As usual, this past quarter has been a busy one for DIMA. The new academic year started at the beginning of October. We welcomed back 60 tailoring and leather working students to begin their second year of training. And our weaving students began their final quarter of the second year they have been working with us. They have just completed weaving their first blanket.
An important development this quarter was receiving official accreditation as a vocational training school from the Nigerien government. This will allow DIMA to issue certificates to our students when they graduate from the program. Graduates will be able to show prospective employers their certificates to demonstrate proficiency. The accreditation will also make DIMA eligible for government support.
Friends of Niger gave us a second grant of $5000. We will use this money to begin 9 months of training in tailoring for 30 young patients at a national fistula clinic sometime in early 2023. The young women will then have a means to earn a living when they return to their villages, and having a useful skill will also help them to reintegrate into their communities. We are hoping to raise enough funding to be able to give each student a sewing machine to take with her when she returns to her home.
The US Embassy in Niger awarded us a grant of $7000. This money was used to buy 20 sewing machines for the sewing program as well as additional cutting tables, hand tools and storage cabinets. In October of 2021, we had doubled the number of students in our sewing group from 15 to 30 people, and we needed the additional equipment to provide a better learning experience for everyone.
And, finally, as this is being written, a special two-week training program for weavers has started. We were able to fund the training through funds from the Nigerien government, Friends of Niger, Remember Niger and Global Giving. Our weaving instructor Abdoulwahid Goumer has long hoped to make the transition from traditional looms to European-style floor looms. These looms offer greater possibilities in patterning and improved productivity—important for earning a living. Several months ago we started working with Genevieve Hill-Thomas to bring a training program to the school. Dr. Hill-Thomas is a professor at the Ringling College of Art and Design and also an experienced weaving instructor. She did the research for her Ph.D on weaving in Burkina Faso. In addition to volunteering her time to provide training, she has donated two floor looms and a table loom to DIMA. She is working with a group of experienced weavers who will become trainers for our students. We are excited to see what the weavers will do with this new equipment.
The 2021-2022 school year was a busy one for DIMA. The leather working students made 75 wallets and 52 clutches. The sewing group made 78 children’s outfits and 10 adults’ outfits. The weaving students made 100 scarves and a wrap. Some of the scarves were used in making the clutches and wallets.
Students are tested twice a year to assess their progress. In April, the school added what our executive director Adiza Amadou calls the ultimate test—our students put some of their work up for sale in a Ramadan market. The results were excellent. The students sold 52 wallets, 20 clutches and 55 children’s outfits.
At the end of July, DIMA had a party for the students to celebrate the end of the school year. As you can see from the photos, many of the students wore outfits they made at school. School will start up again at the beginning of October.
During the summer, DIMA had several visitors. In July, Amanda Gilvin came to the school. Dr. Gilvin is an art historian who did research on weaving in Niger. She is currently supporting the school by giving talks in Nigerien weaving and DIMA to weaving guilds in the USA. She is generously donating her speaker fees to DIMA.
Also in July, Alhassan Ali Mamadou Souna paid a visit to DIMA. He is a member of Friends of Niger and the project champion for our grant with them.
Our new group of students who began studying with us in 2021 are making rapid progress as you can see from the attached photos where they are showing some of their work:
We did a survey in February of our first group of 36 tailoring and leather working students who graduated in July 2021. We located 33 of them and they all reported having paying work. Six of the tailoring graduates have come together to work as a group. This allows them to do larger orders. The results of the survey are proof that we are achieving our goals. What we are doing together is making a difference in the lives of young people in Niger. Thank you for your support that makes this possible!
We are also pleased to report that Friends of Niger notified us in late April that they will be giving us a grant of $5000.
We have launched a new fundraising project on Global Giving– “Job Skills for Young People in Niger.” We plan to use the funds to cover some of the expenses for training our 72 students as well as launching some new programs. There is a detailed business plan attached to the project page. You can find it at: https://www.globalgiving.org/projects/job-skills-for-young-people-in-niger/
Students started back in school from their summer break in early October. We have added two new weaving students. These young fellows showed up at the school and were determined to join the weaving class. We just could not turn them down! There are now a total of 12 weaving students. And the pile of finished projects keeps growing.
We had to make changes in our original plans to start with literacy training in October. We enrolled 60 new tailoring and leatherworking students in October–double the previous number. We were surprised to discover that many of them had attended high school, unlike the previous group, and they were able to read and write. We did not want to bore these students or waste resources teaching something they already knew, so we decided to go ahead and start or continue with everyone training in trade skills. But literacy in our students is important to us, so we are working out a plan to teach literacy to those students who need it without leaving them behind in the trade classes. We will let you know how we work this out.
Our big news is that in November 2021 we reached our original funding goal of $10,000 for our Global Giving project.
With the funding from this project we were able to construct of the weaving shed, install 5 traditional looms, and offer year of free training for 10 young weavers. We are amazed at the rapid progress they are making.
To the best of our knowledge, Abdoulwahid Goumer, our weaving instructor, is the last practicing tera-tera weaver in Niger. Through our school, he is now bringing along 12 new weavers in this Nigerien weaving style and we will be able to preserve a beautiful, traditional Nigerian craft.
At last, school has started! Schools in Niger were closed for about 45 days from December through mid-January because of the pandemic, but finally, we were able to open the weaving school. The school is set up under the new weaving shed with five traditional looms. There are ten students who attend class five days a week from 8 AM until 1 PM. They are picked up from their homes via a van hired by the school. Thanks to your help, all training, transportation, and supplies are provided free of charge to the students.
June 1, 2021
Our weaving school has now been in session for four months. The students have moved from learning introductory weaving to more complex techniques for making patterns in cloth. Completed projects are piling up in the weaving shed.
Amanda Gilvin, a textile scholar who has studied Nigerien weaving, is making a video about the school and the historical background of tera-tera weaving. She plans to present it at a conference on African art. You can see the video at: https://youtu.be/N4gT5UU1wPM
We continue to make progress here at DIMA. The students have been taking their summer break in August and September, but the staff has been busy preparing for school to begin again in October. When school resumes, the weaving students will join 60 new tailoring and leather working students. Our president Soumana Saley has spent the last three months in Niger building support for DIMA and working on plans for the coming year. He is very close to getting confirmation of a travel grant that will allow us to bring a trainer from the United States to help the weavers make the transition from traditional looms to more efficient floor looms—very important for people who are going to be doing production weaving. DIMA is also completing paperwork that will make it eligible to receive foreign aid funds dispersed by the Nigerien government.
Our ultimate goal is to provide young people in Niger with the skills and equipment to earn a living. We are beginning to see proof that our approach to this issue is working. Our first group of students graduated from a three-year program (in tailoring and leather working) in July and we are happy to report that they are now finding work either in workshops or as self-employed artisans. We are also taking the first steps in forming a cooperative. A group of leather working graduates come together to work on their first order, a batch of handbags for a store in Niamey. DIMA is allowing this group to use its leather working studio free of charge in exchange for serving as teaching assistants for the new class starting in October.
DIMA has raised enough money from a GlobalGiving campaign to build the shed to house the new weaving school. Construction was completed in late September. The first loom has been installed and four more will be installed by the middle of October. Potential weaving students have been interviewed and 10 students have been selected. DIMA plans to start training around the end of October.
During the summer a group of weavers in the United States purchased a production floor loom for the school. It arrived in Niamey in early September. After the weaving students master the traditional looms, DIMA plans to train them on the floor looms.