Creating craft opportunities for women and girls in Uganda

Creating craft opportunities for women and girls in Uganda
16th November 2016

Arriving in Uganda as Women in Leadership (WIL) craft volunteer I didn’t really know what to expect of my six week women empowerment adventure ahead. But being my third time visiting Uganda I was excited to integrate myself into the community and share my craft skills gained from years of experience in the UK. One thing I knew for sure was that swapping the cold of an English October to help empower women in the warmth of the Ugandan sun seemed like a rather good deal!

Crafts play a crucial role in Women in Leaderships work here in Busembatia Eastern Uganda and their work has already touched many women and girl’s lives since they began two years ago. In Uganda women and girls face many hardships throughout their lives, hardships that many western women couldn’t even imagine. Due to cultural norms particularly in rural areas some parents feel it is a waste of time and money to educate girls. These girls are often left behind but skills such as crafts can be a life line, giving them access to invaluable skills and knowledge to help them make a better future for themselves. The women who come to the sessions can use their craft knowledge to help them generate their own sustainable income. They can sell their things individually in the village or stay as part of the group making crafts for sale on WIL’s etsy store: (https://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/BaNyaboand in the UK.)

Susan the national craft facilitator (Middle in photo above) is a prime example of the success of Women in Leaderships craft program. She is an extremely talented women and the queen of crafts in Busembatia! Having married at a young age and having many children to support, Susan wanted to supplement her husband’s income and earn her own independent money. WIL’s crafts sessions gave her this opportunity and now she is expanding her own craft business while helping to teach other women and girls in the community craft skills. I have spent many an afternoon sitting on her living room floor surrounded by paper beads, drinking sweet African tea and sharing our unique crafting knowledge with one another. It still never fails to amuse me when I get creative and make something new and Susan replies ‘Ah Alice that is… somehow good’!

Alice and girls from Townside school

Alice and girls from Townside school

Susan along with fellow national craft facilitator for WIL Sarah runs a Saturday craft session for women who want to learn new skills or development what they already know. Each week a large number of women come to the sessions and the atmosphere is always filled with concentration and the buzz of happiness. The women have learnt many new skills from banana fiber weaving, paper bead jewelry to fabric earrings! As well as a Saturday session Susan and Sarah help at the weekly in school sessions that are held by the international craft volunteer in three high schools in the community. Teaching a class of 20 girls is not the easiest task especially when you have access to limited resources and they all want to use them at the same time! But as soon as you learn to overcome small problems like that and get to know the girls on an individual basis it’s all worth it!  These in school sessions are very rewarding as the girls quickly pick up the craft skills and you can really see first-hand how it empowers them.  Student Kyabwe Dinah 15 years old said ‘I like coming to craft lessons as Mrs Alice welcomes us and I like best learning skills like making paper beads’.

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