A fresh graduate from University of Rwanda’s College of Science and Technology has started a shoe-making project, and it is not only giving her livelihood but also turning around the lives of several vulnerable women she has taken under her wings.
Ahirwe Freedom Samantha started Posh Creative Ltd in line with Made-in-Rwanda spirit and has been embracing underprivileged women aged 39-60 who are also employees in the project.
The 22-year-old graduated recently with a Bachelor’s Degree in Construction (Civil Engineering), but had started making shoes using thread in April.
Ahirwe’s family lives in Gasabo but she works from Rusheshe Sector, Kicukiro District, where she trains and empowers the women she works with.
Ahirwe dreamt of becoming a job creator once she completed her studies and, in the shoe-making project, she seeing something of her life dream come true.
“I am proud of completing my studies in Civil Engineering. I liked the career, but this did not stop me from thinking other ways to invest my potential. The knowledge I got from school is the foundation,” she said.
Starting the project
Ahirwe’s dreams seemed to come true after a three-month internship in the US last year. From earnings from the intership, Ahirwe acquired primary materials to start making shoes. She started with Rwf700,000.
“In my vision, I would study with purpose of starting something which would not benefit me alone but also needy people in society. I wanted to reach out to rural women whose lives were underprivileged. When I started out, I encouraged women to join the project to make themselves self-reliant by harnessing their potential,” she said.
Women were trained on how to make shoes and, after two months, they were able to produce more shoes.
Today, Ahirwe works with six women but her vision is to increase the number so that more could benefit from the project.
“This is the right time to explore everything to find out things that we are good at. I had a vision to help unlock people’s potential and help them develop it,” she added.
Besides shoes, the project makes handicraft such as handbags and babies’ garments. A pair of shoes costs Rwf12,000.
“I visited Rusheshe and found that women there were not financially stable. I decided to bring the project closer to them so that I can help them escape from such vulnerability,” she said.
Ahirwe found a trainer to work with.
“Women are the backbone of any family when they are left out there is no development at all. I am happy to see the lives of these women improving since they joined the project. They joined savings groups and are now self-reliant,” she said.
Placidia Murekatete, a trainer, said the initiative had financially empowered them.
Scooping expo award
Ahirwe was awarded the youngest innovator and second best exhibitor in handcraft during the recently concluded Rwanda International Trade Fair in Kigali.
She was supported by National Youth Council, which helped her get a stand at the expo to showcase her unique products.
At the expo, Ahirwe said she received many clients who liked her products.
“A chance to feature in the exhibition came with more opportunities. At least 100 pairs of shoes were exhibited. We received local and foreign buyers. People from Switzerland bought our products promising us to buy more later,” she said.
Ahirwe said she was contracted to promote Made in Rwanda online.
She encourages Rwandans to champion use of locally-made products and support people who are engaged in Made-in-Rwanda efforts.
“If Rwandans do not promote locally-made products, no one will,” Ahirwe said. She advises the youth to discover their strengths beyond their specialties in school.
“The youth, especially graduates, believe in their degrees, which deters them from thinking about other opportunities. They have potential but they can’t see it. My future plan is to work hard, expand my project and make my products more visible in the region and beyond,” she said.