From the Women and Development (WAD) theory perspective, this study explores the development of women’s handicraft industry in Lavumisa, a drought prone area in southeastern Swaziland. Women-dominated handicraft production in Lavumisa occurred within the context of land alienation and male labour migration under colonialism, and later, economic and HIV related problems in post-colonial Swaziland. State controlled marketing of handicraft started in 1962. The prevalence of faith-based non-governmental organizations and the United States Peace Corps during the 1980s witnessed the introduction of women’s group handicraft production as well as the expansion of the handicraft industry. Meanwhile, the economic recession of the 1990s and the HIV related social problems culminated in the increase in female-headed households. The resultant socio-economic problems saw Gone Rural, a women- oriented Non-Governmental Organization (NGO), taking centre stage in facilitating handicraft production through the provision of raw material, training facilities, new international designs and international marketing facilities for the craft wares. Not only were the Lavumisa women incorporated into the international commercial “mass craft”; they experienced a socio-economic transformation where they became household breadwinners and constituted a women’s petty bourgeois class within their community.

Author Biography

Goodwill Nkosinathi Matsenjwa, University Swaziland, Kwaluseni Campus History Department

Estella Musiiwa, University Swaziland, Kwaluseni Campus History Department