• Editorial

With skin colored pencils against discrimination


Global Society & Global Goals
With skin colored pencils against discrimination


A Berlin-based non-profit entrepreneurial company produces colorful skin-tone pens to reflect diversity. For a long time, pink seemed to be the only option for coloring faces and other parts of the skin as a skin color pen in German schools, a scandal thought company founder Malte Bedürftig and took it upon himself in 2016 to change something.


“Machwerk" in the former coinage in Berlin-Mitte offers non-profit initiatives inexpensive work space, including table soccer. The co-working space is one of the projects of Malte Bedürftig's start-up "GoVolunteer". This initially organized volunteer work and now also sells crayons and wax crayons for coloring in parts of the skin in children's pictures. With friends, he researched whether it was possible to produce a series with different skin color crayons. A friend came up with the design, and the set was created with a major pencil manufacturer. This now offers twelve colors; in addition to brown and yellow, there is also a white for blending and a red for the cheeks. In 2017, "GoVolunteer" began marketing the pencils via its own social media channels.


Bedürftig reports that 35,000 pen packs have now been sold to interested parties. Parents are particularly keen to order them, and daycare centers and schools have also shown interest. Politicians, athletes and artists are among the "GoVolunteer" ambassadors.

The team now has 11 permanent employees and 35 volunteers, who are paid through crowdfunding and grants. The start-up does not want to make money, says the founder. The proceeds from the sale of the pens go to charitable integration projects. Social commitment runs in his family, he says.


"My parents are both teachers. And they deliberately went to secondary school."

He himself helped in a shelter during the refugee crisis. That gave him the idea for the digital platform for volunteers.


The reactions show how necessary the pen set is when it comes to diversity. Sometimes the development team is threatened, and there are regular hate comments on the Internet, says the founder. Nevertheless, they continue. Because there is also a lot of encouragement. In the wake of the Black Lives Matter protests, interest continued to grow. But new sponsors are needed, says Bedürftig. He also wants to give the pens away free of charge to schools and daycare centers.


When it comes to the topic of discrimination, however, it is not only important to sensitize children - but also adults. "After all, children come into the world with an open mind," says Stephan Knorre, spokesman for the Child Protection League. They learn about exclusion from adults. Adults are role models whose actions, thoughts and speech influence children. Malte Bedürftig also thinks it's important for adults to pay more attention to their language. What excludes? For him, it starts with the word "skin color”. More information: https://www.hautfarben-buntstifte.de