Established with the aim of strengthening women’s economic empowerment, the Agaseke project is an initiative of Kigali City Council (KCC) with other partners who include IMBUTO foundation and RDB/RIEPA.
The project was initiated to primarily train about 3800 women from the three districts of Kigali namely Nyarugenge, Kicukiro and Gasabo, in weaving so that they could produce products ready for the market.
About 16 cooperatives were later formed. These further revolved into a union called “IBANGA” which established training and work points in different areas to enable women to effectively participate.
With raw materials that include sisal, grass and raffia, women in these cooperatives are producing; baskets, earrings, necklaces, bangles, jewellery, table runners, table and glass mats.
Training vulnerable, unemployed and landless women in Kigali to have skills in producing products ready for sell has helped them in fighting urban poverty. It has also raised earnings of some who used to engage them selves in other works.
Flavia Mukantamati, 30, a member of Igicumbi cooperative among the 16 cooperatives, said that her life has completely changed ever since she joined the cooperative in weaving.
She said that before, she used to earn Rwf 3000 out of her crafts in a month. She said that she received less for her work at the time because she did not have bargaining power.
She was faced with a lot of problems which included lack of some basic necessities of life. She said that it was not easy to survive basing on her life demands which were far costlier than her earnings.
“I experienced hard life before I joined Igicumbi cooperative. I was earning only Rwf 3000 in a month from the art and craft products I used to produce while at home. I had to look for various casual jobs in order to make ends meet.” However, ever since she joined the cooperative, she earns ‘depending on the quality and quantity of work’ she produces.
“I am forced to produce as many good quality products as I can in a specific period of time in order to earn more. The saying that ‘time is money’, works for me.”
Mukantamati said that she has no specific amount of money she is entitled to since she earns depending on the performance of her work. She however said that she now earns between Rwf 30,000 and 60000 a month.
Abigayine Nyirashimwe, 23, works with Umutako w’uRwanda cooperative in Kicukiro. She said that despite the hard life she passed through, she is now grateful to Kigali City Council and all the partners for the efforts engaged in starting the project.
“I am delighted to be one of the women in this cooperative. This is because of the good fruits we are gaining from it,” she said.
Nyirashimwe explained that the work they have is to weave and produce goods that comply with specifications given to them. Searching for the market is none of their concern as long as they produce what is required.
“We get money from our place of work as soon as we produce what is required of us,” she said. However, she pointed out that raw materials to produce these products are scarce and expensive.
According to the cooperative’s Project Manager, Dinah Musindarwezo, though sometimes getting market for the products is difficult; Kigali City Council has always played a role in looking for good market for the cooperatives’ products.
Musindarwezo said that these products are sold to the UK, US and some in Uganda depending on the orders placed. She also said that more efforts are being employed to search for market within and outside countries.
“We have managed to collaborate with a Japanese company, Ruise B, which has already confirmed that there is market for our products. Therefore, it’s all about producing good quality products to maintain and promote our output worldwide.”
However, she sighted creativity as a matter of concern given the nature of work. She said that demand specifications change with time and modernity in the world.
“It’s a hard task ahead of us which we need to easily absorb by getting ready for it in order to keep our products marketable. Our women should be able to learn new designs that we train them in whenever the need arises,” she said.
She advised women to perceive art and craft work as an economic inflow other than a leisure activity that can only be done in the evening, so as to get enough time to concentrate and earn highly out of it.
She commended the project, as one of the many that will help women fight problems in homes without burdening their husbands.
In efforts to keep the project a going concern; KCC is planning to put up three training centers in Kigali, one in each district as well as a promotion house for crafts.