An Inside Look With Aissata Namoko

Aissata at her booth during NY NOW™

Cooperative Djiguiyaso, based in Bamako, Mali, was founded by Aissata Namoko, a woman whose business background assisted in the cooperative’s objective to target poverty issues in the community. Since 1994, they have helped women transition to the workplace, established a crochet workshop and created high quality products made of local cotton. From 2008 to 2013, through its West African Cotton Improvement Program, Aid to Artisans assisted over 20 artisans enterprises including Cooperative Djiguyaso. Recently, ATA sat down with Aissata to talk more about her work and the artisans of Cooperative Djiguiyaso.

1.) Can you tell us a little about your background? For example, where you are from, education and/or job experience? Did that have any effect on the work you do now?

I am originally from Mali but I was born in 1956 in Bobo Dioulasso, Burkina Faso because my father had immigrated there and worked as an accountant in a bank. My mother was a great seamstress whose skills were in crocheting, hand embroidery, and using sewing machines. Since I was small, I loved to sit next to my mother and watch her sew. She taught me a lot about sewing, which left a positive impact on the work I’m doing now. I have not been to a sewing school. I have a bachelor’s degree in accounting worked for 10 years at the National Directorate of Cooperatives in Bamako.

2.) What led you to work with women artisans and start Cooperative Djiguiyaso? Please tell us more about the types of products Cooperative Djiguiyaso produces.

After working for 10 years, I left the public function to create a cottage industry. The cooperative was created by a dozen women artisans who were unemployed and whose businesses did not work. The beginning was very difficult for us. I wanted to fight against the poverty of women, improve their technical skills in design and their level of expertise for professional social integration of women and finally, improve the economic situation of women by participating in regional and national fairs. The Djiguiyaso Cooperative used raw material 100% cotton from Mali that were developed into products like tablecloths, table runners, indigo design cushions, curtains and indigo shirts.

Pillows from Cooperative Djiguiyaso

3.) How many women is Cooperative Djiguiyaso training currently?

There are 110 women in the Cooperative.

4.) What do you believe your biggest accomplishment has been so far?

Our greatest achievements are receiving Le Salon International de L Artisanat de Ouagadougou ( creative award in 2008 and UNESCO Award of Excellence for our products as well as the creation of a center in 2010 in Bamako that which provides training in cutting and sewing, natural dyeing (indigo and bogolan) in traditional spinning cotton and hand wheel techniques. Additionally, it’s been a great accomplishment to be able to work with courageous women artisans who are dedicated to the well-being of Djiguiyaso.

5.) How has working with Aid to Artisans benefited Cooperative Djiguiyaso and you personally?

Working with Aid to Artisans has been very beneficial for Djiguiyaso Cooperative. We artisans needed this program for our enterprises. The design innovation taught during the 5 year ATA program called WACIP allowed Djiguiyaso to make unique, high-end handmade products so sophisticated that it reached the international markets in the US and the EU. It is because of ATA’s design intervention during the WACIP project that our products won the UNESCO Excellence Award and that Djiguiyaso received the SIAO prize for Creativity. Thank you to the WACIP-ATA team for their support. Personally, this program has allowed me to be even more motivated to work and to fulfill my dream of creating a successful craft business in textiles.

Pillows from Cooperative Djiguiyaso

 6.) How was your experience at Artisan Resource at NY NOW? Do you feel partnering with Aid to Artisans helped you with the process?

In New York, I found that Djiguiyaso was a large company with its high-end products to meet new buyers. Djiguiyaso was equipped for this experience because the WACIP-ATA project prepared us by participating several times in SIAO Burkina. The experience provided many meetings with buyers.

 7.) Where do you see Cooperative Djiguiyaso in 5 years?

In 5 years, I see Djiguiyaso with very large orders in the USA and creating a large production unit with 1000 women artisans in jobs for cutting and sewing, jobs for natural dye (indigo bogolan) and jobs for traditional spinning. I see that the cooperative no longer paying rent and having its own building to house the training center.