Holistic support to promote the independence of women in Burkina Faso

Burkina Faso is the leading producer of cotton in Africa. However, given the lack of industrial infrastructure, only 2% of the cotton produced is processed locally and it is done essentially by hand; a job done by women in extreme poverty in often very difficult conditions. In 2011, Mariette Chapel created Afrika Tiss, an association that offers comprehensive support to help weavers become socially and financially independent.

How are you trying to help these weavers?

We want to build their entrepreneurial skills, to help them achieve financial and social independence. Faced with the massive importation of standardized industrial products, we want to preserve the heritage of African craftwork and art in weaving, printing, and embroidery. We also wanted to do this without harming the environment or the women’s health, that is to say by encouraging the use of ecological processes, and the use of certified organic cotton and natural dyes. But we also support them by using part of the profits from the sale of their products to finance a social protection program and set up a mutual savings fund.

How does the Ouagadougou Center of Excellence in Textiles work?

The collections are created with volunteer designers, to make new products based on African know-how. Technical weaving courses are implemented to facilitate the reproduction of these prototypes. The young women learn new weaving techniques in groups of ten. They also follow entrepreneurial training, with lessons on accounting, management and marketing.

How will Afrika Tiss develop in the years to come?

We are preparing to launch a training module that will teach weavers techniques for producing bigger fabrics, using natural dyes and silk-screen printing. The Foundation’s contribution mostly goes towards the cost of acquiring large looms and an evacuation drain for the dyes. We now need to develop the association’s marketing, to professionalize distribution channels, and to take part in trade fairs in order to promote this know-how to a wider audience and help more women achieve independence.

To find out more

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The craft weaving industry is made up of thousands of men and women who weren’t lucky enough to go to school, or who have no formal education beyond primary school. Afrika Tiss is supporting this industry, and the women in particular, by allowing them to improve their skills and learn weaving with an added value, namely new collections that combine traditional and modern designs.

Harouna Badini
Air Liquide Burkina Faso