The joyous but soft spoken Rosa Manirarora is the president of Ingezi Knit Union which comprises of four women cooperatives who are involved in Knitting different products ranging from sweaters, scarves and clothing for both adults and children.
In an Interview with The New Times, she expressed how Knitting has made the women in the cooperatives respectable in business and in their communities.
“Before we were considered as uneducated women who had to stay at home and look after our families, today that has changed because we are empowered and we have improved the livelihood of our families,” Maniraro said.
The Ingenzi Knit Union has 127 knitters from four primary knitting cooperatives—Hope, Hosiana, Mpore Mama, and Susuruka. The Union received its national registration in October 2010.
The 33-year-old mother of four did not get the chance of enrolling into Secondary school.
“I first became the President of the cooperative on July 1st 2009 and I’m completing my term in office. I am happy that knitting has given me opportunities I never dreamt of having. Currently I can speak a few words in English and it’s amazing.
“I didn’t get a chance to complete school and get a professional job because of the several obstacles. I got married and became a full time house wife. But God knew I was destined for a lot more, that is how he granted me knitting skills and they have paid off in amicable ways,” says Manirarora.
She narrates that an America woman Cari Clement, brought over 60 knitting machines to Rwanda because she wanted to help women to start an economic cooperative.
“For sometime the machines were not put to use because women didn’t know how to operate them. Cari Clement, didn’t give up hope so she got people to train us on how to use the machines. Today her wish has come to pass because we are economically growing,” Manirarora expresses.
Today the cooperative has an annual client—Indego Africa who make orders for different products which they export to America,” Manirarora explains.
Indego Africa first went into business with Ingezi Knit Union in 2010. They partnered with the Ingenzi Knit Union to produce the “Thousand Hills Cowl” for the Anthropologie’s Fall 2010 Knitwear collection. The trendy Knit Hoods featured in the New York Times Style Magazine.
“On individual basis, it would have been hard to attain such a client. Since most of us didn’t go to school, and don’t speak English, we were lucky that Indego Africa has brought us tutors who are teaching us the language at no cost,” Manirarora explains.
She also said that Indego first pays the Cooperative half of the money before they knit the products and the other portion of the money is paid after completing the job.
“Just like any other business, our biggest challenge is attaining the raw material that we use for knitting. For example, the treads we use, it can be imported from China and getting them is hard. With Indego Africa, they bring us the threads and they just pay us for the labour,” Manirarora expresses.
Each member is given eight percent of the money we receive while 20 percent is saved in the cooperative’s bank account after completing a job. In case any member of the cooperative gets a problem, the money saved is used.
“Today I’m happy that my family has greatly benefited from this initiative. For example, all of us have mutuelle de santé (health insurance) and our children go to school,” Manirarora excitedly explains.
She says that most uneducated Rwandan women are scared of involving themselves in businesses.
“They prefer staying at home and don’t want to join cooperatives because they think they are not profitable,” Manirarora says. She encouraged women to put their God-given talents to use, even if they haven’t completed school.