"All members of Cocoki have a dream. Their dream is to become rich from their hands." -Emelienne Nyiramana, 37, Founder and Treasurer.
Cooperative de Couture de Kicukiro (Cocoki)
Sewing co-op of 43 members located in Kigali. Indego Africa partner since 2007.
Cocoki "started with so many problems," Emelienne Nyiramana explained, "but with our increasing sales and Indego Africa's training programs, it has grown into a business that makes us proud." In 2011 alone, Cocoki hired ten additional seamstresses, relocated to a larger production facility, and hosted visits from fashion designer Nicole Miller (check of her Indego Afrca line HERE) and Ambassador Susan Rice, U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations.
Also in 2011, two Cocoki members graduated from the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Women Initiative and visited the U.S. As Cocoki's success has become more widely known, its members mentor other women entrepreneurs across Rwanda.
2011 Trip to the U.S.
On Oct. 12th, 2011, two representatives of Cocoki, Emelienne Nyiramana (Founder and Treasurer) and Therese Iribagiza (Vice President) touched down at JFK Airport for a whirlwind 17-day tour of New York City and Washington, D.C. Indego Africa staff member Yves Ndashimye, a Generation Rwanda scholar, accompanied the artisan entrepreneurs.
While none of the three had previously ever left Rwanda, let alone flown on an airplane, each arrived brimming with enthusiasm and curiosity. Together with Indego Africa’s U.S. team, the travelers dove headfirst into a diverse slate of panel discussions, meetings, trainings, celebrations, and sightseeing adventures.
Speaking at the global law firm of Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP and New York University’s Development Research Institute, for instance, the trio reflected thoughtfully on their lives, businesses, challenges, and visions for the future. “If you work hard,” Emelienne explained at Orrick, “you can know everything you want.”
At the global headquarters of Goldman Sachs, Emelienne and Therese shared their experiences both as Indego Africa artisan partners and as Goldman Sachs 10,000 Women program participants with an overflowing room of firm employees. Emelienne explained that her “secret to leadership is listening,” while Therese reasoned that one must “be an example for others and look at the future, not just the present.”
The distinguished trio spent two full days with fashion designer Nicole Miller and her team, receiving training in advanced sewing techniques, design, and business strategy, followed by a vibrant party at Nicole’s boutique. They also visited DANNIJO Jewelry’s design studio in the Meatpacking District to speak with the inspiring founders about future design collaborations and lessons learned as fellow women entrepreneurs.
In Washington, D.C., the team visited the State Department to meet with Maria Otero – the Under Secretary of State for Democracy and Global Affairs – and representatives from the Office of Global Women’s Issues to discuss the role of women in promoting stability, peace, and development around the world. Following English and Kinyarwanda interviews on Voice of America, the Embassy of Rwanda hosted a reception where Therese drew wild applause when she exclaimed: “We get training at the cooperative from Indego Africa, and then we go home and train our husbands!”
Now don’t fret; the trip wasn’t all business! From a private tour of the White House to a matinee performance of the Lion King on Broadway to breathtaking Big Apple views from the Empire State Building, the trio were the consummate tourists. Yves, in particular, was struck by the fast-paced, goal-oriented nature of Manhattan, remarking: “In New York City, everyone walks fast because they have purpose. I will return to Rwanda and show everyone how to walk fast!”
Indego Africa’s Meet the Artisans dinner event punctuated the historic trip. Nicole Miller presented a slideshow from her recent visit to Rwanda. Emelienne, Therese, and Yves, speaking on a panel moderated by Adriana Gardella of The New York Times, collectively delivered a striking narrative of hope and promise to an audience of supporters. Therese passionately advocated that “once you help a woman, it means you help the whole family. And once the family is good, the whole country is good.”
Spend the Day with Emelienne and Cocoki (2010)
Emelienne's Graduation from the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Women Program (2011)
Artisan Partners in the U.S. (2011)
If you're in Rwanda, visit Cocoki to meet these incredible, entrepreneurial women!
Stay on Rwandex street until you reach Rwandex Junction. Turn right onto Zion Temple Church road. Head straight (approx.10 minutes by foot) until you reach the second hill street. Cocoki will be on your left.
From SONATUBES roundabout, turn left and head straight towards Kicukiro market (approx. 20 minutes by foot). When you reach Kicukiro market, turn right and head straight up the first hill street (approx.10 minutes by foot). Cocoki will be on your right.
Phone: (+250) 0788785656 / (+250) 0783599109 / (+250) 0722355643