Informal trade centre helps women

The Bulawayo Home Industries brings together informal producers and helps to create employment for less privileged women and girls by providing training in traditional skills such as embroidery and craft making.

Siphatisisiwe Ncube.
Siphatisisiwe Ncube.

The Bulawayo City Council’s craft centre located in Mzilikazi high density suburb has also helped women to gain financial independence.

The project has succeeded in preserving the local culture because a lot of motifs reproduced in their works have been inspired by their day-to-day experiences.

Through various skills acquired at the centre, women like Siphatisisiwe Ncube have been able to feed as well as send their children to school.

“This centre has sustained my life since 1979 when I first enrolled. I have been able to send my four children to school as well pay my accommodation rentals using money earned through weaving,” said Ncube in an interview with The Zimbabwean.

Ncube makes beautiful items such as floor rugs using mohair shorn from Angora goats. The centre rears a flock of 50 of these special animals, which produce lustrous fleece know as mohair.

“We weave the wool into yarn on hand looms. A single goat produces between four and five kilograms of hair per year” said Judith Ncube, the centre’s craft production officer.

The women also do hand weaving using sisal, palm leaves, river reeds and other fibres. A variety of batik and décor products are also produced, using different materials, methods and designs.

“We encourage the adaption of traditional skills and use of indigenous materials in our products. We also experiment in colour, designs, ideas and techniques from different communities,” said Ncube.

The centre currently assists 120 women and three men in marketing their wares to lucrative markets such as the United Kingdom trade centre and the People Tree Centre in Japan.

“When the wares are sold, the women take 55% while the centre retains 45% for operational costs. Before the economic meltdown, we were overwhelmed by orders from both the local and foreign market. But these days the market is a bit subdued,” said Ncube.

Monica Nyoni joined the centre in 1987. Since then she has been surviving on income earned from basket weaving and making crafts from recycled material.

“I have managed to send my kid to a boarding school using income earned from weaving,” she said. Production at the centre is being hampered by shortages of raw materials. “Most of our raw materials such as hemp, cotton and skeins are now scarce in the country. We have also a shortage of fabric dyes. We import these dyes at from South Africa at very high cost,” said Ncube.

Bulawayo Home Industries was established in 1963 by BCC as a community service project. It is run by a management committee comprising two councillors , a representative from the financial services department , the senior community services officer , two community representatives and the production officer who over sees the day to day running of the centre.

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