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Inside the Ntunga Hoima Project

    By Lydia Schmelzer

    CoCuDi is partnering with Streetlights Uganda to support and expand their Ntunga project and to bring it to the district of Hoima, with the support of CoCuDi’s partner SBC Uganda Ltd. The Ntunga Hoima project is a sewing course designed for underprivileged women from  Hoima district in Western Uganda. Streetlights is a Ugandan based non-profit organization that uses art to empower women and children with skills to financially support their families and keep children off the streets.

    Victoria Merab at Ntunga Hoima

    The Ntunga Hoima project educates approximately 30 women a year in two cohorts of six month each. Participants in the workshop learn how to use a sewing machine to design garments and produce clothes and other textile products. The course empowers women with sewing skills and increasing income to support their families and allows them to harness their own creativity to create sustainable fashion. The students also engage in social and community endeavors such as sewing school uniforms to promote education efforts in the village.           

    Participants in the program harness their own cultural heritage to make practical items that can be used in the community. For example, Kalen, a student from Ntunga Hoima applied her knowledge of weaving food baskets to teach other women in the program how to make bags for  daily use. This collaborative environment is also a product of the project’s mission: to empower the women of the community. Women who excel in the program will be trained as future teachers, creating a self sustaining course for future cohorts.

    The program combines art and design with feminist principles and capacity building. The Ntunga Hoima women learn valuable sewing skills but are also able to tap into their creativity to make garments that are both practical and artistic. “Through art the community can acquire skills that help them become job creators as well as employable citizens. For example the women we train can later use this knowledge to create jobs for others in the community by having them work for them and they too can also work for tailoring companies leading to financial stability” said Victoria Merab, fashion designer and the Director of Streetlights Uganda and the Ntunga Hoima Project. Even during the COVID-19 pandemic, the women have been designing and creating masks to help protect their larger community from infection.

    Ntunga Hoima cohort 1 class

    The Ntunga Hoima program also provides bonding opportunities for the students. Participants come together to share their lives with each other, discussing their families, struggles and upbringing, and create a network of women in Hoima. Equipped with a supportive community, garment production and a new understanding of business, students leave the program capable of financially and emotionally supporting their families. CoCuDi’s mission to educate change-makers to promote justice and equality similarly align with Ntunga Hoima’s objectives to empower women through arts and culture. CoCuDi also helps provide volunteers and sponsors to help further support this program. Together, the women of Ntunga Hoima and CoCuDi employ cultural knowledge and artistry to create a better future for the Hoima community at large.