Meet Young Norlah

School dropout earns a living weaving reggae baskets.

Norlah HugueNorlah Hugue

Take a look around Honiara City and you will find many young girls venturing into small business activities trying to earn an income.
With their natural ability, or talents if you like, whatever money they earn helps meet family needs.
Most girls involved themselves with opportunities provided by authorities such as the Rapid Employment Scheme, the offshore seasonal workers scheme while a good number join up with the highly commended Youth at Work program.
But this is not enough given the high rate of school dropouts and idle youths flooding into Honiara from the provinces in search of means to earn an income.
One such youth is Norlah Hugue, who is making use of her natural talent in weaving custom baskets to earn her some money.
Norlah was with her aunty in their stall at the Art Gallery area in
Honiara when Solomon Women Newspaper caught up with her this week.
Norlah is from Billy Passage in Marovo Lagoon, Western Province.
Norlah’s interest begun as a curious observing youth, seeing her mother weaving custom baskets and string bags back in her home village, when she was at a tender age of 12.
She attended Patukae Community High School from 2012 to 2014 but was forced to leave school due to lack of financial support for her school fee.
“That is when I decided to start making use of my knowledge in weaving baskets and handcrafts to earn my own pocket money,” Norlah recalled.
In 2015 she decided to travel to Honiara to sell her baskets, Lava lavas and other handcrafts she made.
Unexpectedly, there were high demands for Norlah’s reggae bags, bilums, Lava lavas and custom bags so she decided to permanently set up her own business in Honiara selling her products.
“I saw at that time that many young people were interested in the reggae bags and my other products so I decided to make more, it goes inline with the local fashion trend and my products were sold,” Norlah said.
“We realized the interest especially from young people, so my aunty and I came up with the idea to make bilums and custom bags that had the reggae colours (red, yellow and green) on them,” she added.
With the profit she gains, Norlah pays for materials to weave more of her products for her growing customers.
Norlah said she earns around $2000 by the end of each week and $600 everyday selling her products.
She said the price of her products depends on the expense of getting materials from the shops in Honiara.
She said with the small amount of money earned from selling her products, she is able to help her parents with the school fee of other family members and other needs of her family back home in Marovo.
She said weaving baskets and making handcrafts is hard work but very satisfying.
Norlah also has a message to share with other young girls like her out there.
“If you have talents that can help you make money, don’t be afraid to bring it out.
“We young people have fresh minds and we have lots of things to try-out in life, so just do it,” she said.
Rodrick Wemo is one very satisfied customer of Norlah.
“Many youths in Honiara are enjoying the stuff Norlah makes from her own ideas and we love them,” Rodrick said.
So next time you’re in town, pay a visit to the stalls in front of the Art Gallery and among the group of women you will see young Norlah with her reggae bags.