Economic Development in Ghana: The Single Mothers Association and basket weaving

For the single mothers of Yorogo, basket weaving isn’t a hobby. Single mothers don’t have time for hobbies. These women weave baskets for money, not pleasure. But there is some pleasure in enduring a task with the support of friends.

After a few minutes of singing and dancing together before work, the single mothers squeeze together to fit on the crowded floor among their friends. Then they start weaving.

The women of the Yorogo chapter of the Single Mothers Association have taken up basket weaving as a second source of income, aside from a full-time job, such as farming. The Single Mothers Association is a community of around 1,000 women in the Upper East Region of Ghana. Its goal is to support and empower single mothers through “income-generating activities.”

Musah Rukaya, a member of the Yorogo chapter, wanted an extra source of income to afford the luxury of school. She has completed secondary school and she used the money she made from weaving baskets to pay her school fees.

“If I get more [money], I will continue my education,” she said, “but I’m just weaving so I will get some money.”

The organization was established in 1998 because of Ghanaian traditions that kept women from having equal educational and professional opportunities, according to its website. Besides basket weaving, women have adopted moneymaking activities such as Shea butter processing and rice processing. The mothers can spend the extra money on their families’ educational, health and nutritional needs.

Cecilia Atambire, secretary of the Single Mothers Association, said basket weaving isn’t easy, but the income is worth it.

“When we don’t have work to do, it helps us,” she said. “That’s why we weave.”

The Single Mothers Craft Center was built in 2003 with funding from the French Embassy. In 2003, the Yorogo chapter had 43 members. Now, the 78 current members have a hard time fitting in the space built for a group half its present size.

Despite the conditions, Rukaya prefers to weave baskets with the group rather than by herself.

“If you’re in a group, it doesn’t feel as if you’re doing anything,” she said. “If you’re sitting alone, you feel like sleeping, but if you are here, you’ll be happy.”

She added that she usually weaves faster when she’s with the group than when she’s alone. But when it takes one or two days, at best, to weave a basket, the final price hardly compares to the effort that went into its production. The average woman makes 10 to 15 baskets a month. The prices range from 10 to 35 cedis ($5-18).

Camaraderie among the group keeps the women’s spirits up while they work tediously. Weaving helps them attain their basic necessities, so they make the best of it.

“We suffer to weave here,” Rukaya said. “[Customers] will not buy it like how you suffered for it. And you have no option; you have to do it because that’s the only thing that you get for it.”