Learning-by-doing in the Ethiopian weaving economy
On 19 February, Fasil Taye successfully defended his PhD thesis entitled Changing Childhoods, Places and Work: the everyday politics of learning-by-doing in the urban weaving economy in Ethiopia.
In his thesis, Taye zoomed in on the case of working children in the urban weaving economy in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. He carried out ethnographic fieldwork and school surveys amongst children of the Gamo ethnic group.
Early involvement in weaving is essential to acquire the necessary skills
He argues that children’s involvement in weaving is more of a sociological and cultural phenomenon than a social problem. Children’s work is, in fact, understood as foundational for the reproduction of labour power and the development of competency. He also points to the gendered division of labour within the Gamo weaving economy,
in which girls’ bodies are believed to be physically vulnerable and unsuitable for weaving.
Taye concludes that while excess involvement in weaving work at a young age can be detrimental, early involvement in this work is equally essential to acquire the skills necessary to become a master weaver. Importantly, in the increasingly uncertain economy of contemporary Ethiopia, possessing weaving skills in addition to educational qualifications gives children a broader base for their future livelihood.