Upon arriving at Cocoki, the sewing cooperative where I’m training a group of five women, I found a large room of highly skilled artisans. While I may have been teaching Claire, Florence, Ngabire, Beata and Goretti a few skills they hadn’t already mastered, you wouldn’t have known it by watching. As I presented each new piece of information, they quickly digested and executed every step, thoroughly and thoughtfully. They collaboratively worked to measure, cut, and sew with special attention to detail, taking initiative when necessary, proving just how capable they are.
In addition to my time spent training at Cocoki, I’ve had the pleasure of traveling to various other cooperative partners of Indego Africa. Each group of artisans possesses their own set of skills, and every woman holds a unique spirit and smile. The walls and windows of each co-op provide a backdrop of inspiration through varying color, pattern and texture.
As the language barrier makes communication difficult, I love to observe the ladies at work. From the outside looking in, I see a family. The women enjoy each other’s company, and many bring their young children to work. As a toddler sits at a sewing machine or a baby sleeps strapped to her mother’s back, it seems clear that when you empower a woman you empower a generation.
Furthermore, the work of Indego Africa offers meaningful ways to empower that extend far beyond a needle and thread. In addition to having an access to income that allows the artisans to send their kids to school and provide for their families, they also receive invaluable education, which instills confidence and encourages them to be independent businesswomen.
I feel very fortunate to have witnessed these initiatives first hand, and to have met many of the female artisans who are being positively affected by them. When you make your next purchase, know that each handmade step was done with meticulous care, and that it’s truly impacting the life of a woman in Rwanda.
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