we have provided clean water to more than 14,000 people and, in a country with the highest density of HIV in the world, a remarkable 95% of our women know their HIV status (nearly three times the national average.)
We also have peer educators working in every community and are governed by an Artisan Board (made up of the 13 group leaders). They set the prices and they discuss and debate the future of Gone Rural – truly empowering our women to lead the way.
All our hand-woven products are crafted with renewable materials. Our signature lutindzi grass is indigenous to Swaziland and sustainably harvested to ensure regrowth. It is then coloured with eco-certified dyes and combined with other sustainable materials, including fabric waste from our local textile factories to make remarkable, high-quality products.