Written by Nagomi Mukai, Production Intern
“Thank you for your hard work”
——“Thank you for loving us”
This was a conversation between me and the textiles women in Shanti’s HIV positive Women’s Income Generating Group at the end of my last Buying Day. Having worked with them every day as a production intern over the past two months, I was proud to see the completed jewelry and handbags they had made. What made me even more proud was the fact that I was working with these humble, respectful and hard working women.
Since I learned the concept of fair trade in high school, I have always wanted to work for a fair trade business. Although my majors in university are sociology and environmental and health studies, which are not necessarily fashion-related, I aim to have a career in sustainable fashion in the future by combining the many things that I have learned. Therefore, working with a great organization like Shanti as a production intern for their WIGG project was a dream opportunity for me.
On my first Buying Day which was 4 days after my arrival, I had difficulty asking the women to fix the products which were found to have some flaws. I did not feel comfortable to be the person who checks the quality for the women who have been making the products for more than 3 years. Having felt the need to build a trusted relationship with the WIGG group and go beyond the language barrier, I started to learn Luganda and visit the women as much as I could. The other WIGG interns and I gave a workshop where we talked about the importance of quality to the WIGG women. We explained how the online shopping works and why quality is extremely important to get repeat customers in this method of shopping. It was great to see the women became more motivated after having learned that quality improvement actually increases their income directly.
Having learned first-hand how hard is it to make the jewelry out of recycled paper, I still feel somewhat guilty whenever I need to ask them to redo some work. However, I do not feel uncomfortable anymore to share my thoughts or opinions with them thanks to their encouraging attitudes. I am so grateful for them for being such great co-workers and I am eager to work hard with them during the rest of my days in Uganda.