The wife of the researcher who is a teacher by profession also engaged in tailoring/dressmaking as a secondary occupation. She narrated that she had interest in sewing since her childhood. While teaching in a secondary school, in 1985-86 she learnt sewing on a part-time arrangement with a practicing dressmaker. She bought her first machine in 1988 and was sewing part-time in-house. She bought a second sewing machine in 1993 still sewing in-house. She did advance sewing training in 1997. In 1998, she got a shop to advertise her service, display her products, attend to customers and spent part time in sewing. She disengaged from both teaching and sewing in 2000 to read theology at NEGST. On interview, she still indicated interest in sewing vocation. This background contributed to the researcher being a participant observer at investigating tailors/dressmakers business at Dagoreti market, Nairobi, Kenya.
The researcher decided to focus on the Tailors/Dressmakers in Dagoreti market. One of the reasons for choosing this social group was the prospect of getting the attention of these workers than other traders who might be too distracted for research enquiries. Another reason was the guarantee of the stationary location of their shops. The third reason of this choice is the possibility of continued enquiry any day of the week since they would always be there.
The Christian ministry program (CMP) for women at Nairobi Evangelical Graduate School of Theology (NEGST) includes SEWING. In the course of this research, the researcher got the CMP course description and outline for SEWING I and II. On the 7 March 2002, the CMP invited a Christian organization, AMANI YA JUU to speak to Women’s Fellowship at NEGST. AMANI YA JUU is a training project in sewing and marketing to help African women do self-sustaining and Christian Development. The researcher attended this program to be further informed about sewing projects.
The researcher bargained with a dressmaker, Emily, to serve as the link to other tailors/dressmakers and as an informant to collect information from them. To motivate Emily, the researcher promised to pay her a contractual allowance of five hundred shillings (500/=) within the period of the research and with guarantee on her part to work hard in getting the required data. The researcher decided on this contract agreement for two reasons. First, the researcher as a foreigner could not communicate fluently in Kiswahili, which is the language of the target population. Second, there was the understanding that Emily might have to leave her shop to adequately attend to the research enquiries. Therefore, Emily would need the payment as compensation for the man-hour loss and possible customer loss while being an informant.
Emily’s shop became the research base. Furthermore, Emily contributed to drafting the ethnographic questions and even translating some of them to Kiswahili. The researcher took along a colleague from NEGST, Joshua Langat to help interpret in communication. The researcher visited Dagoreti to both observe and collect data on the following dates: February 16, 23, 26, March 8, 15 and 19, 2002.
The researcher proposed and requested Emily to write an essay on her dressmaking experience. Emily did a good writing that is enclosed with this report. Emily helped to extend the same request to other tailors/dressmakers. Twelve others responded by writing essays on the same topic – MY EXPERIENCE IN TAILORING/DRESSMAKING BUSINESS. These essays are all enclosed with this report as part of the researcher’s field note.
The researcher employed the service of other colleagues in NEGST (for example Annah Ramtu) in translating some of the written essay in Kiswahili to English and the research questions to English.
From the observations, interactions and the essay writings, the researcher drafted ethnographic questions enclosed with this report. The informant and the researcher circulated and collected the responses from the shops. Personal attention was also given to the respondents for clarifications about some questions. The questions were framed and written in English and Kiswahili to facilitate understanding.
Pastoral Field Work: The purpose of this research is to collect information about Tailors and Dressmakers in Dagoreti market so as to educate Churches and communities about their jobs and how to care for them.
Kazi ya mchungaji kwa Jamii: Nia ya utafiti huu ni kukusanya habari kuhusu washonaji wa nguo katika soko la Dagoreti ili kanisa lielimshwe kuhusu jinsi ya kushugulikia wafanya kazi.
HOTUBA UJUZI WA FUNDI WA NGUO KATIKA SOKO LA DAGORETI
- How many years have you been in the business? (Umekuwa katika biashara hii kwa miaka mingapi/kwa muda gani)
- Any other business in addition? (Je kuna biashara nyingine unayofanya pamoja na hii?)
- What are some possible hindrances to good business? (Ni nini kinachozuia biashara nzuri?)
- What are some helpful things and people to your business? (Ni nini au watu gani watakusaidia kakika biashara yako?)
- Are there bad customers in the business? (Kuna wateja wabaya katika biashara yako?)
- Who are good customers? (Ni wateja gani wazuri?
- What are the costs of making new cloth? (Nguo mpya yauzwa kwa bei gani?)
- How many hours do you take to make one cloth? (Ni masaa mangapi unaweza kushona nguo moja?)
- How many days or weeks do you give customers to come back for their cloth? (Ni muda gani unawapa wateja wako ili kurudi kuchukua nguo?)
- How do you price your products? (Unalipishaje bidhaa zako?)
