By Jana-Mari Smith
Deft needlework depicting Namibian wildlife on an assortment of products, including serviettes, tablecloths, bags, placemats, cushion covers, aprons and other home items, characterises the articles produced by a women’s empowerment project called Oasa Taradi Trust, which is represented at one of the many stalls at the Namibia Craft Centre in Windhoek.
Oasa Taradi, which translates as ‘busy women’, was founded in 1993, with the support of local and international volunteers, whose aim was to teach underprivileged women the art of sewing and embroidery.
According to Anja Rohwer of the Trust: “Our goal is to help women to help themselves, and to put them in the position to support themselves through their work. This objective has been realised within the group.”
The women involved in the project are more often than not the sole caretakers of their children as well as the sole breadwinners of their families. According to statistics, 80% of women in Africa are the primary supporters of families.
The Oasa Taradi Trust developed from a Red Cross-supported sewing project established in Katutura in 1989. Women were given the opportunity to learn to sew and repair clothing on sewing machines provided to them by the Red Cross. The Trust assists the women to purchase materials, make their own designs, do the needlework and market the products. As Rowher points out: “Independence and self-sufficiency is the ultimate goal of this venture.”
The Trust currently supports 14 Namibian women. The women can decide for themselves what their input is and whether they want to work from home or from the trust centre. They are paid per finished article and have to adhere to strict quality standards. Rowher says the women’s skills have developed to such an extent over the years that the trust is able to market high-quality articles consistently.