From the 20th to the 29th of October 2014, under the umbrella of the Community Empowerment Program(CEP), the Tostan Prison Project team delivered a training workshop in cloth dyeing. This was the inaugural training workshop following the launch of the Prison Project in Diourbel in September 2014. 15 detainees took part in the workshop, the prison project team hired Madame Awa Fall, an expert in the art of dyeing, who had herself taken part in the CEP whilst in prison. She had received a presidential pardon, and now provides training in dyeing in the five prisons where Tostan offers the CEP.
Awa Fall bought all the equipment needed for the workshop, and began training on Monday, October 20. The session opened with a discussion amongst the participants. The stand-out moment was when Awa Fall revealed that she was herself an ex-detainee, and how much her life had changed since she took part in the programme: “Today, thanks to Tostan, I do not ask anyone to help me financially and I can take care of both myself and my family, simply because I learnt the art of dyeing” she said. This really impressed the detainees, and contributed in no small part to the dedication they all showed during their workshop.
The dyeing process begins by washing the sheets, cutting them to length, applying patterns to the cloth and then dipping them in the dyes. Once all this is done, the sheets are left to dry in the sun and the detainees then take part in yet another training: sewing led by Mme Mbengue. Detainees at the Diourbel prison had already done a sewing course, so the Prison Project team built on this by supplying Awa with extra materials and paying her for an extra few days.
This really was an opportunity for the detainees to appreciate just what are the skills learned from the CEP. Not only would their literacy improve, but they would also learn life-changing skills. But the learning was not just one way. The project team themselves found out which detainees never received any visits from their families, and began to put in place plans for future family reconciliation.
The detainees were very keen to help at every stage of the process; the transformation of a simple piece of white cloth into beautiful sheets, tablecloths, pillow cases and towels, in every shade imaginable. They were doubly proud when they found out that the products they had just created would be on public display at the International Fair of Dakar (in French FIDAK), which takes place every year in December.
The Prison Project continues to build on the skills the detainees already have, so that they can successfully reintegrate into society. Along with family mediation, the detainees receive training that is designed to give them income earning opportunities once they have left prison and returned home.