- Do you need any further training/education to do better? (Unahitaji masomo zaidi ili kufanya kazi bora?)
- What type of education do you need more? (Ni masomo gani unahitaji zaidi?)
- How many tailor/dressing making shops do you know are in Dagoretti Market? (Kuna maduka mangapi ya ushonaji nguo unayoyajua hapa Dagoretti?)
- What is the name of your shop? (Duka lako laitwaje?)
- What is the average number of your regular customers in a day? (Kwa kawaida wewe hupata wateja wangapi kila siku?)
- How do you make customers? (Jinsi ya kuwaleta wateja)
- What is the average number of your regular customers in a week? (Ni wateja wangapi wanaokuja kila siku bila kukosa)
- How much money do you get in a week? (Unapata pesa ngapi kwa wiki?)
- Would you like to do another business? (Je ungetaka kufanya biashara tofauti?)
- How do you get style of dress? (Huwa unapataje mishono/mitindo ya nguo?)
- Where did you train for this work? (Ulijifunzia wapi kufanya hii kazi?)
- What is your level of education? (Una kiwango gani cha elimu?)
- Are you married? (Umeolewa/umeoa?)
- How many children? (Una watoto wangapi?)
- Church membership (Washiriki kanisa gani)
- Has your Pastor or any of your Church leaders visited you in your shop? (Je, mchungaji wako au kiongo wa kanisa yeyota amewahi kuktembelea dukani mwako?)
- How many of your Church members are your customers? (Kati ya wateja wako, ni wangapi ambao wa natoka kwa hanisa lenu?)
- Tribe (Kabila)
- Age (Umuri)
- Capital (Pesa ya kuanzia kazi)
Number of machines (Nambari za mashine)
The researcher has been patronising Dagoreti market for more than a year to buy household needs. On February 16 2002, the researcher went to Dagoreti to do anthropological field research on a social group because of its close proximity to NEGST. Dagoreti market is in Dagoreti constituency and in the western part of Nairobi. It is located between Kikuyu town and Karen Shopping centre on Dagoreti road. Saturdays and Wednesdays are the regular market days during which there are many people and many trade transactions. There is the slaughterhouse from where meat sellers buy wholesale and others could buy on retail prices. Shops are built round an open square almost twice the size of a football field where sellers of farm products display and attend to customers. There are good numbers of second hand cloths sellers some used display tables and sheds while others display on bear floor. The prevailing sale of second hand cloths has been disadvantage to tailoring/dressmaking business and even textile industries.
On the first visit on February 16 2002, around 4.20p.m, the researcher entered Benna Dressmaking shop, and found the name of the owner was Lucy. The owner was not around but two persons were in the shop – a young lady, Ann (24 years old) by name was a shopkeeper and a young man Mwangi by name. Mwangi who claimed to be more than thirty-five years old said he was a vegetable seller in the same Dagoreti market. The researcher sensed receptive attitude of the hosts, Ann and Mwangi, and continued to make further enquiries about tailors/dressmakers. The researcher initiated gospel discussion as front in establishing relationship and continued visitation more than five times until March 16 2002.
The names of other shops visited were as follow: S.K.Njuguna Tailor’s shop, Rahab shop, and Emily Dressmaking shop. The researcher perceived trend of courtesy and good moral behaviours interacting with the tailors/dressmakers. Because the researcher is a foreigner, he sensed and experienced some of their reservations, hesitations, fears and doubts of such a ‘stranger’.
On February 23 2002, the owner of Njuguna shop was around. He had a plaque with the phrases ‘New Friends Quick Service Tailor’s Shop’, ‘Do not mix friendship with business’, a practitioner Certificate and photographs of Presidents Arap Moi and Jomo Kenyatta. There were two other workers busy on their sewing machines and a woman in the shop. This shop specialised in producing uniforms for the meat sellers in the market. There were quite good numbers of uniforms in the showcase for sale. In addition, there were numbers of cloths hanging on the walls for sale. Mr. Njuguna remarked that Saturdays used to be very busy for then most customers patronised the shops. He would not entertain many enquiries then but rather gave appointment for Tuesday of the following week. Moreover, as he was not fluent in speaking English, he requested a language helper who could speak Kiswahili.
Similarly, at Rahab shop, the supervisor of five other workers would not entertain research enquiries on Saturdays. The supervisor also requested to attend to such enquiries any other day of the week. She said the workers open shop from 8.00a.m until 5.00p.m of the day. Rahab shop appeared to be the best stocked among all the tailor/dressmaking shops. It seemed also to be the leading shops in terms of design styles for ladies and possibly for income. It is in Rahab shop one could see display of beautiful female attires. There was much engagement in making new dresses in this shop compared with others with less work on making new dresses. Most of the shops welcome and entertain regular customers who came for just mending jobs.
