A group of women in Maun who use mostly recycled materials to make handcrafts have a big dream of some day opening a one-stop craft market in the village.
Weaving their passion under Ko Motjing co-operative society and under the guidance of Catholic Church sisters and nuns, this group maintains it will actively participate in the development of Maun as a green city through profitable recycling of waste material, but hope to be given space to showcase their talent and skills.
“We use recycled waste material because we have seen its usefulness. While we profit from it we keep our environment clean,” explained Rosinah Maphane who is the co-operative’s deputy secretary general.
The women make beautiful lady’s handbags and jewelry from paper beads and tablemats from bottle tops among others products.
“We encourage diversity and that is why we create our own paper beads and keep their original colour, we also do crocheting and sewing, we do a variety of crafts in this place,” added the organisation’s chairperson, Motlalepula Makgana.
However despite the beautiful products which are created with care, the treasurer, Kebonyemang Kuti, says, revenue is not coming fast enough to maintain a decent cash flow as they are still struggling to penetrate the market, despite being at the gateway to one of the world’s heritage centres and top tourism destinations; Okavango Delta.
“Some Safari companies do buy from us, but sell at better prices at their curio shops, so we are selling but not as much as we had hoped to. What we are getting cannot sustain any one of us, so at the moment we can safely say we are only volunteering with hope that the government would see our efforts and provide support,” added Kuti.
The kind of support needed by this co-operative of 21 women would come as a piece of land or a stall or a flea market somewhere at Maun international airport, which is one of the busiest airports in Southern Africa. Currently the Catholic Church has provided a room for the women to operate from.
“Some buy neckpieces for P30 from us and retail them at six times our price, so profits are not filtering down to the labourers and we want that to change, but that can only happen if we are given a platform to showcase and sell our products at the point of entry for tourists, which is the airport,” added Sister Cynthia Nwadike, one of the supervisors of the project.
Nwadike, a parish secretary in the Maun Catholic Church says another option is a one-stop craft shop. “That is our dream if we are to get a place in Maun where we get a one-stop craft market, where a bride-to-be, for instance, can walk in, buy a piece of cloth, get it tailored, find matching jewelry and a handbag without breaking her budget. The ultimate is for the cooperative to cut the middle man.”
Passionate about empowering women, Nwadike, a catholic nun who arrived in Maun in 2008, says the dire situation of women in the North West region due to poverty drove them to commission the project with the hope to build self-sustenance among the rural populace. Women involved in the project are from all over Maun and not all of them are Catholics.
“We don’t believe is soup kitchens, we believe in teaching our people how to make soup so that after we go, they will continue feeding themselves. Just like the Chinese proverb says, if you give me a fish, I’ll thank you today but if you teach me how to fish, I will thank you forever.
Meanwhile, Maun Administration Authority’s (MAA) Chairperson, Vepaune Moreti, said that as soon as the council’s physical planning department completes drawing market maps for Maun, the women’s concerns would be addressed.
“That is exactly what the council is working on, areas identified for flea markets will be sectioned accordingly, so there will definitely be a demarcated section for arts and crafts, vegetables and other categories,” Moreti explained.