Women Empowerment: Changing the narrative with adire trade

Over 1,500 women are directly involved in the production and marketing of adire fabrics in Abeokuta, Ogun State. In spite of some challenges facing that industry including the incursion of Chinese adulterated textile and the collapse of the Nigerian textile industry that is hindering progress for the trade, the business has boosted the entrepreneurial efforts of women, writes OLUFEMI ADEDIRAN

Passionate, strong, resilient and hardworking; these are the attributes of adire women of Kemta in Abeokuta, the Ogun State capital. Seated in small groups of six to 10 with their heads buried in bowls of textiles soaked in dye and their hands stained with the various colours of the colorant, these women are involved in the art of crafting and designing elegant and beautiful adire fabrics. This is their life, their passion, their inheritance and their means of livelihood. The adire business is predominantly dominated by women. The production techniques are believed to be a heritage, passed on from one generation to the other.

Adire International Market

Abeokuta is the home of the beautiful, elegant and colourful locally handmade fabrics, popularly known as adire and Kemta Adire International Market in Itoku is the production hub. The market, which is located a few metres away from the popular Olumo rock tourist site, houses more than 1,500 women who are directly involved in the production and marketing of adire fabrics. The trade has boosted the artistic and entrepreneurial efforts of the women who produce adire, making it a major local craft in the ancient town of Abeokuta. The efforts of these women in producing, marketing and promoting adire have put the fabrics on the world map, attracting buyers from all over the world. History According to history, adire was first produced in Jojola’s compound of Kemta, Abeokuta by Chief Mrs. Miniya Jojolola Soetan, the second Iyalode (Head of Women) of Egbaland. She then passed on the process to her children and onward to the future generations. The first adire material was made with Teru (local white attire) and Elu (local dye) made from elu leaf which is planted in the Saki area of Oyo State. Women remain specialists in the dyeing, tying, hand-painting, and hand-sewing done prior to dyeing, but the men became involved in decorating techniques using stitching machines and applying starch through zinc stencils. Over the years, the value-chain of adire has been extended to create jobs for a number of women such as the dyer, known as Alaro, and the decorator, known as Aladire, among others. Today, the adire industry has become a huge industry employing thousands of men and women, especially the youths and generating huge revenue for the government.

Adire women helping their families grow

The leader of Kemta Adire Market, Mrs. Modinat Oyetola said the adire trade has become a ‘refuge’ for women to not only build themselves, but also earn a living. She said adire has grown from just being a family heritage to a global business. According to her, adire business has taken thousands of women out of the streets, saying the trade is no longer a trade reserved for the uneducated. She described adire fabrics as the pride of Nigeria. Her words: “Here in Kemta Adire/ Kampala Market, we have more than 200 graduates engaged in the business and they are now employers of labour. “I deal in the production and marketing of adire fabrics and I have been in this craft since 1984. “Adire business is a good and lucrative job. We are doing well in it. This is my family business, I inherited it from my family; you cannot compare the business of tie and dye with any other business because this is a traditional business and it is the pride of Ogun State and Nigeria. “In this market, we have more than 1,500 women who are directly involved in the production and marketing of adire fabrics. The population of the male folks in this business is very low compared to that of the women.

Men move in

“The population of men in the business started growing as a result of the high rate of unemployment in the country. Many of the male folks in this business came in as a result of their inability to secure paid employment. The men started joining us in the craft when they saw the huge success the women in the trade have recorded. The population of men is fast growing, but adire business is a female dominated trade.” Oyetola advised women to find a trade and not be dependent on their husbands. Her words: “We should not just be liabilities to our husbands. There are many departments in the production of adire and this encourages division of labour. We have the designers, the folders, those who wet the textile, the dyers and the beaters before getting to the marketers. “In all these processes, hundreds of women are involved; so the trade provides employment for thousands of women. “No woman should be without a job because women are very vulnerable to all sorts of danger. A woman should be able to assist her husband in her own little way.”

Government’s support

Oyetola said the women have been enjoying tremendous support from the Ogun State Government. She said: “The government has been doing a tremendous job in promoting this trade. For instance, the last administration of Senator Ibikunle Amosun provided credit facilities with the support of the World Bank. This really helped expand the production and marketing of adire fabrics. “The government also sponsored our members on different trips to the United States (US), London and Austria for expos and exhibitions. “This present administration is also doing the same thing. This government mandated adire as the official attire for all civil servants on Fridays; this singular act has led to huge sales and promotion of the local fabrics. “The first lady of the state, Mrs. Bamidele Abiodun earlier this year brought her colleagues from other states to this market for the promotion and exhibition of adire. They organised a three-day international exhibition here. “Adire is now known all over the world as an elegant fabric.”

Adire Digital Market

In November 2020, the Ogun State Government launched Adire Digital Market, an online market for the trading of adire fabrics. Governor Dapo Abiodun at the launch of the platform announced that the state would be adopting adire as part of the school uniform for public primary and secondary schools in the state. The governor said it was important to diversify the economy of the state from a mono-economic system, saying that culture with its special arts and crafts, especially fabrics which adire symbolised, provided another window of opportunities of economic diversification. Abiodun said the launch of the digital platform would provide over 10,000 new jobs with women being the major focus. The governor called on the Federal Government to make adire part of the national attire, this he said would further boost the industry. Chinese invasion, collapse of Nigeria textile industry pushing adire into extinction Unfortunately, the jobs of the adire women are seriously being threatened by the incursion of Chinese with inferior adulterated adire fabrics and the collapse of the Nigeria textile industry. These factors are pushing the locally made adire into extinction.




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