The pandemic has had a major impact on every aspect of our social business. From production, logistics to sales, nothing is the same. The situation is forcing us to make major adjustments to the way we operate, to continue moving our enterprise forward and keeping staff and artisans safe.
WomenCraft artisan weaving from home
Our usual sales channels have come to a standstill. Our partner shops across the globe are seeing a significant drop in demand as they are forced to close shops and customers are focusing their spending on essentials. Furthermore, all major airlines have stopped flying to and from Tanzania which has made it impossible to export our smaller volume shipments via our local courier service. So we are exploring partnerships with other courier services which are still carrying out export shipments.
Having closely followed the trajectory of earlier outbreaks in other parts of the world, WomenCraft decided to react early and decisively as soon as the first official cases were reported in Tanzania, in order to protect staff and artisans and to help limit the spread. We are particularly proud how our staff and artisans took a lead role in developing and implementing safety measures early on.
For several weeks already, staff living in major urban centers have been working from home, while staff in Ngara (where our HQ is) have been on rotating two-person daily shifts to allow for proper social distancing practices. Hand-washing stations were installed at the office together with a stock of cleaning supplies and masks.
Artisans would usually come together in groups at their artisan centers to weave. Due to the risk of artisans meeting in groups, the centers were closed and artisans encouraged to weave from home. In collaboration with artisan leaders, pamphlets about the Coronavirus and best safety practices were distributed to all artisan groups.
These concerted efforts clearly helped to keep everyone safe so far and to limit the further spread of the virus. We are monitoring the situation closely and will continue to adapt and adjust to keep the business running while keeping staff and artisans as safe as possible.
As part of our efforts to adapt and innovate, we are in preparations to launch online shops for the US and EU markets. Our products are already available online for residents of Dar es Salaam via Piki Tanzania, as part of our collaboration with Make it Matter. We are also promoting online shops of our partners across the world using a "Map of Partner Shops" on our website. With a fundraising campaign, supporters can make donations to contribute towards ensuring that we can maintain our operations throughout this difficult time and sustain the livelihoods of our staff and artisans.