Weaving a secure future for Rwandan women

Whenever the word poverty is mentioned, the first thing that comes to our minds is vulnerable women in the villages, hungry children and illiteracy in the rural areas.

Whenever the word poverty is mentioned, the first thing that comes to our minds is vulnerable women in the villages, hungry children and illiteracy in the rural areas.

No one has taken time to reflect on the vulnerable women living in the urban centers, these are women who are jobless, who were widowed after the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsis.

Urban poverty is different in nature from rural poverty; there is a concern that approaches to poverty reduction developed for rural areas and may not necessarily work in cities and towns.

Poverty in Africa is predominantly rural where by the people survive mainly on agriculture. What happens to the poor in the urban centers where less or no agriculture is practiced? 

Women being the back bone of every society, there is no better way of strengthening and empowering them than through small and medium enterprises. (SMEs)

The Agaseke Promotion Project, a KCC initiative sets up an income generating activity that lifts up the economically challenged or poverty stricken women in the urban centers of  Rwanda.

At an exclusive interview with The NewTimes, the Agaseke project Manager Dinah Musindarwezo said that 3800 women have been trained since the projects conception in 2006.

These are women from the three districts in Kigali; Gasabo, Nyarugenge and Kicukiro.

Agaseke is a traditional beautiful woven basket. It’s woven using sisal, grass and raffia. The women make earrings, bangles and necklaces using these materials as well. 

The city of Kigali hired experts in weaving to train these women who later formed 16 cooperatives and then an umbrella cooperative called Ibanga and more artisans cooperatives are encouraged to join.

The city of Kigali in partnership with MINICOM , Former RIEPA now Rwanda Development Board (RDB) and Imbuto foundation initiated the project to help and promote vulnerable women of Kigali and provide a source of income to them.

“The Agaseke Promotion Project is in line with Rwanda’s Vision 2020 of poverty eradication Strategy and hopes to increase income for each woman in the project,” Musindarwezo said.

According to Dinah, The city of Kigali got funds from UNIFEM to construct three kiosks one outside the city, the other one in Kacyiru next to Novotel and one at Gorilla nest hotel, Kinigi.

“We have not only trained the women to weave but also with the help of Rwanda Cooperative Agency (RCA), they now all about cooperative management.” Musindarwezo emphasized.

“Together with OXFAM, The city has it in plan to have the APP women trained on women empowerment, gender sensitive issues, human rights and HIV/AIDS.” She stressed.

Veneranda Musabamana, is one of the many women who have benefited from this cooperative. “I am now proud to say that I earn my living through the project. I can now weave many baskets in a short period of time, and I wish Rwandans would support us by appreciating and buying the products.” Vernerada Said.

She lamented that most of their market is international and she wonders why others should appreciate Rwandan culture more than the Rwandans themselves.

She can now support her family with food, shelter, clothing and school fees.

Musindarwezo concluded that the city has signed a three year Memorandum of Understanding with a Japanese company who will be buying the Agaseke weaved products.

She however urged the citizens to be buying from the above mentioned kiosks in order to support and put food on these vulnerable women’s tables.

The city will continue to support women in improving and updating their skills to enable them meet the changing demands on the market.

Also in future, women members will also be trained in entrepreneurship and management of household incomes. There will be a constructed Agaseke house to display the entire project’s product.