Rosie shares her hat making skills with Papua New Guinean women
Recently I have been fortunate to share my hat making skills with the Bilum weavers of Papua New Guinea (PNG) through the Geneva-based International Trade Centre (ITC) – a United Nations/World Trade Organisation agency focused on trade development, funded by the Australian Government through the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
Bilum is an ancient PNG technique of twisting and looping fibres in beautiful patterns to create colourful utility bags. Weavers sell their Bilum bags and other products in the local marketplace, investing the proceeds of their work into food for their families, health and education.
Importantly, the ITC program is linked to women’s economic empowerment. Currently sales of Bilum products cover the cost of raw materials with small profits. The ITC program is designed to work with the women through organized cooperatives to ensure fair payment for the time-consuming weaving process.
My role is to share hat making skills with the Bilum weavers through training workshops and by developing export ready products. The women translate their Bilum weaving skills into headwear and bags that can be sold locally and abroad through the recently created Port Moresby based BEPA (Bilum Export Promotion Association).
The Bilum project will open export markets for Bilum producers. The strategy will allow weavers to command a higher retail price in international markets and through BEPA return more money as fair payment for their time.
I am excited to be involved in this project as it honours and elevates the Bilum weavers of PNG. It brings their creativity and expertise into an international spotlight.