Why the global ‘Slow Movement’ is good news for Africa’s women entrepreneurs

The Edit | by Melanie Hawken founder & editor-in-chief LionessesofAfrica.com

In today’s increasingly fast-paced world, there is a quiet revolution taking place, one that looks to create a more meaningful approach to life. The Slow Movement celebrates all things lovingly handmade, beautifully handcrafted, and above all produced ethically and in a manner that is kind to the environment. Africa’s talented women entrepreneurs, makers and crafters are poised to show the rest of the world how it is done.

These days if you switch on your tv or radio, pick up a lifestyle magazine or newspaper, or hang out in the blogosphere, there is increasing and heartfelt discussion around the trend towards taking a more meaningful and ‘Slow’ approach to life. We hear of Slow Fashion, Slow Food, Slow Travel, Slow Business, in fact, a Slow Revolution is quietly taking place globally.

“In our hedonistic age, the Slow movement has a marketing ace up its sleeve: it peddles pleasure. The central tenet of the Slow philosophy is taking the time to do things properly, and thereby enjoy them more.”― Carl Honoré, In Praise of Slowness: Challenging the Cult of Speed

However, this is less of a reaction to the fast-paced life we all lead in business and on the home front, and more often than not an increasing desire to lead a more sustainable and responsible way of life. It is about knowing the provenance of the goods you buy, the food you eat, the wine you drink, the travel choices you make, and the personal connection you have with the products you buy. The Slow Movement asks consumers to make conscious choices about buying something that has been produced with great care by people who are passionate about what they do. It is about making purchasing decisions based on ethical considerations, considering where in the world products have been made and by whom and under what conditions. It is a backlash against mass consumption, mass production, slave labour, and environmentally unfriendly approaches to creating the goods we use, need and want each day.

Here in Africa, we have a great story to tell as part of the growing Slow movement consciousness, with women entrepreneurs, crafters and makers demonstrating to the world just how things can be done differently in business, with an emphasis on ethical and sustainable production. In response, the world seems to becoming more open to moving away from the ‘big name brand’ buying culture and instead looking to more consciously-minded buying. Interestingly, Africa’s women entrepreneurs have been producing beautiful, sustainable, ethical and environmentally more aware products for decades, long before the whole ‘Slow’ movement term was coined by first world countries struggling with their own ethical purchasing and lifestyle decisions and their possible negative impact.

“The Slow Movement is not about doing things slowly. It is about finding the right speed with which to do something in a way that values quality over quantity, long-term benefits over short-term gains, and well–being of the many over the few.”

The increasing global interest in the ’Slow’ movement could signal good news for many of Africa’s women entrepreneurs who have long been committed to creating products that are lovingly hand-crafted, hand-produced and have a naturally sustainable footprint. Whether it is Africa’s women fashion designers who are creating unique and highly desirable clothes that are handcrafted using locally sourced fabrics and the local skills of people from local communities that need sustainable incomes and genuine craftsmanship without harming the environment or local people’s lives. Or Africa’s growing numbers of Slow Food producers who are changing the way that consumers make conscious food decisions based on greater awareness of how their food is grown, sourced, packaged, marketed and ultimately transported before landing on the plate.

In April this year, Lionesses of Africa attending a ground-breaking event in South Africa aimed at raising awareness of the Slow Fashion movement as part of a global Fashion Revolution day addressing the lack of transparency in the fashion industry and asking consumers to question “Who made my clothes?” In the fashion industry there is too often a disconnect between the buying and making of a garment. The end consumer very rarely knows or is informed about who made the garment and where the raw materials were sourced. The whole Slow Fashion Revolution is trying to change this, encouraging designers and producers to move to a radical ‘business unusual’ approach, and to start taking greater responsibility for the lifecycle of their products, and instead promote alternatives for consumers who are starting to demand these products.

Ultimately, the Slow movement is about connecting with consumers and telling the truly beautiful story of how their products were made with respect to human dignity and the environment. It is about producing things that are made to last, that can be treasured, and that have a back-story of who made those products — Africa’s women entrepreneurs, makers and crafters have a great story to tell in this regard!

Originally published at www.lionessesofafrica.com on June 10, 2015.

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