Tools for Solidarity (TFS) is working with The Womens Rights Initiative (WORI) to develop a Tools and Sewing centre in Uganda in 2014. The project aims to develop a centre to provide high quality sewing machines, hand tools and training in the Busoga sub-region of Eastern Uganda.
WORI was founded in 2007 by three women with an interest in creating a safe space for exchanging ideas about human rights, agricultural practices, reproductive health and rights and HIV/AIDS in an effort to empower women (and youths) in rural communities to improve their livelihoods. Striving for gender equality is now their platform for viable and sustainable rural development.
Having been approached by WORI in 2010 TFS met with them the following year. TFS was immediatley impressed by their integrity and passion to improve the lives of the people in the communities in which they work. Coupled with their capacity to deliver a project in-country the decision was made to work together on a pilot project.
The pilot project was completed in 2013 and involved the delivery of 35 sewing machines and a shipping container that had been specially fitted out by TFS to serve as a workshop for the pilot and to be a valuable resource for the future. A baseline survey was conducted to assess what local artisans wanted and needed and establish how TFS could help. Based on the success of the pilot project and baseline findings the decision was made to establish a more comprehensive Tools and Sewing Centre and run a project over three years.
Uganda is one of the least developed countries in the world and women face particular challenges in the economic sphere. Women are paid half as much as their male counterparts for the same work and on average work seven hours less per week when in paid employment. Many of the barriers to women in the labour market have been identified as structural nature and it is believed the move away from non-paid family work can help to break down these barriers (UNDP Uganda 2013.) In prioritising women the program hopes to help address this issue.
Over the next three years we will be sending hundreds of sewing machines and thousands of tools to WORI and implementing training programmes to help improve the lives of local artisans, their families and communities.
Filling a container is a special moment for all the volunteers, not only because of the hard work involved. It’s during these days that you get to see the work of a whole year. All the different activities carried on by the volunteers from building the boxes to refurbishing the sewing machines come together in a 20 foot container.
On October the 24th 2013, TFS sent its 8th container to the Mwanza Sewing and Training Centre in Tanzania. This was the latest of nine containers – one went to Uganda – to be sent out to our partners.
The container left Belfast with 370 sewing machines, including knitting machines and a leather working machine.
Unlike the previous ones this shipment has been decided and planned in a very short time. At the beginning of July TFS has been hit by the news that a fire burn down the MSTC workshop in Tanzania. Most of the stock of sewing machines and all the workshop equipment were lost in one night. After the shock TFS decided to supply MSTC with another container of sewing machines and equipment to fit out the workshop that in the meanwhile has been rebuilt. This will enable the centre to continue to provide sewing machines and deliver the training that has already been scheduled.
In four month the volunteers working in TFS workshops in Belfast, Downpatrick and Camphill Community in Mourne Grange prepared and organised the items needed for the shipment.
The container was filled in Belfast during four days of hard work under pouring rain. It is expected to arrive in Mwanza by the end of December.
Once again none of this would have been possible without the work of all the volunteers who put all their energy and effort in getting everything ready on time.
MSTC has been operating for 6 years with the support of TFS. Acknowledging the value of MSTC work in supporting tailors and artisans in the lake districts of Tanzania, TFS is now looking to renovate the partnership with the centre.
With MSTC and another project hopefully starting next year where will container n° 10 be sent to?