At Emily’s Dressmaking shop, Emily said she used to open as from 7.30a.m and closes by 6.30p.m daily. She completed secondary class four in 1998. She learnt sewing at Muthiga in Kiambu for one year – from the year 2000 to 2001. She has been in the sewing business for one year also – from 2001 until present (2002). On enquiry, Emily said she chose the vocation because she likes it. Emily could communicate well in English and was very open and approachable.
There were more than thirty tailoring/dressmaking shops scattered on both sides of the road passing through Dagoreti market. The researcher selected to observe the shops to the left side of the road viewed as one comes from Karen. This side seemed to be more populous and active business wise. The research concentrated on observations of activities in three female and two males owners and their shops; thirteen respondents to the essay writing; and eleven respondents to the questionnaire.
The field notes used in taking records during this research are marked NOTEBOOK I AND II. These are enclosed with this report accordingly. In addition, eleven questionnaires collected from the respondents with their written responses are enclosed with this report.
Ranges of years in tailoring/dressmaking business:
|No. of Tailors/Dressmakers||7||2||1||0||0||1|
Remark: The above table is based on the responses using the questionnaire. In addition, going through the field notes, obviously majority of the tailors/dressmakers has been about five years in the business. The two who are fifteen and thirty years in the business are males. The others are females.
Age distribution of tailors/dressmakers:
|20-29years old||30-39years old||40-49yearsold||50-59years old|
|No. of tailors/dressmakers||6||3||0||1|
Remark: Most of the tailors/dressmakers are in their ‘adventurous age’. One guesses that the occupation is their first employment in life. At the age range when most people settle to a life career, 40-49years, the above distribution indicates that no one chose tailoring/dressmaking as a life career.
Level of education:
|Primary School||Secondary School||Advanced School|
|No. of Tailors||3||5||2|
Remark: The figures in the table above are found using only the questionnaires. If one combines the field notes data, the number of tailors with primary school level would be the highest. However, the number of secondary school level persons going into the business may be increasing with time as alternative career for those who could not pursue tertiary education.
Marital status: Using the questionnaires, seven persons are single and four persons are married.
Tribal distribution: From the questionnaires returned, there are ten Kikuyus and only one Kamba. In addition, from the field notes and observation, most of the tailors/dressmakers are Kikuyus. I suppose this is so because Dagoreti is in Kikuyu land.
Those doing other business in addition to tailoring/dressmaking are two (using questionnaires) and two from the field notes. One runs a saloon, two persons sells grocery and one-person sells second hand cloths. However, one observes that almost all of the tailors/dressmakers sell cloth materials and dresses in their shops in addition to sewing work. On enquiry about doing another business, seven responded in the affirmative out of the eleven persons who returned the questionnaires. The two males remarked that it would be late for them to learn a new job.
Identified factors militating against tailoring/dressmaking business were as follows: poor location of shop; lack of customers; unfaithful employees; high taxation; lack of capital; and poor national economy. On the later factor, Kihara P. N notes that prices of sewing new cloth is ‘almost ten times’ higher than the prices of second hand cloths.
On the enquiry about what could be helpful to the tailors/dressmakers in their business, majority who respond through the questionnaire indicated left the section blank indicating they may not know, and few say ‘good customers. One man indicates ‘good governance’, saying, ‘almost everybody would want new cloths after a fair period of time.’
Every tailor/dressmaker indicates that there are bad customers. Bad customers are those who order for job with or without little deposit and fail afterward to collect the job and pay balance of the cost of job. On the other hand, good customers are those who regularly patronise tailors/dressmakers; pay good deposit for job and pay promptly the balance cost of job done.
The costs of making new cloths range between 850 to 1800 shillings depending on the material stuff of the cloth. In contrast, one could get equivalent of such cloth as second hand for between 100 to 400 shillings.
Most tailors/dressmakers could not estimate how many hours it would take them to make one cloth. The few who responded estimated spending 2 – 3 hours to make one dress. Most of them indicated giving customers two to three days to come back for their jobs. The two males who specializes in gents’ wears indicates longer hours in making one dress (3hours for a trouser and 8hours for a coat) and usually give at least one week for customer to come back for his dress.
Income per week: Most of the female tailors/dressmakers could not tell how much money they could make in a week. The only female respondent estimates 800 – 1500shillings per week. The male tailors estimate the ranges of 3000 – 4000 and 7000 – 8000shillings income per week. There are fewer male tailors per customers than female tailors/dressmakers per customers. It is likely that men are making new attires than women who may be buying second hand cloths than making new cloths.
Using the returned questionnaires, the average number of customers patronising a tailor/dressmaker in a day is five persons. The average customers patronising a tailor/dressmaker in a week are thirteen persons. The peak days of customers patronising tailors/dressmakers would likely be the two market days of Saturday and Wednesday.
