Mavis is a 28-year-old mother of three from Bolgatanga, the birthplace of Ghana’s well-known & well-loved bolga straw baskets. Based in the north-east of the country, Bolgatanga is a rural area with more than 80% of its population living below the poverty line and a 28% adult literacy rate. It is also an area with a rich cultural history of craft-making: specifically, bolga basket-weaving.
Mavis learned how to weave bolga baskets from her older sister and grew up practicing the craft. The two would pick veta vera straw (known locally as kinkahe)—the traditional straw from which bolga baskets are made—and would practice weaving together after school, selling what they could at local markets.
When Mavis grew up, she moved to Kumasi (Ghana’s second largest city and the home base of Indego Africa’s Ghana operations) in the hopes of finding better employment opportunities. She began working with a broadloom weaving group, where she continues to work today. Despite being employed, Mavis earns a meager salary, which is often not enough to provide for herself and her family.
Mavis, her three children, and her husband live in a small, run-down home without access to running water or consistent electricity. They live in the precariousness of poverty: any day an unexpected event, like a child becoming ill, can turn their world upside down and threaten their very subsistence.
Mavis ardently wants to start her own artisan cooperative dedicated to bolga weaving (which she considers her “true craft”) and to build her own business, generate consistent income, and employ others. She said:
“Bolga basket weaving is the first trade I studied growing up. I love to make baskets and watch people admire, purchase and use them. It has always been my passion to start a group focused on making beautiful and colorful bolga baskets for sale.”
We are committed to helping Mavis make her dream a reality! We began partnering with Mavis in October of last year to help her get her business off the ground, providing raw materials to finance her first orders and helping her to secure a workspace and recruit new members.
There are very few, if any, bolga basket weaving businesses in the Kumasi area, so bringing people together to practice (and learn!) the technique provides a unique opportunity to produce bolga baskets locally, create employment opportunities, and help build interest and value for the craft in the Kumasi region.
Since we began partnering together, Mavis has found and begun to train six other women to work with her. She is excited about the opportunity to be a leader of her own bolga weaving group and to be able to provide employment opportunities for others. Reflecting on the qualities that make a good leader, Mavis said:
“I believe a good leader has the interests of her community at heart and truly cares about the wellbeing of those around her. To be a good leader, extreme patience is required. People come from varying backgrounds and having patience as a leader can help you deal and work effectively with others to grow a business and enable it to thrive.”
Mavis is also excited about the opportunity to be able to better provide for her children. In honor of Mother’s Month and the incredible moms we partner with across Africa, we asked Mavis some questions about her children and her hopes for their future. Here’s what she had to say:
“My children make me really happy and fulfilled. I had very little formal education, however, through my children, I feel I am studying again. They teach me how to pronounce words and how to speak English. My eldest son is determined to excel in school. I love his attitude towards his studies. My daughter is learning how to weave bolga baskets too and this makes me really happy. I want her to learn this trade in addition to whatever she decides to study in school.
Most importantly, I want both my children to have a good education. With education, they can get good jobs, become leaders in society, and prosper in the world.”
We are so excited to partner with Mavis and to support this incredible young woman, mother, artisan, and entrepreneur as she pursues her dreams. We are endlessly inspired by her dedication to her craft, her love for her children, and her commitment to do whatever it takes to create brighter futures for them.
Mavis is also excited to partner with us and to begin sharing her products with people around the world. As she graciously said:
“Indego Africa discovered me. They love me and are willing to help me share my skills.”