by Dede Amanor-Wilks
Asante weaving traditions have survived relatively unchanged for more than 300 years.Yet the productive role that women once played as cotton growers and spinners has been eroded while a traditional ban on women entering the loom has proved difficult to overturn conclusively. Kente has been studied as an art form but rarely as an economic activity in which women’s productive role is clearly defined.This paper aims to fill that gap.The paper seeks to understand why more women do not weave and to test some claims made by male weavers about the low participation of women. The paper draws on a 10% survey of households in Bonwire, the original weaving village in Asante, where to this day kente is produced for the Asantehene, the King of Asante.The survey pinpointed precisely who does what in the kente industry. The research found that more women are weaving than ever before yet continue to face pressure to stop, despite suspension of the traditional gender taboo on weaving. These findings are important in a context where women are increasingly asserting their right to their own employment preferences.
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