A Decolonised Approach to Developing Training Materials for Low-Literate Participants of Rural Sewing Income Generating Projects



Fashion, Jewellery & Textile Design


  • income generating projects, low-literacy, rural communities, sewing training materials


Whilst training materials can be effective tools for addressing skills training needs, inherently colonised approaches undermine their anticipated benefit and use. Developers of skills training materials are customarily highly trained professionals, academics and practitioners who are often culturally and otherwise separated from the population for which their materials are intended. As a result, they may overestimate their end-users’ abilities to read and understand textual information effectively. In the instance of the conventional training materials developed for income generating projects (IGPs) within rural communities, the disparity between the reading abilities of low-literate project participants set against the level of the informational materials exposes inherent difficulties that individuals face when trying to use such sources. Due to such specific and technical problems as the use of incomprehensible language, too many and subject specific words, and overall seemingly cognitive overload, the materials may be perceived to be user-unfriendly, rendering much needed training resources underutilised.

In this paper, an attempted decolonised approach towards the design and development of two sewing training instructional pamphlets is reported on. Motivated by the need to empower low-literate project participants, a user-centred approach supported an understanding of their sewing training material needs and challenges within the unique setting of rural sewing IGPs, enabling pamphlet designs that are informed by the perspectives of such participants. As a primary factor influencing implementation, the literacy level and acknowledged predilections of low-literate individuals are considered. Necessitating an indigenous framework, factors related to the culture and language are applied throughout the development. Upon completion, an empirical research inquiry was undertaken to determine the IGP participants’ satisfaction with the developed pamphlets as employed in a field-based intervention. Pilot testing (in the Northern-Cape Province [NCP], South Africa [SA]) prior to the main investigation (within the North-West Province [NWP], SA) provided valuable feedback for improvement. Overall, the IGP participants expressed positive reaction towards the pamphlets, with a particular preference for the use of visual materials. While this research endeavour is not the first to produce sewing training materials for rural sewing IGPs, it is the first attempt to adopt a decolonised approach. Additionally, it is the first to assess and affect user satisfaction during development.


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