A day in the life of KOCO's handknitting artisans

By Danielle Chiel

A new day

You know when you’re camping, and you get up with the sun? That’s when these ladies rise and start cooking.

They cook breakfast and lunch for their family - all hot meals and all with fresh ingredients because there are no refrigerators. Half of the women light a fire on outdoor stoves. The rest have an indoor gas hotplate.

After farewelling their husbands, who mostly work in trades as mechanics and painters, they walk to work.

 

9am to noon

By 9am the majority of my artisans have walked about 10 minutes along dirt roads and past farms.

At work, some ladies knit faster than others.

When a woman first starts with us it takes three days to knit a ball of wool. When she’s gained more experience, the same woman will knit a couple of balls of wool a day.

 

Noon to 1pm

The women either go home for lunch or eat lunch at work.

Increasingly I have noticed those who used to go home for lunch now stay at work to be in the company of other women.

Often work is not just an economic opportunity; it’s a break away from home problems. The women talk to each other about these issues.

Over lunch the women will spend 10 minutes eating before napping on the floor.

The women lay almost on top of each other - one’s heads on another’s stomach. It’s a beautiful image.

 

1pm to 4pm

More knitting.

On average it takes about a month for one of our artisans to produce a jumper.

She makes the whole garment. A lot of love goes into it. The artisan is proud of what she has created.

It’s knitted to an extremely high standard. The women even knit with bamboo needles because steel needles expand and contract with a change in the temperature of the atmosphere or the heat of the artisan's hands.

 

Home

The work is not over for these women who don’t have the benefits of Western technology.

They might spend an hour handwashing laundry every day because they’ve got no washing machine.

Often, they’re wringing out clothes for five people in a bucket.

And, of course, there’s dinner, enjoying time with their family, and cleaning.

When I first met some of these ladies, they invited me into their homes.

At one woman's house, they made me wait outside and eventually I asked, what’s taking so longIt turns out they’d gone in to sweep the dirt floors.

In many ways, they have the same anxieties and sense of house pride as women in developed countries.