For many years, the only dolls the African girl child was familiar with were the traditional Barbie dolls, with white skin and long straight hair. These dolls didn’t reflect their physical features or backgrounds and many African parents with little girls struggled to fix this.
Recently, there’s been an increase in the number of entrepreneurs creating black dolls to help African girls see themselves in their toys.
Olivia Mengich is one of the many entrepreneurs empowering African girls. The Kenyan cultural entrepreneur is the maker of Swahili Princess, a line of African inspired fashion dolls.
According to her, “I started the business after I noticed there was a gap in the East African doll market. Other regions like West Africa, South Africa, and the Muslim world have their own local versions of dolls but this region didn’t have that”.
Swahili Princess is an East African fashion doll that is dressed in the local materials found in the region. This includes Kitenges and the Maasai Shuka. The hairstyle of the doll includes braids, afro and straight black hair for the girls who like to comb the hair and also to represent the various hairstyles that the East African woman prefers.
For Olivia, she wants Swahili Princess to create a lasting positive influence in how young African girls perceive themselves and their beauty.