Teenage social innovator seeks to unite women around the globe
Sara Hamadeh, a Rancho Santa Fe high school student and self-made social entrepreneur, has founded Love Nisa, an organization with a mission to love and support women all over the world.
“I have an immense passion for social innovation and want to be a catalyst for social change,” said Sara, a Bishop’s School senior and former R. Roger Rowe School student.
Love Nisa sells hand-crafted bracelet collections made by women in Palestine, Costa Rica and Tanzania, giving women who have been marginalized or living in poverty an opportunity to earn a fair wage.
Sara was moved to act after visiting the West Bank in Palestine for the first time, toward the end of her sophomore year at Bishop’s.
“I was struck by the level of unemployment that women have,” said Sara, who has Palestinian roots on her father’s side.
As she visited refugee camps, women spoke to her about their struggles to find job opportunities—she learned that only 16% of working-age Palestinian women living in the West Bank and Gaza participated in the labor force in 2020.
“When I came home I decided I wanted to do something to make an impact,” she said of the origins of Love Nisa, Nisa being the Arabic word for women.
Sara knew she wanted to help give women a fair and livable wage but she wasn’t sure what her product would be—she toyed with the ideas of making socks or backpacks but landed on bracelets because it was something easy for the women to make at home.
She was able to partner with local Palestinian artisans to make the bracelets that she designed, connecting a world away over Zoom. She came up with designs for the bracelets with charms that were meaningful to the country, such as the olive tree and the Hamsa hand. Otherwise known as the Hand of Fatima, the Hamsa hand is an important symbol in Christianity, Islam, and Judaism, and represents female power and strength.
“The Hamsa hand I chose especially because Love Nisa is focused on empowering women around the world,” she said.
One of her artisans is Donia, a Palestinian mother of three college-aged children.
“I didn’t get the chance to study in college and because of that I didn’t get to work and even for women who go to school it’s hard to find a job. I’m so happy that I got a chance with Sara and Love Nisa to start making these handmade bracelets,” said Donia in a video posted on the Love Nisa website. “The Love Nisa project really helped us to support our families.”
Sara’s next collection was based in Costa Rica, where her mother was born. In Costa Rica it was a little different process, working through a government entity Municipalidad de Palmares to identify women in need of work and financial opportunity. Through workshops, Love Nisa trained local women to make her Costa Rican bracelet collection—bright reds and oranges adorned with charms like monkeys and starfish.
Her latest collection is based in Tanzania. In Tanzania, she didn’t design the jewelry and instead partnered with TATU Project, a non-governmental organization that was already making jewelry. Each bracelet, with beautifully beaded African designs, is handmade by women in the rural village of Msitu Wa Tembo in Northern Tanzania.
“It’s not just a project, it truly is a business,” Sara said of Love Nisa, which she markets through social media platforms and on her own wrists, always sure to wear her bracelets in public to spread the word. She is hopeful that her bracelets might end up in the Bishop’s bookstore.
At Bishop’s she has worked to stoke the same passion for social change in her fellow students. She co-founded the first-ever Social Innovation Competition at Bishop’s, now in its second year. The competition is modeled after the University of San Diego’s Fowler Global Social Innovation Challenge, a pitch competition for student-led social ventures focused on sustainable change. After she saw what USD was doing, she asked her friends: “Why don’t we have this?”
With Bishop’s peers, Sara helped create the competition from scratch, finding local judges and mentors including a USD-winning team called Soul Much, a business that reduces restaurant food waste by upcycling excess grain into nutritious vegan protein cookies. About 20 students participated and she was a competitor herself, a member of Shirts2Socks, based on the buy one, give one model to take used old school uniforms and transform them into pairs of socks to donate back to San Diego’s homeless community.
In the Social Innovation Competition’s second year Sara is not participating as a competitor but helping to plan the event and serving as a mentor to a team of two sixth grade students.
“It’s exciting to see social entrepreneurship at a young age,” she said, a proud smile spreading across her face. “It’s so cool to see.”
Along with running Love Nisa and fostering the next generation of social innovators, Sara is also a four-year varsity lacrosse player and a member of Hands of Peace, a group of American, Israeli and Palestinian youth that develops the leadership, conflict resolution and peacebuilding skills needed to create social change. She also heads the Latin American Student Organization at Bishop’s and is part of the Bishop’s Singers.
Sara has a lot of interests academically and she’s not quite sure where she will end up (she has been accepted to University of Michigan) or what she will study but she knows social innovation will play a big part.
She also hopes to expand Love Nisa, aiming to take root in Mexico, Taiwan, India and Honduras and find more incredible women to work with and help lift up.
More than anything she hopes to be a positive example for others, no matter how young or old.
“I just hope that maybe I can inspire someone to start thinking of how they can impact the world,” Sara said.
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