Friday, 29 February 2008

Sewing Seeds of Opportunity in Ethiopia

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Whilst chatting to a customer recently I learnt of a fascinating and inspiring initiative by Welsh quilt expert Jen Jones from Llanybydder and Janet Bridge from Cardigan.

Over the past year they have made several trips to Ethiopia after a visit to the UK by CAFOD's Beverley Jones (CAFOD's co-ordinator in Ethiopia) who stumbled on Jen's quilt shop in Wales. The idea was fomulated from their conversation to provide Ethiopian women with the skills to enable them to make and sell their hand-sewn quilts in Ethiopia and Wales.

Jen said "I saw this as a unique opportunity to source replica Welsh quilts for my proposed Welsh Quilt Gallery Shop in Lampeter Town Hall. It's such a great story that poor women who became master quilt-makers in Wales to avoid destitution and prostitution in the last century are linked to women in northern Ethiopia doing exactly the same thing this century.

"Also that a dying tradition in one country is helping to stimulate market development in another. I hope that this will be the beginning of a mutually productive and prosperous enterprise."

According to Beverley "There is a long tradition of weaving and embroidery in Ethiopia. The country is just recovering from cycles of drought and war which have left the majority of its people impoverished. But now there is a possibility for developing new products and creating more income for women who would otherwise be forced into sex work or other hazardous ways of earning a living."

The Ethiopian made quilts will be inspired by the styles and patterns of Welsh quilts and made using flannel woven at the Welsh Woollen Museum at Drefach Felindre as well as the colourfull Ethiopian fabric designs.

Janet told me that on the latest trip, which Janet and Jen are taking right now, they will be training five trainers who in turn will teach ten young women. This will enable them to ensure quality control is maintained and place some good orders.

It sounds like an excellent project that could really empower people who, given sufficient skills and tools can make a difference in their own lives.

More information can be found at the links on this page and here.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Yes but Jen Jones is not really from Wales and also sells her quilts for huge profits in comparison to what these women are paid!

BizzieLizzie said...

I appreciate what you're saying and thanks for leaving a comment. However,from an economic development perspective, if Jen and people like her don't help set up these projects in the first place these women don't get paid at all. You only have to talk to these people to understand what it means to be empowered and to create their own income rather than having turn to other forms of income (including prostitution). Schumacher said give a man a fish and he can eat for a day, give a man a rod and he can eat for a week, teach a man to make a rod and he can fish for life. These women have a skill that allows them to eat. Our world economy does not have complete parity and so our income compared to Ethiopia is not a fair comparison. I hope to be involved in a similar project in Rwanda this year and hope that we can swing opinions such as your own so that revenues from exports such as these benefit individuals, not governments. Please feel free to feedback any further comments.

Anonymous said...

Your blog keeps getting better and better! Your older articles are not as good as newer ones you have a lot more creativity and originality now keep it up!

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The Cotton Patch is a family run patchwork and quilting business which was started by Jean Sewell in 1990. The shop is situated in Hall Green, Birmingham and expanded in 1999 to include the shop next door. Originally offering Mail Order catalogues, The Cotton Patch established one of the first patchwork and quilting websites in the UK. The Cotton Patch continues to be a premier supplier of patchwork and quilting fabrics, tools and notions and supplies customers throughout the UK and the world.