Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Crochet4Life In Uganda: Making a Difference in the Lives of Women

Having grown up in Africa I have always held the people close to my heart. Africa is full of incredibly creative people. When they are given the power and resources to do good it's amazing what can happen.

Allen Nansubuga, one of the founders of Crochet4Life Women's Group in Uganda, is one of those making a difference. She saw a need in her community and she decided to do something about it. Before I go on, let me tell you how you can help if you choose to. You can make a donation of any amount to on PayPal. Believe me when I say even $5 will make a significant difference. 

In colonial times the British established a cotton growing and export industry in East Africa that made them millions of pounds a year. The country of Uganda is reviving that industry in an endeavor to provide cotton for industry in East Africa.

Allen saw that some of that cotton could be hand spun and crocheted or woven into products to be sold locally. So she set about getting the resources she needed to begin teaching local women the skills needed to do that.

Crochet4Life Women's Group Uganda was begun in 2009 by Allen Nansubuga and Christine Namutebi. They saw that many of the women in their community were unable to earn income because they were illiterate and lacked skills. As a result, many of the women were totally dependent on whether their husbands brought home money for food. If they didn't, the women and their kids went hungry. Allen and Christine were convinced that many of them could learn to crochet and become empowered to live meaningful lives and become agents of change in their communities.

Crochet4Life has worked to enable a moms to produce handmade crochet items, particularly baby clothes and mom accessories, for income to buy food and pay school fees for their children. Mothers and grandmothers started to join for all sorts of reasons. One wanted to save up for a pig, another wanted to save for seeds for a garden she shared with her mother, and a third wanted to pay for a weekly milk supply from her neighbor's cow.

Since 2009 the group has known a lot of ups and downs. Materials were always short, the locally available yarn was of low quality, and some women had to move away. It took time to achieve good quality and keep the crochet clean, as the women's homes have no furniture and they have to sit on dirt floors while they crochet. However, gradually the women became familiar with spinning and crochet. The fact that they were producing things they could use and sell has helped them gain self-confidence. 

Recently, Crochet4Life has shifted from making only baby products to those that can bring in more income such as hairbands, crochet sandals, and woven cotton scarves. The sandals have proven to be a product that sells well.

The women who have learned to spin cotton use rigid heddle looms to weave scarves that they can sell. They've also been trained to crochet the sandals and are paid per piece.

Next steps:
• Increased production of handspun cotton, weaving, and crocheted sandals.
• Increase the number of local sales outlets for their products.
• Continual development of new designs and ideas for existing and future products.

Challenges you can help with:
• They need to rent a home for Crochet4Life since they lost the space where they were meeting in 2013. Currently, everyone is working from home with one person coordinating everyone. They really need to setup a studio where they can put their equipment, meet and work together (crochet, dye , spin weave, train/capacity build, etc), as well as display their products for sale.
• In order to boost production to meet demand they need money to be able to purchase the sandals they decorate with crochet.
• They need someone to help them learn how to dye their cotton hand spun yarns with materials and resources readily available in Uganda.

If you want to invest and help them grow enough to become sustainable in their local marketplace, you can give to on PayPal.

Like and follow Crochet4Life Uganda on Facebook to help spread their story and keep up with the latest developments. If you have skills and knowledge to share with them, you can PM them there or email at the above address.

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