Inspired by the rolling mountain ranges of the Kingdom of eSwatini and the changing seasons, Gone Rural was created to empower women in the most remote areas of eSwatini, a former British colony that was known as Swaziland until 2018. Gone Rural’s founder, Jenny Thorne, began small income-generation projects in the 1970s with rural women in the Southern African the country. She later moved her focus to working with women in the mountainous areas where the beautiful lutindzi grass was growing and women were already weaving, designing handwoven products that they designed to earn a fair and sustainable source of income.

Lavumisa Baskets from the Lavumisa region of eSwatini are made are made using lutindzi grass.

As demand for Gone Rural’s natural and creative products began to increase, so did the strength of the women’s voices. These women became not only weavers, but an integral part of the company, and the sense of empowerment they gained through their business translated into their communities and homes. Gone Rural began to provide funding for community development projects led by the weavers to complement their increasing empowerment, projects which are now carried out by our sister organization, boMake Rural Projects.

Today, Gone Rural has blossomed from a local women’s empowerment project into a global leader in handcraft and design, using creativity to ignite social change and now working with more than 780 women artisans. A quarter of a century later, women and the community remain at the heart of everything the company does and it has an international following. Gone Rural maintains its commitment to ethical production and women’s empowerment while expanding our market to countries across the world.

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Markette Sheppard

Markette Sheppard is an Emmy award-winning TV host, children's book author, marketing executive and founder of Glow Stream TV. Follow her online @markettesheppard and @glowstreamtv.

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