Founded in 1992, the National Association of Women Organisations in Uganda (NAWOU) is a non-governmental umbrella organisation for more than 1,000 local women’s associations in Uganda. Their objective is to promote the growth of a strong women’s movement that advocates for the rights of women and to enhance their social-cultural, economic and political status. Originally established to coordinate and represent these associations at the national and international level, the organisation has gradually taken on new competencies and tasks. NAWOU organises training courses for women, supports the economic projects of its members, runs micro-loan programmes, literacy projects and promotes health care access as well as HIV-awareness campaigns.
PUBLIC SPHERE INVOLVEMENT
Since its foundation, NAWOU has gained considerable credit and its influence now extends to the sphere of public life. Several of its members have been elected to the national parliament or local and provincial authorities. In addition, through its affiliation to the International Council of Women and the International Council for Social Welfare, NAWOU collaborates in numerous international programmes in partnership with large NGOs, development cooperation agencies and networks of associations. On top of that, NAWOU has also been granted the status of consultative organisation by the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC).
CRAFT INDUSTRIES AND FAIR TRADE SUPPORT
Because of its social and economic support activities, NAWOU has been a member of IFAT (the International Fair Trade Association, which in 2009 changed its name to WFTO, the World Fair Trade Organisation) and COFTA (Cooperation for Fair Trade in Africa) since 1995. Following that, the organisation regularly participates in fair trade exhibitions, where its products are always successfully received and where its managers meet international buyers to study the requirements of importers (in particular Oxfam and Ten Thousand Villages).
NAWOU also has its ‘special department’: The Craft Industries department, which is tasked with training women in craft trades and providing them with technical assistance and the necessary resources for launching their projects according to fair trade principles. The department facilitates the connections between thousands of small producers and consumers in different parts of Uganda, locally and abroad (in particular Australia, New Zealand, United States, Spain and the United Kingdom) and between everyone committed to creating a fairer economic system. The NGO supports the production, promotion and marketing of the resulting craft creations but also creates opportunities for economically disadvantaged producers.
According to Pamela Kyagera, the marketing manager, “We can go a long way in fighting poverty through fair trade. The women you see bringing in craft products would never do it through conventional markets. They would not sell in markets that are far from their homes. They wouldn’t have enough information and they would be exploited”. The story of Joyce Nakazi speaks volumes concerning the help that fair trade can provide through difficult times. Disabled following an accident, and a mother of three young children, this woman became a widow when her husband died in 1998. She then lost everything except her house, the rent for which she could no longer pay. However, she survived thanks to NAWOU, making and selling coloured baskets at the NGO’s collection centre in Kampala. “I have benefited a lot from the sale of these baskets, and I have managed to build a house from my savings. I have also paid for the education of my eldest son, who has passed the university entrance exam.”
Today, the Craft Industries department of the association has close to 200 craftswomen who work in the dozen or so workshops run by NAWOU throughout the country. A large number of these women live with HIV and only have access to health care through the association.
It is worth mentioning that all the products such as jewellery, toys, musical instruments and clothing are made using only traditional techniques and natural dyes. For instance, coloured baskets are created from banana fibres and leaves collected after harvesting the fruit, which means that not only do the craftswomen not have to spend money for their raw materials but also their products are natural and sustainable.
Although NAWOU is a well-established organisation, “it lacks a marketing strategy and well-thought-out price policy, sound communication or a website,” according to the staff. In fact, 90% of the artisanal crafts are exported to a limited set of fair trade customers in Europe, Australia and North America while the remaining 10% are sold through three shops in Kampala. Moreover, NAWOU’s sales pitch is too much focused on the empowerment of women, which does not necessarily appeal to the customers’ sensibility (mainly tourists and expats). Therefore, the customer base the organisation targeted is too narrow. That is where the coaching came into play: To help NAWOU enhance their organisational capacities in marketing, communication and sales through a coaching programme delivered by a specialised consultant.
With the necessary input from coach Daniella Mastracci, who works for SWIFT (Swaziland Fair Trade), a marketing mix for the local, regional and international market was discussed in detail. She saw regional opportunities since a growing group of African consumers is opting for local products to decorate their homes. Concerning international customers, she claimed that products must be adapted to ‘contemporary fair trade customers’ on the one hand (i.e. more adventurous, more contemporary colours) and to the ‘ethnic design-focused buyer’. This was transposed into a marketing budget and a briefing for a communications bureau that was commissioned to design a new logo, new presentation materials and a new website.3 Thanks to the coaching, NAWOU has upgraded its product range and turned its own shop into a showroom to reach more customers.
“The positive thing about this TDC itinerary is that it takes the time needed for reflection,” concludes Daniella Mastracci. “NAWOU had the time to learn through me how other African organisations deal with these kinds of challenges and it was fascinating to see how they started taking matters into their own hands during the last session.”
From May 2014 to May 2016: TDC’s contribution: € 24,000 Duration: 24 months