Extract from The Guardian.
”Oxfam customers in Glasgow may soon be able to buy a new kind of tartan, woven from red, green and gold thread. The cloth, registered earlier this summer, is the most vivid expression of a support and advocacy group set up by a group of female refugees from Africa with the evocative name of Karibu Scotland.
Founder Henriette Koubakouenda was 50 years old when she arrived in the UK from her native Democratic Republic of the Congo in the summer of 2001, to join an existing community of African women in Scotland. Using her knowledge of English and her experience of working with women in community development (she had worked with the United Nations Development Programme back in Kinshasa), Koubakouenda would help her fellow asylum-seekers with their phone calls and letter-writing. “Many of the women didn’t speak English and it was really difficult for them to access mainstream services,” she tells me from her flat in Glasgow. “And I thought maybe if we can organise ourselves, this could be more formal and people will see us. The mainstream services will know our need and respond to it.
The women who use Karibu also come for services such as ESOL English classes and IT lessons. The organisation also has a social enterprise arm: hence the sewing group that registered the tartan in the Karibu colours and the catering enterprise Taste of Africa (they cater events around Glasgow).
They are planning a Karibu Scotland cafe. “We are hoping to have the cafe before the Commonwealth Games. Many people will be coming from Africa, and if they can find a place where they can eat African food, it would be great,” says Koubakouenda. “We just need to secure the funding.”
Laurentine Zibi, chair and former volunteer, says: “All the feedback we’ve had on our services and events has always been so positive.” She adds: “We did not choose to be here but now that we are – this is our home, this is our country and our voice should be heard through our projects, events and skills.” Amen to that. ”
“I’ve never forgotten the day I first set eyes on Henriette’, says David McGill of International Tartans ‘, with her twinkling eyes and ready smile. It was the first time I’d met someone from Cameroon who spoke perfect English and French, and had a degree in aquaculture from Budapest University! We arranged to meet again in a church hall in Govanhill where ‘The Ladies of Karibu’ met once a week. These women had come to Scotland from many different countries throughout Africa, so I took along tartans in my ‘Tartans for Africa’ range and invited them to try them on (see opening illustration). They immediately spotted that the colours of their respective national flags were represented in the tartan’.
The Karibu tartan – registered in Scotland STR No. 10674
As it happened, along with my colleague Tecla Wight, a fashion designer originally from Zimbabwe, I was invited to take part in a fashion show in the Barony Hall as part of Strathclyde University’s annual fundraiser for Malawi. Tecla arranged for outfits to be designed and made by well-known Scottish designers including students from the Scottish Textile College in Galashiels. Some were modeled by the daughters of the Karibu ladies alongside students from Holyrood High School. It was an outstanding success. Judge for yourself at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=voT8uSo-a0A
As a consequence, the idea of training women refugees in tailoring and dress-making was formed into a social enterprise known as Karibu. International Tartans gifted a roll of cloth for training purposes and, at their request, designed the ‘Karibu’ tartan for them in the pan-African colours of red, green and gold as used in their logo. The rest is history”.
International Tartans designed tartans for some 24 African countries and provides fundraisers for schools and ‘good causes’ throughout Scotland with projects in Africa. It also works with Caledonian Societies in African capitals to create employment for local women by using its ‘10% solution’ business model. And something as simple as tartan wrapping paper is used to fund the ‘Send a girl to school’ campaign which was launched at the European Social Forum in Malmo, Sweden in 2008.
It’s astonishing how such a little here in Scotland can go such a long way in Africa.
And sometimes a little can go a long way in Scotland too. Re-Tweed is a brand new enterprise based in the fishing town of Eyemouth in South East Scotland – offering women a new way to think about their futures by gaining the skills and experience for creative industry and enterprise whilst producing amazing and original furnishings and fashions and fabulous ‘fings’. It is an aspirational project which provides creative and inspiring employability and entrepreneurship opportunities for women in a community often forgotten in the wider national initiatives.
The project was developed by serial social entrepreneur Hazel Smith over 18 months after researching a wide range of social and community enterprises from across the UK, EU and as far afield as Africa, harvesting the best of ‘what works’ in terms of women’s training, enterprise and creative and manufacturing initiatives. Every student creates at least 11 items which Re-Tweed sells at local craft fairs, through local retailers and online.
Project funding is in place, but what is now required are donations of all types of textiles which will be creatively reinvented into artisan furnishings, fashions and crafts. So, if you have anything lying about: old curtains, slightly damaged but unwearable dresses, or whatever, please donate now. You will receive full credit for your donation and even a photograph of what ‘the Re-Tweeders’ can turn it into. Have a look for yourself at https://www.retweed.com/textiles-donations/