AKIKO Sato, a Japanese volunteer, was on a tour of Kamuzinda village in Masaka district last year when an elderly woman stopped her. â€œGood evening Madam, we have a variety of handicrafts, do you want to buy some?â€ the 40-year-old woman inquired. Sato replied in Luganda: Gyendi bulungi. Njakuja m
AKIKO Sato, a Japanese volunteer, was on a tour of Kamuzinda village in Masaka district last year when an elderly woman stopped her. â€œGood evening Madam, we have a variety of handicrafts, do you want to buy some?â€ the 40-year-old woman inquired. Sato replied in Luganda: Gyendi bulungi. Njakuja mbalabe nâ€™ebintu,â€.
Coincidentally, Sato a.k.a Nabaweesi was looking for women who make crafts. She, under the Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA) programme, wanted to train and support them. She asked Maria Nakilijja, the old lady, where to find her the following day as it was late.
Nabaweesi, now a resident of Kamuzinda in Kyannamukaka sub-county worked with Mwange Rural Development Association, a community-based organisation, and visited house-to-house examining a number of handicrafts. â€œIn a day, I walked up to 15 kilometres. I visited about 200 households in a few weeks. The crafts were fair, but the colours and finishing was horrible. To the whites, Asians and the Far East, the finishing is not appealing.
Most of the handicrafts made back at home in Japan have shouting colours. So, we prefer to import dark colours like brown and black,â€ said Nabaweesi.
Later, she contacted a fellow JICA volunteer, Chiyoko Ichishima a.k.a Namatovu, who works with Balikyewunya Womensâ€™ Group based in Nsangi sub-county, Wakiso district, for assistance.
Since Namatovu was posted to Wakiso, she has been carrying out informal craft training for women.
From September to October 2007, Namatovu, Florence Nnasaka and Fortunate Matovu conducted three basic training sessions in craft-making for women group leaders.
The first phase involved training them on how to make beads and necklaces.
The second phase involved making paper beads and the third phase focused on how to make neat baskets. The entire training took two and half months because it was interrupted by bad weather, funerals, and group leaders falling sick.
Nnasaka said three baskets of 15 to 17 inches can be produced in a day that is if she has not done any gardening. â€œThey make baskets ranging from six to 17 inches (diametre). The smallest basket costs sh500 and the biggest sh7, 000.â€
The group leaders eventually passed on their skills to the rest of the members. JICA contributed financial support to buy needles, plant threads, stoppers and beads amounting to sh300,000.
Nabaweesi observed that it was the first time for members to apply natural colours during training.
â€œI was mesmerised by the only male member from Kabonera Group, Richard Ssekitooleko. He was the best student. He is a naturally gifted leader, manager and teacher,â€ she added.
In December 2007, the association trained members who were sub-contracted by BWG to make and supply 2,000 uniform baskets of 15 inches. But members failed to beat the deadline of January 25, 2008 and half of the consignment failed to meet the required size.
â€œThe reason is that the finishing and quality still bogged down some members,â€ Nabaweesi noted. â€œThis is an indicator that more training is needed. The women are used to making household handicrafts not commercial ones.â€ The baskets that met required standards were exported to the US and the rest sold in Masaka, Kampala and Wakiso districts.
Vincent Musubire, the MRDA chairperson said: â€œThe second training taking place at the end of April will involve in-depth craft training. It will involve making of cutlery covers and export exterior packaging from barkcloth to Japan and crafts to Virginia, USA. We have again appealed to JICA for assistance.â€
Nabaweesi has now acquired a motorcycle which links her with a number of women, making her work simpler. â€œI can access over 100 members in Kabonera, Ttaala, Kyantale, Buwende, Lubumba and Kamuzinda in a short time,â€ she explains, adding that the groups have also made it easy because they cooperate.
Akiko gives Masaka women crafts training