Spinning and Weaving
Several micro loans have supported this activity of the women of Lougou since 2003: the purchase of a first stock of cotton, a loan for the training of weaving groups, and a loan to build a stock of fabric to be sold.
The purpose of this activity is to reactivate cotton spinning and weaving to support the economic initiatives of women. But cotton does not grow anymore in that area because of the droughts.
Spinning is a traditional activity of Saraouniya, but very few old women of Lougou were still practicing spinning.
The idea of helping women to spin and weave cotton was an initiative identified during discussions in the village. This activity allows keeping a tradition with new techniques and generating some income.
To reactivate spinning and weaving
Tarbiyya Tatali encouraged women to create groups, five groups of six women were created, one per area.
In 2003 Tarbiyya Tatali supplied cotton for a value of 100,000 CFA (about 150 euros). The children of the school ginned and carded the cotton, then the women spun it and the men weavers wove it as it was done traditionally.
Spinning is practiced at Lougou and the neighboring villages where the women of those groups live. Several rolls of fabric were sold at Dogondoutchi, Niamey, Rennes and Dakar. The cotton of Lougou is multipurpose: blankets, sheets, clothes, shrouds, clothes for the Bori ceremony, wrapping of amulets… The start up loan has been reimbursed and a larger quantity of cotton was purchased the second year.
A special event took place in the autumn 2004; Saraouniya “took out her thread” and all the women took part in the Wadari, a ceremony which consists of putting out the thread all around the village to better prepare the weaving..
When the cotton was transformed into a large amount of thread, the women realized that men weavers were old there were not enough of them and that they could have done more work and made more money with more weavers. This problem was discussed in the community.
When women also weave
Women made the decision to weave themselves; they had never woven before and were very motivated. In other parts of Niger weaving is reserved to certain castes, at Lougou weaving is an activity like any other one which can be carried out by men or women whatever the family. The Arewa is one of the few regions of Niger were slavery and castes hardly exist.
In 2004, Tarbiyya Tatali heard about training programs on using looms for women at Niamey like in Burkina Faso.
These programs are run by the” Direction de l’alphabétisation et de la formation des adultes” (DAFA) and CARITAS. A young man of Lougou went to Niamey for training and maintained the loom and taught the techniques to the women and other volunteers. A building was erected and a loom was brought to Lougou.
Women were delighted with this new machine, brand new for them, were eager to use it and they tried it in turns. This loom was difficult to operate for the metal edges cut the threads, either because it was not correctly assembled or adjustment is needed. The weaving committee recommends an onsite repair rather than a transfer to Dogondoutchi for fear of not recovering it at Lougou. How long will repairs take? A solution must be found at once: the old practices of the traditional men weavers have to be taught to the women.
The chairwoman of each group chose one weaver. This weaver builds a loom for the group, then weaves cotton and teaches the women of the group. There was only one weaver in the village, therefore the groups looked for weavers in other villages and the groups are now capable of spinning and weaving.
Finding component parts to assemble the looms was very difficult for they are scarce and the traditional weavers had ceased practising a long time ago. It took weeks to visit the village markets, to find former weavers and to get the looms built.
On Sunday January 26, 2006 three looms were ready and two more the following weeks. At first the three machines were installed at the same place and later on transferred to each chairwoman’s home
to ease the training. Tarbiyya Tatali advance 5,000 CFA (about 8 Euros) to each group for decorating and embellishing their loomr The women’s machines are technically the same as males ones but they are decorated and brightly-coloured.
A cotton sack costs 5 000 CFA, the spinning costs also 5 000 CFA, and the weaving of a roll takes from five to seven days and the labor cost is about 5000 CFA. The selling price of a roll is 16000 CFA which represents about 10000 CFA per roll for the women when they spin and weave themselves..
The five groups join together in a committee of spinning and weaving to run this activity and to manage the incomes efficiently and with transparency. The chairwoman represents her group in this committee.
The cotton of Lougou is multipurpose: covers, sheets, clothes, shrouds, clothes for the Bori ceremony, wrapping of amulets….
Supporting a Tailor
A micro loan was also given to a tailor of Dogon Doutchi for purchasing a sewing machine. This tailor makes Lougou cotton clothes and sells them in Arewa and further.
Women from Lougou, Gougui and Dogon Doutchi were trained in 2007 by a woman from Burkina Faso to the use of metal looms, more convenient that traditional ones.
They use factory-made thread for the weft, and for the warp, thread spun in Lougou.