New Skills Help Revive Timor Weaving Traditions and Raise Women’s Earning in the Bargain

CWS Indonesia | August 26, 2019

Mama Deni at her loom. Photo: CWS

Mama Deni’s threads. Photo: CWS

Deni Seteria Saufeto is a jack-of-all-trades in her West Timor village. Besides taking care of her children and home, Mama Deni earns money weaving textiles as her mother taught her. For years, she had successfully sold shawls and blankets to family or friends. But, many other women in her village also weave, so competition for paying customers was tough.

Things changed for Mama Deni when she joined the CWS Berdaya (empowerment) initiative, which is part of a project called Timor Zero Hunger. With the larger aim to end hunger and malnutrition, especially among young children, on Timor island, Berdaya is designed to help women improve and expand their earning options and power – not least so they can feed their children better.

For her part in her aim to provide a better life for her family, Mama Deni decided to learn how to dye her thread naturally, as in the past, instead of using chemically dyed imported thread.

The superior value of naturally dyed local thread is known to Mama Deni and other weavers. But the importing of cheaper, lower quality but more colorful threads has become common in recent years. So common, that the skills needed for dyeing thread naturally has almost been forgotten. To change the situation before all knowledge and skills were lost, the local Office of Trade and Industry where Mama Deni live has tried to revive traditional natural dyeing skills. This is a way to return to the origins, including respected high quality, of Timor’s famous weaving.

Recently, CWS joined trade office colleagues to host a dyeing workshop to help women refresh their skills and revive their grandmothers’ ways of weaving. They also explored using new natural color combinations and weaving new motifs. In doing so, the women added value to their scarves and blankets.

Mama Demi noticed the benefit of returning to former quality right away. “Not only do I get new orders from outside of my village, but I see that my neighbors who used to order from other weavers have started coming to me. They have noticed my new [higher quality] work and now prefer to buy from me.”

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