Nan Oliver's report on Ladies Sewing Co-op

Wearing their blue uniforms (Monday, Tuesday) and green uniforms (Wednesday, Thursday), Khadija, Maryam and Fatima are the teachers of Jambiani Ladies’ Sewing Co-op. From an original group of eight, trained in Stone Town and sponsored by ZAP, these three were selected to run the teaching and tailoring co-operative at the Jambiani School, and they’ve certainly risen to the challenge. Khadija is the undisputed leader and bookkeeper, well respected by her colleagues and her students, and she’s been very keen to incorporate new ideas and designs into her production line. As well as meeting the sewing needs of the community, from wedding dresses to school uniforms, the ladies offer a repair service and consultation about plans and patterns. 

Since September, the Co-op has been working on a new line of clothing aimed at tourists, and using wonderful, light weight, local kanga cloth. Because of its varied and exquisite design, this material offers many possibilities, and items as perse as casual beach suits and long dresses have been cleverly created. Khadija and her team are very keen to explore new possibilities, and always open to suggestions from a western perspective. The number of garments commissioned, and now being worn by tourists and volunteers, is very tangible proof of their success, and the Swahili sayings incorporated in each kanga have proved a popular focal point.

As the high season for tourism approaches, the group has advertised itself by distributing posters to local hotels, the ZAP Library, and the Jambiani Post Office; and sales will be made from the sewing room at the school. This was fully refurbished with the help of ZAP before the ladies started work, and it is now a comfortable and well-run environment for learning and for commercial production. 

As a newcomer to the art of garment design and manufacture, Canadian volunteer Nan Oliver has been amazed by the intuitive skills shown by Khadija, Maryam and Fatima, and has particularly appreciated their warmth and openness. Khadija’s “good night, Nan” text messages will certainly be missed when Nan’s time in Jambiani ends!


Return to Volunteers Page.


ZANZIBAR ACTION PROJECT is a Registered Charity in the UK No. 1108030