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Diamond Factory In Namibia Gives Unique Opportunity To Disabled Citizens |  December 07, 2020 (0 comments)


Windhoek, Namibia—In many parts of the world where gainful employment is already difficult to find, a hearing impairment or wheelchair can turn a hard situation into an impossible situation. Developing countries typically don’t have legal protections for disabled persons like the Americans With Disabilities Act provides in the United States, or similar laws in other nations do. 

But Schachter & Namdar’s André Messika diamond cutting and polishing facility in Windhoeck, Namibia, bucks the trend there, and actively recruits employees with a disability. One third of its staff has some form of disability, notable in a country like Namibia that has an unemployment rate of almost 50% and more than 100,000 of its citizens living with a disability.

As founding partner of the André Messika diamond cutting and polishing facility, Schachter & Namdar began the program in 2007 when it first set up operations in Windhoek. The company believes in an "equal society where everyone should have the right to work and feel socially included," says director Marc Friedman. The company was looking for a way to give back to the community beyond simply writing a check. The answer was creating job opportunities for the disabled community, with Friedman in charge of the project. They started by training a sign-language specialist to cut and polish diamonds. Two years later, that individual in turn recruited and trained other hearing-impaired cutters, and then the company moved on to employ wheelchair-bound individuals. It took two years to adapt the facilities to the needs of its employees.

The company’s story is told in full on the Natural Diamond Council website, including the example of Anna Marie Johnson (pictured above), who was paralyzed from the waist down at age eight and never allowed to finish her education beyond eighth grade. She never thought she’d find a job, but as one of the first recruits to the diamond-cutting program, she received two years of specialized training and now is one of the company’s leading polishers. Today the firm employs 43 diamond cutters, 28 of whom are hearing impaired, and eight wheelchair-bound polishers.

André Messika, meanwhile, is a renowned Parisian diamond merchant whose daughter, Valérie, is the namesake behind the fashion-luxury diamond brand Messika, a celebrity-favorite brand that has tapped such fashion luminaries as Gigi Hadid and Kate Moss to design collections. Click here to watch a collaboration interview between Kate Moss and Valérie Messika.

Supermodel Kate Moss--a renowned jewelry lover--is not only the current face of the Messika diamond jewelry brand, she's a contributing designer.

Now celebrating his 50th anniversary in business, André Messika was attracted to Schachter & Namdar’s commitment to giving back and especially to this project because he himself has a handicapped child, he says.

“Today’s conscientious young jewelry buyers want to know where their diamond came from and be confident that on its way from mine to their hand, it left a positive trail in its wake. A significant purchase like a diamond, often loaded with emotional connotations, needs to be a feel-good investment that has benefited more than just the final owner,” says the Natural Diamond Council. 

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