About the enquiry of how customers are made: Most female tailors indicate using verbal and moral persuasion and displaying well designed attractive attires. The two male tailors indicate using ‘quality service’ to attract chain of customers.
Up to date capital stocks in the shops: The average cost of capital stock in each shop out of nine shops amounts to about 47000shillings.
The researcher found that most styles and designs of dresses by the tailors/dressmakers in Dagoreti reflect European cultural form of dressing dislodging African traditional wears. Because the second hand cloths are imported, they are more Europeans in form and are substitutes to locally manufactured wears that are more costly.
The researcher noticed that whenever he wears traditional dress, people in Kenya still admire the traditional attires. The wife of the researcher brought a number of the traditional wears from Nigeria. Kenyans patronized her and bought the traditional attires with price range between 1500 to 4000shillings. Tailors/dressmakers in Dagoreti can improve the economy of their business by the innovation of producing ‘home grown’ African traditional wears. The researcher found that traditional materials might be more available in the coastal areas of Kenya. I suppose, there could be that ‘incremenation’- that is introducing clothing materials from the coast for sale in Dagoreti market without displaying existing ones.
The researcher did not sight a sewing/fashion design-training institute at Dagoreti. Most of the tailors/dressmakers interviewed indicated interest in further trainings in such areas as styling, business administration, designing, embroidery, marketing strategies, and work management. Institutions like NEGST might influence and transform the social culture at Dagoreti by extending the offer of workshops and trainings in sewing to tailors/dressmakers at Dagoreti.
There is no form of association among the tailors/dressmakers at Dagoreti. Individuals are isolated from one another because of envy, jealousy and fear. One hears of the fellowship of the professionals in some local churches and there is Full Gospel Business Men’s Fellowship. Christians might do well to bridge the dichotomy of the secular and spiritual by launching similar fellowships in places like Dagoreti.
The findings of this research indicate that church leaders extend no pastoral care to tailors/dressmakers at Dagoreti. One hardly found record of any pastor or church leader visiting tailoring/dressmaking shop talk less of initiating a possible evangelistic fellowship in their environ using their church members as links. Perhaps, tailors/dressmakers could initiate recognition in the church by forming their own fellowship starting from their local church.
The research findings indicate that most tailors/dressmakers need more money to boost their investment in the business. One way to do this is by establishing special interests associations such as Cooperatives Tariff and Thrift societies. In view of the social vices at Dagoreti, it would take Christians with genuine Christ’s testimony to initiate such associations.
Practice of good social ethics is an essential ingredient of tailoring/dressmaking business. This research further confirms the earlier impression the researcher had about tailors/dressmakers and their apprentices that they are usually well behaved. Most of the people contacted confessed that they could attract and retain customers with good manners. However, the best of human manner is like filthy rag and could ‘tear’ further at the contradictions of sinner customers. The teaching of a stronger Christian social ethics based on Christ righteousness would be relevant and helpful to tailors/dressmakers at Dagoreti.
In the course of this research, Emily the informant raised some pertinent questions that need to be addressed in this section. She asked the following questions that the researcher properly reframed:
- What is the purpose of this study?
- What is the use of the study?
- What is the significance of this study?
Right on the field the researcher could only explain and emphasise to Emily the need for the local churches to be informed about such business as tailoring/dressmaking so that Pastors and Church leaders could give their members in such business adequate help and care they so need.
But how could the Church care without such ethnographic research as in this report. Therefore, the first and foremost reason for this study is to collect information and attempt understanding tailors/dressmakers in their social setting and how their context determines who they are in life.
The researcher hoped the study would be useful to inform and educate both the people in the Church and community about tailors/dressmakers and their business. The findings in this research would be helpful both in career counselling and pastoral care of those who are already in the vocation. The findings would also be a useful guide to initiate and establish both institutionalised and special interests associations within the local churches and in social groups as in Dagoreti market.
The research is significant for missionaries, evangelist and pastors who are interested in social development of the people they are trying to evangelise and disciple. Publication of this finding might even inform policy makers in social groups and communities as tool in decision-making. The tailors/dressmakers at Dagoreti and elsewhere might find this research useful to improve on the business.
Finally, persons like my wife and families who have interest in tailoring/dressmaking vocation will be well informed and be helped by these kind of anthropological research findings.
TABLE OF CONTENT
NAIROBI EVANGELICAL GRADUATE
SCHOOL OF THEOLOGY
an ethnographic research through participant observation OF TAILORS/DRESSMAKERS AT DAGORETI MARKET NAIROBI, KENYA
Oriyomi Aderemi Oladeji
A Field Research Paper in partial fulfilment of the Course MS 603 Cultural (Social) Anthropology
Dr. Alemayehu Mekonnen