- Location: Southeast coast of Madagascar in the Anosy region
- Population: Approximately 2000
- Men’s livelihoods: Fishing, farming cassava
- Women’s livelihoods: Reed weaving, portering
- Average monthly earnings for a rural household in the Anosy region: 56,000 Ariary – about £14 (INSTAT/DSM/EPM, 2010)
Why is Stitch important?
Throughout Madagascar, and particularly in the rural Anosy region where Sainte Luce is situated, women are prevented from accessing paid work as a result of domestic responsibilities, cultural expectations, and a lack of earning opportunities. As a result of this, women in Madagascar often suffer the most from the effects of extreme poverty.
In rural fishing communities such as Sainte Luce, employment is largely focused on the male-dominated fishing industry. Families are therefore often reliant on the sole income of a husband or father, leaving single and widowed women particularly vulnerable. As fishing opportunities are becoming less reliable and increasingly dangerous, there is an obvious need to diversify earning opportunities.
The majority of inhabitants do not complete primary education and have extremely low levels of literacy. Stitch provides a rare opportunity for women to learn a new set of skills as well as fostering a nurturing environment where embroiderers provide emotional support for each other and share experiences. This women’s sustainable livelihoods project has enabled many women to earn an independent living.
Why is embroidery a good livelihood?
- It doesn’t rely on declining natural resources
- It is physically much less demanding than alternatives, so elderly, disabled and pregnant women can all participate
- Work can be done around domestic responsibilities like cooking and childcare, it is easy to transport and can be picked up and put down as necessary
- The constant creative decision making results in an interesting job which students report finding enjoyable and rewarding
- Products appeal to the tourists and volunteers to the area as they are beautiful, colourful, affordable and easy to transport home
Stitch Phase I: June 2012 – January 2014
- Trained 11 women in embroidery production techniques
- Provided financial training allowing the women to manage the more than £4000 they made in commissions alone
- Supported Stitch members to train a further 37 ‘Associate Embroiderers’
Stitch Phase II: February 2014 – January 2015
- Trained 12 more women in embroidery production techniques
- Increased sales of Stitch products by 48% via better marketing
- An estimated 132 people directly benefited from the increased incomes of the second group of Stitch embroiderers
Stitch Phase III: February 2015 – January 2017
- A purpose-built studio for the Embroidery Cooperative was built in January 2015, featuring a shop for their products
- Stitch members participated in an extensive course in establishing and running a successful sustainable livelihoods association
- Training in basic IT skills, photography, business management and finances
- A cross-visit to the Voajanahary Women’s Association (Silk Weaving) to share experiences and learning
- International market for Stitch products further developed, with Stitch stalls at Glastonbury in the UK, and the Cultural Cloth exhibition in Wisconsin, USA
Stitch Phase IV: February 2017 – Present
- Expanding the cooperative to over 100 members
- Further training in IT skills, business management, sales, finances and English language
- Development of domestic markets in Madagascar, with new opportunities for Stitch sales
- Positioning and preparing the Cooperative for independence by project close
Principal donors to the project include: The Leopardess Foundation, Bryan Guinness Charitable Trust, The IMF, Fresh Leaf Foundation and the Open the Gate Foundation, The Innocent Foundation, Allen and Nester Ferguson Trust, The Eleanor Rathbone Charitable Trust, Australian Aid, Pan African Development Awards, British Embassy Madagascar. Our ongoing thanks to all supporters of this project for helping us make a real change in Sainte Luce.