May 19, 2011
Exciting news, the first phase of Bootstrap’s suzani revival project is complete! We have crisscrossed the mountainous country of Tajikistan searching through large towns and tiny villages to find all the women in the country who still know the ancient suzani sewing tradition. We are so excited, and so is Tajikistan—even the President of the country has commented on the project!
Our partner organization, NABWT, has created a very useful website of the first phase. On the site you can compare how different the suzanis are from village to village. Why is this, you ask? Huge mountains divide the towns, so over centuries a separate language of symbols has been created in each town, and this is reflected in the suzanis. NAMBWT’s site is currently available in Russian. We used the automatic web translation tool to help guide us around.
Here is the site's homepage. You can find a map of areas covered and see the design differences here, and a profile of each master craftswoman here. The English version of the site is under development, we will let you know as soon as it is available. (We just couldn’t resist showing you a sneak peak right away.)
March 28, 2011
We are delighted to announce the launch of Save Our Suzanis, Bootstrap’s unique development project implemented with our development partner, Imon International, and sponsored by the Swiss government.
Suzani making has been central to Tajik culture for centuries. Suzanis are not just exquisite pieces, they are the central avenue for mothers to bond with their daughters. This hugely important tradition, however, is under threat—while all Tajik women once knew the art of suzani making, today only a handful of these women remain. Utilizing the skills of Bootstrap master suzani maker Soliha Sharopova, Save Our Suzanis will reclaim and revive the suzani sector in Tajikistan, increase cooperation across the country (Tajikistan is still recovering from civil war) and, critically, create sustainable income-generating opportunities for poor rural women. Check back often for updates on this exciting project!
March 06, 2011
"Before Bootstrap, only those with money had access to export and as a result, those who were poor never could progress because they didn't have those opportunities. This is why I am so happy to be working with The Bootstrap Project, I pray that with my hard work and skill and my partnership with them my dreams will soon come true. And what are my hopes and dreams? I hope to be able to give the best education to my two children, l dont want them to be street kids just because they do not have a father. l work hard for them, no matter the downfalls in my life. l know god will answer my prayers one day, and l will also go back to school, this is my dream." -- Rose Phiri, Bootstrap Artisan, Zambia
At Bootstrap, we believe that development projects can only work if they are responsive to the needs of the people. As part of our development efforts, we asked Rose Phiri, one of our artisans in Zambia, to write about herself. We found her response to be both informative and inspiring. We have included her letter in this post. Please feel free to leave comments for Rose, she is very excited to hear from you!
"Hello my dear, you know this is my first time to write such a thing so please when you read it, where you feel it needs to be edited do that for me and where you feel it needs to be added to, please do that for me also. You know I am learning these things. [Editor's note: We thought Rose's letter was perfect just the way it was, so we didn't change a thing.]
My name is Rose Phiri. I am a mother of two and am specialised in handicrafts. I am a person who loves to learn from others and learn things that l didn't know before. l love making friends and traveling outside of my village. I am a hard working lady who has lived all my life fighting for a better future for me and my children.
Crocheting is one of the skills that has made my life go on in my country. l started chrocheting when l was a little girl, my mother is the one who taught me how to do it. I can make a lot of things using my hands and l really thank god for this talent that l have. I also do tailoring, but unfortunately l dont have enough materials to make use of the knowledge that l have in tailoring.
l love my job even though there is a lot of labour in it. ln my country not everybody appreciates handcrafted work. l would love to become more popular outside my country where people appreciate handmade work. l would also love to meet different people with different ideas so that l can learn more.
Zambia is a christian nation and there is peace in Zambia. Coming to the standard of living in my country, life is so difficult. Women and men who dont have jobs engage themselves in microfinance, but we still live hand to mouth. Sometimes people are not able to educate their children, not because they don't want to, but because they cannot afford to. Women and men who are in handicrafts in my country could be the most happiest people if only we could find a way to make our businesses grow outside our country. I am not saying that microfinance is not helping, it is really helping, all we need to have is access outside the country with or without money. Before Bootstrap, only those with money had access to export and as a result, those who were poor never could progress because they didn't have those opportunities. This is why I am so happy to be working with The Bootstrap Project, I pray that with my hard work and skill and my partnership with them my dreams will soon come true. And what are my hopes and dreams? I hope to be able to give the best education to my two children, l dont want them to be street kids just because they do not have a father. l work hard for them, no matter the downfalls in my life. l know god will answer my prayers one day, and l will also go back to school, this is my dream.
February 15, 2011
The women of Tajikistan are hardworking, strong and beautiful. They have survived Soviet rule, civil war and are now often the sole caretakers as their husands and sons try to earn a living in Russia. We came across many of these women on our journey, this post shows just a few of them. If you have further interest in this subject, The New York Times has a great post on the situation of Tajik women. You can get it here.