By Margaretta wa Gacheru (posted 26 February 2020)
Ever since the International Trade Centre found out about Goodie Odhiambo and her work in product development with women groups around Kenya, they went looking for her.
“ITC wanted to link me up with women artisans in Dadaab Refugee Camp,” says Goodie who helps lots of artisans to upgrade their products so they are in line with what she calls ‘market trends’.
This is what Goodie has been doing with Dadaab women groups for the last two years, the fruits of which are on display at Village Market’s Lower Food Court from Friday, February 28th through Sunday, March 1st.
The display by the ‘Nyota Farsamo Dadaab Collective’ is called the ‘Dadaab Connections: an interior design showcase from Dadaab” and will run all three days from 10am to 7pm.
“What are being showcased are beautiful baskets, mats, cushions, furniture, lampshades and tie dye textiles,” says Goodie, who adds that several of the women have come with their goods from Daadab and will be at Village Market to talk about their work with Nyota Farsamo.
At the time that Goodie was contacted by ITC, she had already been working with a number of women groups, many of whom she helped to organize.
“I especially like working with women groups who are already making things but need support, both in product development and by giving them a platform where they can showcase and sell their things,” adds the owner of Goodie’s African Interiors and Gifts in Westlands.
ITC wanted Goodie to assist Dadaab women through a program called the Refugee Employment Skills Initiative. They needed someone having the same skills set as Goodie has. A graphic designer by training and women entrepreneur by practice, Goodie had a special appeal to ITC in that she is known for assisting women groups develop community-based structures everywhere from Turkana to Kitui.
“I work with anywhere from 80 to 100 individual artisans. But among them, at least 20 of them represent their women group,” says Goodie.
She started her business in 2009. In the case of the Dadaab Refugee women, she found that many of them had traditional skills in things like weaving and hand-plaiting mats and baskets as well as in tie-dying fabrics. But they needed to improve their designs and learn more about market trends and tastes. These were the issues that Goodie was asked to address.
But before she could get to work on tackling those topics, she had to work on getting the women organized into groups.
“I have often helped women form working collectives,” she says. In the case of the Dadaab women, she helped them first to form five groups who then gave themselves the name ‘Nyota Farsamo Dadaab Collective’ and chose Fatuma Athar Haji to be their chairperson.
One of the things that Goodie does for the women is to add value to their products. For instance, the women send her beautiful tie-dye fabrics and she makes fluffy pillows out of them. “I also consult with them on the shapes and colors of everything, be it the tie and dye or the baskets,” says Goodie who also works with them on quality control.
Showing me a ‘before and after’ set of baskets, she explains that the ‘before’ basket was loose and floppy at the top, but after getting advice from Goodie, the women not only to make a new style of basketry but the basket also now had a tighter weave at the top so it has a more functional and attractive appeal.
Another way that she has helped the women to develop a new product to sell is by adapting the tie-dye to different formats. “We sell the tie-dye material in assorted colors and designs, but now we also transform the material into lampshades that have a market both in the Westlands shop and online at www.africaninteriors.co.ke.
But Goodie doesn’t only assist women. For instance, one of the artisans that she works with is a carpenter. “I had bought some beautiful fabric from Mali and wanted to do something useful with it so I gave it to him. He then used the material to make me a comfortable chair which is upholstered with my Mali material,” she says.
Goodie was tempted to take that chair home and keep it, but instead, it’s in her shop for all to see and for her to sale.