International Women’s Day: spotlight on Wola Nani

March 8 marks the 102nd International Women’s Day (IWD), when thousands of events put on by governments, charities, educational institutions, women’s groups, companies and communities celebrate the economic, political and social achievements of women.

This year’s official theme is ‘Inspiring Change’.

It’s a theme that resonates with us at CO where we are trying to inspire change on a daily basis. We do this through sustainability and design, and by supporting communities and small businesses from around the world who are working responsibly with a social conscience and an environmental awareness.

Since we opened in 2008 we have worked with Wola Nani, an NGO located in the Western Cape of South Africa with a focus on empowering women and inspiring change. This year, Wola Nani is celebrating its 20th anniversary and we want to help celebrate with a short profile to mark IWD at Galerie CO.

wola nani logo and image

In the Xhosa language (South Africa’s second most common language), Wola Nani means “through our embrace, we develop one another.” The organization was founded by South African activist Gary Lamont in 1994 with a clear mission: “to improve the quality of life for people living with HIV and AIDS.”


It began with an entrepreneurial spirit focusing on bringing relief to the communities hardest hit by HIV, recognizing that women have been disproportionately infected with, and affected by, the pandemic. Income generation and the need to provide women with a practical means to support themselves financially was quickly identified as an urgent need for women testing positive with HIV and the women at Wola Nani began making paper maché bowls and beaded objects to generate income.

Through its staff, which is made up largely of women many of whom are HIV-positive themselves, Wola Nani now delivers services and pursues activities that fall broadly into three categories: client support, education and awareness, and skills development. Through counselling, care, training, increased awareness and community support, individuals with HIV are empowered to take control of their lives with confidence, dignity and hope.

Wola Nani 2

At present, about sixty craftswomen are employed by Wola Nani, enabling them to earn a regular and sustainable income. These women report that Wola Nani has provided them with a means by which to feed their families, send their children to school, and live positively.

This is Ruth’s story. Hear how Wola Nani changed her life and the lives of her children.

When you purchase a Wola Nani product, it makes a difference in the lives of these women and their families.  At Galerie CO we stock the colourful paper maché bowls, each signed on the bottom by the woman who made the bowl.

Wola Nani

We also stock the intricately decorated “Ithemba” light bulbs, which were designed by well known fashion designers (Vivienne Westwood, Jean Paul Gaultier, Nina Ricci and more) and decorated with beads and wire by the women at Wola Nani. The designer bulbs are part of a project called “Fashion designing Hope”.

To learn more about Wola Nani and to hear more stories about the women whose lives have been inspired and changed by the organization’s vision visit

Wishing all our #COclients an inspired International Women’s Day.