Women turn to earth for a living

Driven by a spirit of determination and inventiveness, Chiweshe women have fought economic hardship by venturing into the business of making pots from local clay.

Making pots from local clay – Senzeni Mabota and Precious Mutsenhu.
Making pots from local clay – Senzeni Mabota and Precious Mutsenhu.

The women from Gweshe village in Mashonaland Central refused to stand idly while husbands toiled to provide for the family.

Two of the women, Senzeni Mabota and Precious Mutsenhu, told The Zimbabwean that they had never looked back after starting the venture, which is now a viable enterprise.

They collect the clay from the soil, sift it with a winnowing basket and grind it into fine powder on a flat grinding stone. The powder is then mixed with water. To increase productiveness, the women have divided their group into specialist potters, who mould the pots with the aid of basic home-made wooden tools; painters, and those responsible for marketing.

Decorations are made with a pointed stick before the pot dries. The final smoothing is done after 48 hours of drying in a cool place. The pots are finally dried in the oven. “The whole informal and industrial activity is simple and only requires attention to detail in order to produce standard and marketable products,” said Senzeni, who says she now contributes to the family’s food, clothing and school fees.

She said, though, that when they embarked on the project at the height of economic hardships in 2008, fellow villagers were pessimistic about the prospects of the business.

The products have a ready market in Harare and other towns, and they are also popular with tourists. A standard pot fetches an average $15.

If only big shops would buy in bulk, Senzeni said their project would grow faster and create employment for women and young people around the villages.

“Less innovative and idle women should look around themselves for opportunities,” said Mutsenhu.

Women engaged in various types of self-help projects have called on government to at least assist them in getting capital loans and markets for their produce.

Traditional pottery in Zimbabwe dates back several thousands of years.

Post published in: News
  1. Diana

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