For the African woman’s emancipation through Safem arts and crafts

Reading time 5 min.

The fifth edition of the international exhibition of arts and crafts for women (Safem) takes place in the artisans village of of Wadata, Niamey, the capital of Niger. Hundreds of exhibitors from sixteen countries around the continent will be showing their wares. An event coordinated by Aïchatou Kané who is acting towards the economic emancipation of the african woman.

Special report from Niamey

Arts and crafts is one of the most important sector of activities in Africa. It represents 23% of the GDP and 52% of women workforce in Niger. The usually operate in agricultural and pastoral products. Leatherwear, textile, basketry, pottery, jewellery, cosmetics … a large spectrum of activities that Safem promotes every other year to help them widen their distribution networks, to increase their turnover, to share, and enhance their self image. The idea behind this event could be credited to a group of Nigerien women including Aïchatou Kané, who insure the coordination of this exhibition. : This is the fifth time you are organising this event. Can you tell us how this adventure begun?

Aïchatou Kané : Safem has a number of active and enterprising women we call « Women Leaders”. During the 1990’s i was part of a development project supported by Luxembourg. We observed that most of the artisans that we backed could not go on. Along with other women, we realised that if these artisans were facing these problems, it was simply because Nigeriens did not consume local goods. Women being the end users of house-wife products, we targeted them to consume locally., The Safem, however, does not only focus on women as consumers but also producers. Alongside twenty or so women leaders, we organised a test edition in 2000 in which Togo and Benin took part. Due to its success, we did it again in 2001. This time, we were about a hundred women involved in this project. We then met political heads and company heads who imported their goods from China and Hong Kong, to inform them. We invited countries from the UMOA region (The West African Monetary Union) under the auspices of the Luxembourg Cooperative and the European Union. Niger did not help us. We however continued our efforts. Safem was institutionalised this year with full autonomy. It has been Operational since February 2007.
We have the full support of the Nigerien President (in person) and government. The first lady is the matron of the exhibition. I must admit that lobbying made an impact… : The International Exhibition of Arts and Crafts of Ouagadougou (Siao) held every other year is already underway in Burkina Faso. Why organise another arts and crafts exhibition in Niger?

Aïchatou Kané
: It is not our wish to an annex of this exhibition. We really want to spearhead the woman through arts and crafts, as well as a less known region to Nigeriens themselves and Africans as a whole. We centre on a new Nigerien region every time. This year, it is the turn of Sarradi, in the south of the country. : Safem’s theme this year is « Arts and Crafts, a factor for autonomy for Afrcan Women ». Why?

Aïchatou Kané
: Safem’s objective is to enhance the value of the woman’s work, more so in rural areas where she does not meet many visitors. Women are marginalized both socially and economically. They can’t affirm themselves as human beings. We are however think that to do so, they must make a name for themselves economically. This is part of the UN’s millennium objectives towards development. : What level of frequentation aer you aiming at ?
Aïchatou Kané : We have invited 16 countries to participate in this 16th edition of Safem. ECOWAS countries (Economic Community Of West African States) de l’Umoa (The West African Economic and Monetary Union) and Mauritania. We are hosting 500 exhibitors sharing 216 stands out of which 75% are women and 25% men who produce women’s products. We are expecting over 100 000 visitors in 10 days. : What are the highlights earmarked for this edition of Safem 2007 ?

Aïchatou Kané
: Besides the December 1st opening ceremony, « the modern day brides room » in which you can find objects made by 30 women from Niger, is an absolute must see. Most of them from Maradi the key region for this year’s edition, under the the supervision of two french designers. The idea was to encourage them to make exportable clothes rather than continuing with traditional standards which produce objects that don’t do well commercially even in Niger. We will also organise conferences and workshops themed : « Arts and Crafts, a factor for autonomy for African Women » and « women entrepreneurship in Africa ». Finally, there’ll be a dinner gala with a fashion show, featuring Nigerien and African Musicians, highlighting culturally inspired clothing. Our satisfaction will depend on that of women participants as well as the visitors to the exhibition.

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