Neema Crafts transforms the lives of people with disabilities in Tanzania, through handmade crafts, training and employment
A couple of years ago I spent a few months in rural Tanzania, where I was delivering a programme of business education. In the town of Iringa in central Tanzania, I was amazed to discover Neema Crafts. Neema sell beautiful handmade products, made by people with disabilities right there in Neema's workshop.
Life can be very hard for disabled people in Tanzania, there's a lot of stigma associated with disability and many people are hidden away or have to rely on begging as there are very few alternative options available to them.
Neema Crafts provides Fair Trade work, adapted housing, skills training and support for adults with disabilities and therapy for disabled children.
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Every Neema product is lovingly handmade and this means each item is unique to you! Some of the products are also labelled with the name of the person who created it, so you feel even closer to the person who made it for you.
Funding adapted housing
100% of Neema Craft's profits fund specially adapted housing for disabled staff in Tanzania.
Sustainable and ethically made
Neema Crafts use sustainable and environmentally-friendly materials for their products, and ensure ethical working conditions for their own team and the suppliers of their materials.
I was born deaf and I am the only disabled person in my family. I am grateful that my parents sent me to primary school, which is very rare for a child with disabilities. However, unfortunately they decided not to send me to secondary school because it was expensive. They did not think it was worth paying for me as it was unlikely that I would ever be able to find good work.
I also came to believe that I did not have much potential or hope for my life. I ended up getting pregnant at a young age, and the father of my child left me. After struggling through years as a single, unemployed mother, I heard about Neema Crafts in Iringa and that they employ disabled men and women to make handcrafted products. After finding a job at Neema Crafts, my life has turned around. I can now provide for my son and pay his school fees, which I am happy about as it means he has more hope for the future. I also now know that I am capable and important, with much more potential than I had come to believe. I find joy daily in the company of my friends at Neema and cannot imagine life without them.
Suzanna makes animal cushions at Neema Crafts
Suzanna makes beautiful animal print cushions at Neema Crafts. Have a look.
Jasmin makes bunting at Neema Crafts
I was born hearing perfectly, however as a baby I was given the incorrect medicine and this permanently damaged my hearing. Because of this, life was really difficult for me as a child. I was afraid to go outside and didn’t have many friends.
When I started to go to school my confidence grew a little, but communication and learning was still a real struggle. In 2008, I moved to a deaf school, which was great, and I finished my education there. After finishing school, I took part in a tailoring course however there were no work opportunities for me to use these skills. I stayed at home and tried to earn what I could selling kasava and chai, but this was not enough to support myself and things were difficult.
In 2016 I learnt about the free tailoring course that Neema was running, and so I signed up. Here I built on my tailoring skills and at the end of the course I was offered a full time job at Neema Crafts as a tailor. I learnt how to make several products, including clutch purses and wash bags. Working at Neema Crafts has had a big impact on my life, as I am now financially independent and can send my daughter to school.
Jasmin makes animal safari bunting and pencil cases. Check them out.
I didn’t go to school initially when I was young because I contracted polio when I was four-years-old. It affected my legs and I went backwards from walking to crawling. I stayed at home for five years as I couldn’t walk at all. It was hard being in the house – I had to be carried if I wanted to go anywhere far and it wasn’t easy to play with friends. It stopped me from growing and being myself.
Although money was difficult, my parents were always supportive. They both worked and when I was nine, they had saved enough money for me to go to the Disabled Salvation School in Dar Es Salaam, where I attended until I was 18-years-old. I enjoyed my time there and I have happy memories, but I missed my family an awful lot.
I worked at home and managed to get some money together to travel up to Moshi to the Mission Hospital there, where I could go to get callipers fitted. One of my sisters also helped me with the money and when I got them, I was delighted. I’m still using them now. Before this, I was crawling or in a wheelchair.
I lived with my sister for two years then and continued working. This was when I became pregnant with my first child, who I had in 1990. In 2005, I decided I’d like to work at Neema because of the good support I heard was on offer. I had two children by this stage and two elderly parents to provide for. I went straight into the weaving workshop where I started making scarves, blankets and bags. Now I am putting my tailoring knowledge to good use making dolls and children’s clothes.
I love my work here and have learnt many new skills. I have a new home and do many things for myself now. I have enough money for transport, for my children and for looking after my elderly mother. I’m safe in the knowledge I have a future here and I can plan ahead money-wise.
Aisha makes beautiful children's clothing for Neema Crafts. Have a look.
We're so pleased to stock Neema's beautiful products, and even more delighted to support their important work. We hope you love their products as much as we do! Explore all our Neema Crafts products here.
At Good Things you’ll find inspiring ethical and sustainable gifts that support charities, empower people and protect our planet. Discover gifts for all ages and inspiring ideas like cards that plant trees, handmade cushions empowering people in Tanzania and eco toys made from recycled milk bottles. Have a look at our collections.