March 15th, 2013 – First ever Women’s Tailoring Graduation
In the fall of 2010, Danielle Young, Brooke’s very close friend S.O.U.L.’s Creative Director, responded to a proposal from the local women to start a tailoring group. The initial group consisted of 54 women motivated to learn how to sew. This desire came out of a need to learn a skill that would give them opportunities to earn some income for their families but also to provide their families with new clothes. In Africa, 90% of a women’s income goes back to the family opposed to 30% with men.
The women began with learning how to embroider. They designed headbands that were shortly there after sold in the States. This money was used to purchase 26 Singer foot-pedal sewing machines. Keeping to S.O.U.L.’s mission of a partnership, the women would keep the machines in pairs and would receive the remaining machines as part of the graduation and completion of the project.
On March 15th, 2013, after almost two years of formal training (Field Coordinator, Phoebe, is also a trained tailoring instructor who heads the program), it was time for the women to graduate.
Leading up to the day was organized chaos, which included making the trip to Kampala to buy the machines. At one point we were hand carrying 20 boxes of unassembled cast iron machines through the streets of the city during rush hour traffic. Never a dull moment. The excitement of the day reminded of the Community Meeting in November.
That morning,Women arrived early to prepare boat size pots of rice and chicken. There was an air of fresh enthusiasm around the S.O.U.L. Shack. Around midday, the women returned in glittery and flashy gomes wear. They all looked stunning, delight written all over their face. To celebrate and support the women, we invited the new tailoring groups as well as Annette, Jinja District Chairperson and S.O.U.L. advocate, to be the guest of honor.
As Brooke, Jane, Pheebs, Annette and myself each gave our speeches, I enjoyed watching the attentive and proud graduates. They had been given a skill and now had the opportunity to use it to better their homes, lives and family. They have trained hands and the support of S.O.U.L. and their fellow women behind them.They are only limited by the depth of their dreams and creativity. More than the skill, they have formed a bond among fellow women, something that they had been lacking before. The community is close but in many ways was missing unity and the women were craving a place to retreat from husbands, children and housework.
As the women strutted down the aisle, they were accompanied by an entourage of friends and family dancing behind them. Each received their sewing machine and diploma and then danced their way back to join their fellow graduates. Tata Muganda even came to support his three wives who were in the group. He brought them presents and congratulated each women with a hug and other forms of affection which really got the women roaring.
My highlight was right after the diplomas were given…a full blown dance party broke loose, followed by serving the food. Per usual we had enough food to feed hundreds of people, which always amazes me.
Six hours later, women and attendants started to disperse but the sentiment of satification and accomplishment lingered. I found myself exhausted by the excitement of the day and took a few moments of refuge behind the Shack. A few kids came over and as if instructed began to plate (braid) my hair. It wasn’t long before twelve kids, including Editha, my mother’s namesake, were surrounding me getting what hair they could and doing their share of braiding. It was surprisingly relaxing.
After my head was a full mess of innocence, I went back around to front of the Shack. I found the S.O.U.L. girls, Shameem (Preprimary teacher), Asia (cleaner and mother of Baby Brooke), Jane (Office Manager) and Phoebe (Field Coordinator and tailoring teacher) all doing traditional dance in a circle. I jumped right in and mimicked the best I could. I’m still convinced my body is not meant to do some of the movements that come naturally for them. They told me I had “got it” aka praising me for my efforts. As the sun set, beads of sweat descended our faces and we danced together until our feet tired.
From the S.O.U.L. staff, we want to thank Danielle for taking an idea and throwing in an immense amount of passion. As a result there are 44 women who have the education and the skill to better their lives. It goes to show that an idea can go a long way; it is how programs are started in S.O.U.L. It has been years since Danielle has returned to the village and yet it isn’t uncommon for me to be running and have children yell out her name or ask when she is coming back. You never know how you can affect someones live and kindness goes a long way.
On behalf of the new tailoring groups, Denver and Durango, eagerly await your return, they have certainly heard a lot about this Mzungu named Danielle.
“Follow S.O.U.L., it is the source of development for this community.”
-Vice Chair of Tailoring Group
For more information about the tailoring group, please check out our website. We have recently started two new groups consisting of 140 women. At this point they are learning to handsticch. With the success of the first group they are very eagar to learn. Supplies are always needed and appreciated. If you are interested in supporting in some way please contact Danielle Young at firstname.lastname@example.org