I will be travelling to Tanzania and working with Naserian, an active grass roots campaign to bring female empowerment to Maasai women through the power of textile design and innovation.
Polygamy is practiced in the Maasai culture, so when a husband dies he may leave behind a number of widows. This means that their children are also left without a male supporter. According to the Maasai tradition, in order to protect the widows, they are inherited by a male relative. I want to help the communities understand that in some cases the widows may prefer to have the support to have independent lives and keep their property and control over their children.
So far, as a result of Naserian, they have a number of projects including: a goat herd, chickens, making & selling soap, candles, jewellery and training in FGM and human rights. The widows, who have been trained in the above skills, pass on their knowledge to the whole of the community and so by helping the widows, the whole community benefits. ‘Female Empowerment through Fashion’ is a successful new project for these women to benefit from. Using my existing textiles knowledge and designs, I will work with the widows for a month teaching them construction skills and embellishment techniques whilst embracing and merging their traditional dress with our own western trends which will be sold online and in local tourist markets surrounding their villages in Tanzania. The money generated will fund young girl’s education whilst creating an opportunity for equality and primarily independence for these widows.
In one village they have been given basic training in running education for children and this is the only education the children receive as there is insufficient money to send the children to school. Through carrying out this project my knowledge will be passed on through generations which can be developed constantly as the fashion trends evolve, meaning it is a constant beneficial project to the women. It provides empowerment, income and education as well as a freedom of expression and creativity for all who are involved.