In Her Words / A Letter from Hassana Yusuf to Ibu Allies

Dear Ibu Allies, 

It is my absolute pleasure to contribute to Ibulliance and share the story of Queen Amina Embroidery Cooperative. In 1994, I met a group of very talented women in Zaria City, Nigeria, whose hand-embroidery skills were excellent, however they struggled to find work in a male-dominated craft. In Nigeria, men are traditionally known for their hand-embroidery skills; women artisans are hired by men, but only receive a small percentage of the pay that the men earn. For this reason, we established the Queen Amina Embroidery Cooperative so women could earn a full income for their work and improve the livelihood of their families by providing food, clothing, medical expenses, and school fees for themselves and their children.

Over the years, I have had the pleasure of working with many women through the Queen Amina cooperative. Some of the original members have passed away, but others are still working together; mothers are teaching their daughters, and it is exciting to see the next generation joining the group. I wish we could employ more women, however, we are limited by the amount of work we get--we are constantly trying to increase our publicity, and our access to work space and quality tools that will make our process easier and more efficient.

Our partnership with Ibu and support from the Ibu Foundation has helped greatly to improve our working environment. With their grants, we have installed solar lighting allowing us to work at night; purchased better sewing equipment; covered rent; and are about to complete construction on a brand new workshop. We have been able to expand our group from 25 to 40 women, and it is not just our numbers that have increased. The Queen Amina women say they get at least 10 women knocking on their door daily who are interested in joining the cooperative because they see us earning more income, respect, and authority. Ibu has also inspired many young girls to learn hand embroidery when they see pictures of Ibu models wearing our Queen Amina Embroidery. 

One of our artisans, Fatima Haruna, was able to buy a food grinding machine last year which made her the only woman to own one in her community. This year she celebrated her daughter’s wedding and furnished her home with the money she earned, which is a great achievement here in Zaria. Another artisan, Fatima Sani, renovated her home last year and this year she sponsored her daughter’s college education.

I  want to thank Ibu customers and donors for their continued and unconditional support. With your partnership, we are able to see our dreams becoming a reality and we are really grateful!