We are starting a weaving school in Niamey, Niger. This year we plan to construct a large open shed to use as the classroom, acquire 10 traditional looms and to give 10 young people 3 months of training in literacy and 4 months of training in a traditional weaving style known as tera-tera. Our goal is to begin a project that will give young people the skills to earn a living and to preserve a traditional Nigerien craft.
Niger is one of the poorest countries in the world. With a literacy rate of only 30%, there are limited opportunities for education and employment for young people.
Training in weaving and literacy will give young people the skills to earn money. Tera-tera blankets are given to brides and grooms as wedding gifts in Niger, so there is an existing market for this type of work. In addition, it is inexpensive (by Western standards) to acquire the weaving equipment. However, there are very few people now weaving in this style, so the school would also serve to preserve tera-tera.
After the initial six months of training covered in this project, we plan to acquire larger, standard production looms and offer the students 18 months of additional training in weaving and business skills. We then plan to form a weaving cooperative to continue to train new students and to provide assistance to working weavers. Our longer term goal is to provide a source of income for several hundred people and to preserve handweaving traditions in Niger.