How Gatsata women weaved their way out of poverty

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Agaseke k'Umubyeyi Cooperative at work. The women converge once a week to make handicrafts. / Ange Violette Iradukunda

Over a decade ago, they solely depended on their husbands for everything. That is, however, a thing of the past following an initiative that brought these women together under the Agaseke k’Umubyeyi Cooperative to make handicrafts. Based in Gatsata sector Gasabo District, the cooperative of basket weavers has helped its members to become self-reliant, thanks to group marketing that enabled them to secure good and sustainable market, locally and abroad.

Bellancilla Nyiransazineza, the chairperson of the cooperative, told Business Times that the group’s activities include basket weaving and jewelry making. Nyiransazineza said these income-generating activities have made the women financially independent, adding that previously they waited on their husbands for their needs.

“We make baskets and sell them to Indigo Africa. We also have some clients from Japan and America, who usually place orders and specifications and we supply them baskets,” she added.

Indigo Africa’s vision is to empower women artisans in Africa by showcasing their craft and investing in the power of education.

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Nyiransazineza displays some of the baskets made by the coop members. / Ange Violette Iradukunda

Nyiransazineza said that women lacked confidence and feared their husbands, but that has since changed and they now understand that they can do anything and even supply the international market. The 20-strong member group recruits new members through share sale, with each share at Rwf30,000, payable in installments.

Women share their stories

Francoise Mukamana has been a member of the cooperative for 10 years. She said when she joined the group to make handicrafts, her husband was not happy “because he feared that when I get money I will not respect him”.

He even once stopped me from attending meetings. So, I resorted to making baskets only when he was not around. Whenever I sold the baskets and showed him the money, he could get annoyed. However, all this changed when he lost his job and I was the one who was taking care of the family. This surprised him and he apologised and started supporting me.

Elevania Mukanyandwi said whenever her husband had no money; it meant that the family would sleep on empty stomachs.

That time life was difficult, but now I buy whatever I want without depending on handouts from my husband. Besides I am happy because I can take care of my children, and give them everything they want. In addition, the cooperative has opened my mind and improved my outlook. I make independent decisions and I have bought a piece of land for my son besides helping improve the welfare of the family.

Julienne Mukarugwiro has learnt about women rights and the need to be self-reliant, especially as far as finances are concerned. I can afford the basic needs of my family and now I know my rights as a woman.

I call upon women to have self-confidence and fight for their rights.

Irene Mukamwiza said women are still not empowered because of an inferiority complex. However, they shouldn’t let the past determine their future and destiny. We need to stand together as women and support each other particularly by joining saving groups to improve living conditions of our households. This way, we will have lived meaningfully and helped develop our country.