If you spend an afternoon walking through the quaint, dirt roads scattered around Buea, Cameroon, you may hear the hum, hustle, and bustle of many pedal machines fast at work. The textile and designing business is thriving throughout the city; everywhere you go, you can spot women in the streets wearing original designs, boasting the bold, colorful, unique patterns found only in Africa. If you look closely, many of the women work alone, or with a partner, or even one or two apprentices in their shop. There hasn’t been anything to unite these designers and seamstresses.
We began discussing options for this project back in July 2017. A social enterprise called United Action for Children had reached out to us about their desire for our curriculum to be brought to their community in Cameroon. After determining the logistics of the program, we finalized our plans, and began classes in mid-February that will last through the beginning of June.
Meeting bi-weekly, the women will have three hours a week to learn the foundations to building a successful business, growing their life skills, and working together to form a cooperative. The other three hours are dedicated to the practical portion of the lesson: learning best practices, working on quality control, and creating and designing products.
After our first two weeks of classes, we have 30 women eager to participate in the program. As experienced professionals, each woman comes with her own skillset, desires for her life, and eagerness to create a cooperative in Cameroon. In our first classes, we have had an opportunity to explore the aspirations, hopes, dreams, and visions the women have for their lives, community, and career and to say we are inspired is an understatement.
Additionally, we are exploring the basics of the business and what it takes to be successful in their aspirations. Bringing this group together offers an opportunity for the women to assess their current businesses, connect with others, and learn how to progress further and take their dreams to the next level, It is easy to can see the excitement from each of the participants during the class everyday, as the women are grateful for an opportunity to learn more and advance their businesses.
While the women continue to build new skills, we are also highlighting their individual skills and accomplishments in both their lives and their businesses. During the lessons, we have had an opportunity for the women to share what they are proud of and their greatest accomplishments; from there, we assist in empowering them to create a vision for the future that they want to design for themselves. About half of the class has never received formal education, but regardless of their level, the women show up eager to contribute and with the mentality of a learner.
As we continue to progress through program, we are excited to help facilitate an environment where the women can join together in creating new designs, products, and determining what their cooperative will look like in the future. Stay tuned with us on here on the blog and social media to hear more about their story!
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