Oct. 24, 2022, 4:22 p.m.

Dolls that bring us all together

2022 change leader story

Fatma Guettou and Hamid Noroozian's passionate commitment to children and young people cannot be mistaken. However, they never planned on starting their own business. Fatma has a background in biochemistry and Hamid - as an engineer in urban planning. But then they had their first child, and that changed everything. 

They noticed that it was difficult to find toys that resemble their children. Shelves and rows of dolls - completely devoid of representation the diversity of society - made them take matters in one's own hands.

In the beginning Fatma sewed dolls just for their own kids. But very soon the two parents quickly noticed that there was a demand from friends and others around them. Production increased and eventually all weekends and evenings ended up devoted to sewing. At first they made dolls with different colors of skin and hair. After a while they started creating dolls with different disabilities, as well as different family constellations.

Over time the hobby business grew into a business and thus Watoto Arts was born. In the end of 2021 Watoto arts became one of the winners in the För-orten competition, organized in partnership between Bling Startup, BK Bussenhus and Reach for Change and entered our Incubator. 

The dolls Watoto Arts make are so much more than just dolls. On a small scale, the dolls, of course, make a difference to the child. But on a large scale, they make a difference to society as well. The foundation for many of the values ​​we take with us in life is laid at an early age. By playing with a doll that looks like yourself, your value and role in society is confirmed - you are someone to be reckoned with.  Fatma and Hamid want to balance the skewed image created by today's limited selection in toy stores, to normalize diversity and the understanding that everyone is equally valuable. 

And their impact doesn’t end just there. True to their goal to enhance diversity and inclusion, Fatma and Hamid are employing women from the suburbs. Many of them have sewing skills inherited from home countries but find it difficult to enter the job market. By offering them employment and combining it with Swedish lessons, they want to empower the women. 

In Swahili ‘Watoto’ means a child. And it was with children that everything began. But Fatma and Hamid's contributions to society, on so many different levels, have only just begun.


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