12 October 2015

building self-confidence through handcrafts.

What do you get when you mix 100 Tanzanian young women, 1 American, 120 spools of yarn, and many, many yards of fabric together? A week-long LULU handcrafts workshop!

If you are a reader of this blog, you know that I work with young Tanzanian women but you may have a hard time understanding what it is that we actually do. Here's what a week in the life of yours truly looks like!

Our mission at the LULU Project is to help young Tanzanian women between the ages of 14 and 20 discover their talents, plan their futures, and start small businesses. For the most part, this mission is carried out through lessons held twice a week by our staff of about 25 peer educators. These lessons focus on health, relationships, life skills, financial literacy, and entrepreneurship.

Throughout our year of courses, one of our biggest struggles is convincing young women that they can achieve their goals. We see them thrive as they meet other young women their age and share their stories, but they often do not believe that they are capable of achieving their goals simply by hearing it from us or from their group leaders. They have to see it to believe it. That's where the handcrafts portion of our program comes in.

Two LULU members teach one another how to make a rhino out of kitenge, a traditional African fabric. Scroll down to see the finished product!

Twice a year, we host a week-long handcrafts workshop that accomplishes three goals:
  • First, it teaches LULU members a tangible handcraft that they can sell, thus using their profit to begin building up a savings for their future goals, whether that be planning for their own business, returning to school, or educating a child.
  • Secondly, it serves as an incentive to keep LULU members active and interested in our program. They are allowed to attend the handcrafts workshop after they have attended a set amount of lessons, showing us that they are serious about the program and are interested in finishing the full year of courses.
  • Third, and most importantly, it teaches the girls self-confidence in a way that the classroom alone cannot. For some of our LULU members, this may be the first time in their life that as they are taught something, they see that they are able to accomplish it on their own while being encouraged by peers and mentors. Many LULU members have told me that this was their first step towards believing that they could create a life for themselves - that no matter what they wanted to do, if they planned for their goals, they would be able to see them through.
Throughout the week, we offer classes in four different types of handcrafts and each student gets to pick one handcraft that they would like to learn. Each handcraft class teaches a different type of skill: embroidery, sewing, knitting, or crocheting. All of these are done by hand (no machines!) as we want every LULU member to be able to recreate these products at home, regardless of their ability to purchase expensive equipment.

Here are all of the handcrafts showcased in our latest workshop! 

We budget about $3 per LULU member to cover the cost of transportation to and from the classes as well as all of the supplies she will need to learn her craft. In addition, our peer educators are paid for their time in teaching these classes. All in all, a week-long handcrafts workshop for almost 100 young women costs about $350. Not bad bang for your buck, huh? 

After attending one of these workshops, LULU members also have the opportunity to begin filling LULU orders for our Craft Fairs and shop in town (more to come in future blogs about that!). For the crafts shown above, LULU members can make anywhere from 45 cents (for an embroidered card) to up to $2.40 (for an hand-sewn animal). This may not sound like a lot of money to Americans, but when the average Tanzanian earns less than $1.25 per day, this amounts to serious income for our young women.

Once they see that they are able to master a handcraft, LULU members go on to plan and actualize their dreams, with the help of the LULU Project. Last week, one of our peer educators, who has been doing handcrafts for a couple of years now, asked if she could apply to the LULU Scholarship Fund in order to go to tailoring school and develop her skills as a seamstress. For three months of courses, the cost will be almost $100, which would be very difficult for her to pay for on her own, as she lives alone and has no financial help from her family. Through the LULU Scholarship Fund, she has agreed to contribute almost a quarter of the total costs, in small increments, if the fund covers the rest.

This is just one story that showcases how life-changing a simple thing like handcrafts can be for our young Tanzanian women. After seeing the potential in themselves, our LULU members go on to start their own small businesses, send their children to school, and rely on themselves alone, financially and emotionally. Now, that’s something we can all believe in.

Two happy LULU members from my neighborhood of Mabatini: Suzy and Kelementina!

If you would like to become a part of the LULU Project, through sponsoring young women to go to school or donating money to a particular part of the program that has inspired you, please follow this link and do your thang!

1 comment:

  1. you rightly said that confidence promotes personality... if you have confidence then you have great personality and can do anything

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