With March 8 in mind
by Amina

When I went to Uganda for the first time, I was full of predictable thoughts about poor developed rural African women, and on what level I as a western women could empower their lives. After short time I understood one thing:

It’s not correct that women in underdeveloped communities are not capable of taking care of themselves. They’re able to handle rough conditions and at the same time take care of both own and passed away family-members children. Most women are doing quite hard fieldwork to secure food supplies, and some also sell their produces and pay school fees through this. People in areas struggling with outside (environmental) issues like drought and hunger is of course a different discussion, but when it comes to handling a challenging situation, African women are in general stronger, more initiative rich, and has more revolutionary ideas than many western women I’ve met.

Travelling Africa you’ll of course find people in real hardship and need. Other takes advantage of this need and on the pitying image western people have built up. What I see in my own homeland though, is the same (self-) pitying and (Govern) dependency, than you’ll find among Africans – or any other people. We are not so very different as humans, but our opportunities indeed are!

Social empowerment Uganda

With the above in mind my aim with my work with the women groups in Uganda is to use art & design as a tool and resource to contribute to the change of social norms that prevent women from working in the formal labour market. In Uganda, women still needs husbands’ permission to participate in village savings and other economic questions, as one example. Other aims are to question our perspective on poverty, and play a role in exposing corruption. Corruption is major obstacle in anti-poverty fight.

Knittings with Heart and Caliber
Site inspired knitting business for rural women

Voices and stories from women in Uganda, was the driving force for developing Soft Power. The knitting business venture is on the go and all up to develop and prosper. The motivation was first to provide skills training in the use of old non-mechanical kitting machines, and then to create win-win small-scale business circles (of women – or any man interested). I have never been specifically interested in knitting, but my mum sure was. She could come up with the most original and unexpected design. When she died, my interest for all she once was increased, and now I even find knits quite fascinating! I’m not patience enough to knit myself, but with a machine I find designing quite fun!

The circles will be self-sustainable in this way:

  • Local “green” yarn production (based on plant fibers from already existing banana, corn and bamboo fields).
  • Local saving groups.
  • Chains of women that exchanges favours.
  • Both local and international trade.

My own contribution is first and foremost design, training of the first women groups, and to organize and provide the necessary tools. I’m in the process of developing the brand, which to start with will include baby sweaters “with a message”. The message is simple: power can change poverty into plenty. A (funny) quote says “I either want less corruption, or more chance to participate in it”.

After being trained, the first women will be able to train others, so that the chain will continue in this way without the need of external resources. The goal is a win-win sustainable livelihood, and a business that has possibilities to grow. A future goal is to put up a building for production in Malindi, Eastern Uganda.

Roll up your sleeves and jump in!

We are all living on the same little globe, under the same sun, on each our little (connected) “pon”. There are rich people in both Africa and in the West that are rich because others are poor. This fact will not create a sustainable world.

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