A visit to St Bruno Doll Making Group.

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Two students from the University of Utrecht in the Netherlands are in Kampala for a three-month research project as a requirement for the completion of their bachelor’s degree. Their research is about the use of different forms of ICTs in relation with gender. The first group they visited in Mutungo, St. Bruno doll making group, is part of WOUGNET’s network of member organizations. Their research findings are expected to reflect gender segregated data while querying a range of questions including; the different forms of ICTs men and women use and how they use it for their respective needs.

On Friday the 3rd February 2017, the management at St. Bruno doll making group invited us to one of their focus group discussions. All the group participants warmly welcomed us to their focus group session and had a lot to share with us in terms of the different kinds of work they do. The group consisted of mostly women, and a few men. The focus group discussion started with an introduction session by the group leader Ms. Etheldreda Yatuha, who shared with us a bit about St Bruno and how they got involved with WOUGNET. She highlighted WOUGNET’s role in helping their group access market and noted that it is a role undertaken as part of the organization’s entrepreneurship program. Under this program WOUGNET links women groups within its network of organizations to local markets by inviting them to exhibitions held by WOUGNET or other member organizations, to allow them showcase and sell their crafts. She also briefly shared with us the doll making process which was very interesting and more work than anyone would imagine. She noted that, the dolls are not made entirely by one person, but rather everyone specializes in making a particular part of the doll. So, one person stuffs the dolls, another makes the hair, one person makes the dress and so on, almost like a “little factory”.

We asked the different women at the focus group discussion a few questions about their personal relationship with ICTs including how they use it to market their crafts outside of the marketing done for them by the group. They showed us their tailor-made products and told us inspiring, personal stories about themselves and their wonderful crafts. Among the products were: chapatti and medicine Paper bags, necklaces, earrings, backpacks, hair bands, bead work, jewelry boxes and many more. The ladies shared with us how St Bruno helps them find market for their products and how on many occasions they use their phones to connect to buyers outside of their arrangement with the group. For women, whose phones had internet connection i.e. who are mostly on Facebook or WhatsApp or both, they indicated that they have a great market following on these platforms and that they are able to easily communicate with their clients to know what they want and when they want a particular product. It was noted that most of the women had phones without internet connection and still managed to sell their crafts either via text or phone call. This however is not as effective as women with phones that have a camera and internet, they confess. Furthermore, it was noted that, women with these kinds of phones would probably have access to more market with access to internet. Because we could not speak the local language, some of the ladies from the group and support staff from WOUGNET helped us with translation during some conversations, which was very helpful.

Women and men from the St. Bruno Doll making group enjoying a drink.

After the session, we took some time out to chat with the women and men present, while we enjoyed a coke and some Dutch cookies called “stroopwafels”. It was amazing to see how all these women and men are determined and are able to work together to better their lives. We had a wonderful experience visiting the St Bruno Doll Making Group and would like to thank the Group leader Ms. Yatuha and all the other women and men present for the opportunity to share their experiences with us.

Article by
Alexandra Hopperus Buma and Juul Schipperheijn
(WOUGNET INTERNS)
University of Utrecht
The Netherlands.