Heritage (Monrovia)

Liberia: Weaving Thread for Survival - the Case of Two Liberian Women

"They say we must not depend on men, but they are doing nothing to help us engage in self-help project". Granee Munyan and Hawa Pellay are of the Gbandi tribe, and currently live and work in Central Matadi in Monrovia.

They were part of the 2011 batch of graduates from the Liberia Opportunity & Industrialization Center (LOIC). Since their graduation two and half years ago, the two self-supported women have been engaged in weaving thread for survival.

According to them, living condition has not been an easy one for them.

However, the women said they have been able to use proceeds from weaving to feed and educate their children. One of them, Granee said, prior to their graduation, the management of LOIC assured them that they would have provided them materials as an initial startup for them. According to her, since their graduation, they are yet to receive a single material from LOIC. But how did Granee and Hawa acquire the needed capital to invest in the weaving business in an economy struggling country like Liberia?

This was the question I put to them when I caught up with both of them on Wednesday, January 15, 2014,

The two hard working women remarked: "When we realized that LOIC could not help us, we immediately borrowed some little amount of money to start up with our business." "As for me, I asked my husband to credit me small money for me to start fixing the country cloth, but he told me he did not have money," said Granee. To startup, Granee told me that she had to borrow money from one of her neighbors. Though she did not disclose the amount she borrowed, she stated that borrowing is what she relies on to do her weaving business and at the same time feeds her five children, two of whom, are in the 10th-11th grade this year. For Hawa, she said her husband divorced her since 20 years ago. Initially, Hawa, who is generally referred to as Ma Hawa, said she and her children survived on gardening until she got into the weaving business which she uses to cater for her family.

Weaving country cloth manually is a time consuming work which require sitting down for long time. Sometimes, these women spend 4-5 days to complete one roll which is equivalent to a lappa. Each lappais sold at US$25-40.00 depending on the material quality. Asked as to how much weaving material cost, these two ladies said LD$1,300 worth of thread can produce one lappa which is also equivalent to a roll.

These ladies, now in their 40s & 50s, are surviving on "hand to mouth" initiative. When will they be able to save some cash for their old age is what that currently concerns them? "We are getting old as each day passes by and the business cannot afford us to save for our old age while our children are still in high school. When our children will graduate, find job and start helping us, the women lamented. From all indications, weaving business, especially the one popularly referred to as country cloth is a fine business to do in Liberia only if the needed capital is available.

These two Liberian women are determined to continue their business, but are faced with serious resource challenges. One best way they say they can get things moving in their interest is to buy a bag of thread, which according to them, is sold at US$500.00 locally.

"If we can just get one bag of thread, we can be able to increase our production because each bag of thread will give us 40 rolls of country cloth which is equivalent to 40 lappas," the two ladies furthered.

Meanwhile, Ma Hawa and Granee are calling on government and NGOs to translate their campaign for women empowerment into reality by making sure they provide the necessary support for them after their training. Created on Friday, 17 January 2014 10:02 Written by Paul M. Kanneh (+231888022040/paulkanneh5@gmail.com)

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