Encouraging local culture through peaceful change

Somalia, January 31, 2011

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  <span class="field-credit">
    Safia Mohamud Said/Mercy Corps  </span>
    Globalization has made making a living more difficult for traditional Somali weavers. Photo: Safia Mohamud Said/Mercy Corps

Somali women are very famous for their traditional weaving to make useful handicrafts such mats, baskets, hats and other household accessories. They use reeds and other special grasses locally known as "caw and meyr” to weave and decorate each and every product they produce. They add different colors to the products to make them look bright and shiny.

The process of making the product is never easy; it takes long hours of hard work and determination. But it becomes very attractive as soon as it's finished. If you saw it, you would like to take it with you!

Traditionally, it is the obligation of every mother to teach her daughter how to weave in order to make her a good wife that can take care of her household chores and other responsibilities. Women compete to invent their own unique designs in order to be the best in their field of expertise — and also to be a model in their respective neighbors and villages.

Unfortunately, globalization has weakened the efforts of women who make traditional woven products by preferring exported products that often cheaper and readily available in local markets. This discourages the culture and the spirit of this long-standing women's profession and harms the opportunities for women who have made this their livelihoods.

Therefore, in an effort to preserve this culture and craft, as well as increase the livelihood of vulnerable families in the community, Mercy Corps started training women how to better promote and sell their products. The program is supporting Somali women in producing an ample stock of products, determining the best local markets and conducting local trade fairs.

This has enabled these hard-working women to generate more income and receive recognition from their respective communities, while also returning the spirit, will and pride of a job well done.