The Among Equals Story

Who We Are

Among Equals is a social enterprise aimed at empowering bilum weavers of Papua New Guinea through ethical trade. We seek to do this by providing weavers with greater income from the sale of their bilum, opening up further markets internationally, and to help provide the weavers with more certainty and sustainability of income. The bilum are handwoven by women using traditional techniques passed down through generations. We are committed to preserving the creative practice of bilum weaving for future generations, as well as encouraging direct buying from the weavers themselves. The women are the key decision makers in choosing their own working hours, place of work and setting the price of their bilum. Each bilum serves a multifunctional and practical purpose, as well as having great cultural significance. 

Our Vision & Purpose

Among Equals developed its mission through listening and talking with the weavers themselves. Through deep engagement with the communities we work with, women have been able to support their families, sometimes as single parents or sole income earners; send their children to school and prioritise educating their daughters; save to complete their education and build more durable homes.  The response from the weavers has been overwhelmingly positive in every way. Among Equals aim is also to provide an opportunity for traditional bilum to participate in the contemporary world of slow and ethical fashion. We are doing this with the full support of the women themselves. They are proud to bring their stories, woven into the bilum, to a segment of the global audience who may not have encountered bilum before. A greater demand for bilum also helps address one of the weavers’ key cultural concerns - ensuring that their craft is passed onto their daughters and granddaughters.

Bilum weaving is an ancient practice that has been handed down through generations. It is steeped in history and culture and to this day, bilum are used in festivals, dances and bride price payment and as a bartering system. Each bag is inspired by the weavers’ mood, life experience and surrounds. They choose colours and patterns that reflect this, making each bilum completely unique.

“The money from Among Equals to the Goroka bilum weavers has enabled the women to pay for all the little girls to attend school. Your support has meant that we can pay for our healthcare, our traditional obligations and the things we need for our home. It has made a huge difference to us.”

Florence Jaukae Kamel

Image credit: Ái Vuong

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