Bombo Nubian women use crafts to advance economic empowerment

A section of the Nubian women display some of their craft products in Bombo Town Council, Luweero District on April 3, 2022. PHOTOS/ DAN WANDERA

While the crafts industry remains underrated due to market challenges for some of the products on the local market, the Nubian women based at Bombo Town in Luweero District have mastered the art using the crafts business as an economic empowerment tool to boost family incomes.

The women say crafts work greatly defines the Nubian cultural identity, a source of income and is among the basic activities that both the men and the women get attached to as Nubians.

Ms Noah Ramiati, the Chairperson Agali Awamu Women’s based at Bombo Town believes that their ability to join groups and seek knowledge on how to advance their craft works for better market is the reason members in her group enjoy the crafts business as a culture and income generating activity.

“The Nubian culture cherishes crafts, a tradition that has existed for ages with a bigger section of families generating household income through the sale of the different crafts products. While culture demands each home owns particular craft items, the women under the Agali Awamu Women’s group are now more economically empowered after the different training and exposure tours,” she explains.

“The women weave baskets, mats among other products. The difference is with our ability to market our products, bargain for better prices, keep records and engage in craft work as a business. This was made possible after we got linked up to the National Association of Women Organizations in Uganda (NAWO) and FIDA Uganda that organized a series of training and exposure tours for the group members. We keep records and work as a team. We get orders for the different craft products and are able to deliver on time” she adds.

Ms Marriam Noah, the Agali Awamu Women’s group Secretary explains that while the Nubian women have the art of producing good crafts, many fail to take advantage of the craft talent to advance economically.

“The blessing we got as a result of working as a group is the knowledge sharing and accessing the different advocacy groups that have assisted the group to get registered as a business group. We also leant how to save from the proceeds from the craft products. At one time the Nubian women thought that the right to own property was with the men,” she explains.

After interacting with officials from both National Association of Women’s Organizations in Uganda (NAWOU) and FIDA Uganda, we learnt that we can work and own property as women. We are now sharing some house cores with our respective husbands because we earn some money from the crafts. We can buy books for our children and buy some basic home use items. A section of the Nubian women thought that the crafts including the baskets and mats are for home decoration. We pray that the World gets to know about the good artworks done by the Nubian women. This will help the Nubian community earn a good living from their respective art works, she adds.

A section of the Nubian women negotiate prices with a potential customer (c) 

Agali Awamu women’s group has 31 members while Lomule Women’s group has 20 registered members. The group members say several other women are already interested in joining the group to tap from the many benefits that come as a result of team work.

“We are also engaged in mushroom growing, fruit growing among other activities as projects,” Ms Hadija Marriam, a member of the women group explains.

Ms Monica Emiru Enyou, the executive director NAWOU believes that empowering women economically adds value to their respective ability to contribute to the social and economic welfare of their respective families.

“It is true that NAWOU in partnership with the Forum for Women in Development (FOKUS) and other partners are helping the women groups to attain economic justice, fight gender-based violence and positively contribute to their respective socio and economic welfare. The Nubian women groups have a unique crafts culture that they have now mastered as business for additional income,” she says.

The Nubian women have mastered the craft works where most of the basic home use items are products of the craft work. The Nubian women reportedly spend about 85 percent of their time on the craft works that help generate income for their respective families.

Ms Noah Ramiati clarifies that while the mats fetch between Shs20, 000 and Shs100, 000 depending on the size and beauty, special orders fetch better prices. The women have leant to save some money and invest in the different businesses.

The fact that they know about bookkeeping from the different training they get has greatly transformed the lives of their respective family members, according to Ramiati.

Craft works define the hard work and love for nature;

Ms Jamiya Ssenkanja, the Chairperson Luweero District Women Council and a member of the Nubian community in Bombo describes crafts as one of the greatly treasured values that define the true Nubians that has kept the community strong attachment to nature through their craft works.

“The Nubian woman is never idle. She’s always engaged in productive work through weaving of baskets, mats among other craft works. The different craft works have a strong attachment to nature. The women make use of the disposed plastic drinking straws among other items to produce beautiful craft pieces. Each home has an assortment of craft works meant for different purposes including decoration,” she says in an interview.

Ssenkanja reveals that the women make use of the reeds and river palms to make beautiful handcrafted pieces decorated in different but attractive colors that attract the customers. The girl children are introduced to the craft works at a tender age to ensure that they get to love the crafts culture as they grow into adulthood.

Some of the products produced include the laundry baskets, table mats, spread mats (Kuta) and field mats (lashira). They also make food covers and embroidery. The fact that a big number of the women have had the advantage of getting linked to organizations that help them rediscover their own potential, talents and business ideas is the reason why the crafts business is developing, she adds.

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