The art of embroidery can provide rural women with an additional source of income, helping them provide support to their families whilst establishing financial independence.
COVID-19 has severely impacted Madagascar due to the fall in tourism, exports and lower domestic demands. Prior to the pandemic, women were 20% more likely to be unemployed than men and the majority lived below $2 a day. Unfortunately these statistics will rise as many women have lost their jobs throughout the pandemic, putting them in a vulnerable position for future employment, exacerbated by their existing low levels of literacy, school completion rates and other socioeconomic inequalities.
In Sainte Luce, where Stitch is based, families relied upon men to bring income from lobster fishing, an increasingly dangerous and unreliable occupation. Additionally, employment roles for women are limited. The common areas of employment in this rural area are often in low-skilled roles such as housework or producing goods from mahampy reeds, which is dependent on the environment. These industries leave women with little opportunity to progress in creative and enjoyable positions; however, embroidery offers women in rural areas the opportunity to learn a creative skill whilst earning an additional income, which is becoming more important for rural families. Women taking up embroidery can work on it in their spare time, whilst still being able to commit to other community responsibilities.
Historically, Malagsy women have always been interested in engaging in income-generating activities to support their families. Female entrepreneurship in Madagascar is growing, especially in the informal sector where 58% of businesses are led by women. However, social limitations compounded by prevalent barriers to accessing finances and land that female businesses owners may need, can prohibit women in seeking an additional income. Women also tend to be given the most responsibility for home-based work, so home-based businesses are one of the few ways in which women can generate an additional income to cover the needs of their families.
Therefore, embroidery is an excellent option for women, as it can be done in the comfort of their own homes. In the beginning, Stitch worked from a small rented room in the local environment association office, where there was limited daylight hours and ventilation. However, due to early success, it wasn’t long before Stitch needed to upgrade their working space! Embroidery, the art of decorating fabric with a variety of materials, has endless creative possibilities and is very popular amongst tourists and community members.
Currently, 96 women are part of the Stitch team, each of them earning an additional income from their embroidery work inspired by the beautiful Madagascar environment. They use their additional income providing for essential household needs, and even using it to support the wider community.
Browse our work here.
Written by Jenny Foden.