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Ugandan art and crafts get market abroad on internet

Wednesday, 6th April, 2011

A GROUP of women who have been chiseling rocks at the Kireka stone quarry, Kampala for the last two decades have become soldiers of fortune.

Their fortunes have changed as they have been tasked to make art and craft products such necklaces, ear rings, bangles and bracelets for export through the Internet to USA, Canada and UK. The women join other groups from Rwanda and Kenya using online marketing to sell art and crafts materials to USA and Europe to end poverty through trade.

Angela Awoch, a member of Women of Kireka says she has been working at the quarry for the last 20 years. “It affected our chest, gave us respiratory problems, we had pain because the work was physical,” she narrates.

Awoch says her group consists of widows who fled from the 20 year LRA war in Northern Uganda. She says during the war they couldn’t go to school and they lost all their livestock and properties. Awoch says she has eight children four of her own and four from a relative who passed away.

Jeniffer Ayat, secretary Women of Kireka says in 2008 Sienna Anstis who came from the US asked them to set up a group to start making crafts for sale. Anstis introduced them to the US based Project Diaspora. Ayat says they now have an alternative livelihood because the stone quarrying was a hazardous work with little pay. “We had problems of school fees and rent while working in the stone quarrying. But now we can pay school fees and rent”.

She says the project pays school fees for their children and they get a monthly salary of sh100,000. Ayat regrets that the fore finger of her young daughter was ripped off while she was carrying stones in the quarry. She narrates that one time a child died when a big rock rolled over her and such tragedies continue happening to those still there. Most of the women work in the quarry because they do not have other jobs to do. She reveals that some of the women were raped by rebels and says the project has given them hope.

By John Odyek: The New Vision Newspaper

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