Every year, we celebrate the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women on International Women’s Day (March 8). This year, we’re dedicating the month of March to the stories of some of our inspiring artisan partners at the Mahama Refugee Camp!
From conflict in Burundi to a crowded refugee camp in Rwanda, our partners at Akeza Cooperative have worked hard to overcome incredible challenges and create brighter futures for themselves and their families. We are continually moved by their resiliency and determination to succeed. These women define what it means to be empowered and we are honored to share their stories.
"Being empowered is to keep going no matter what you face in life."
Josephine Murekatete, 52, came to the Mahama Refugee Camp in Rwanda in August 2015. Although she arrived with only one of her children, she now resides at the camp with all five of her children, her husband, and two of her sister’s children.
Life at the camp can be challenging as Josephine recalls struggling to provide for her family upon their arrival. The meals they were given were not enough and there was no work for her and her husband. Though she wanted to return home, she lived in fear of the violence she and her family would face in Burundi.
Before participating in Indego Africa’s Economic Inclusion for Refugees program and joining the Akeza Cooperative at Mahama, Josephine had never held a formal job. She previously worked as a farmer in Burundi and occasionally sold plastic baskets in the local market.
While she lives at Mahama, one of Josephine’s goals is to start a side business selling maize flour and vegetables. However, when she leaves the camp and moves back to Burundi, Josephine wants to continue pursuing a career in the artisan sector.
“This program has changed my life and fed my family. When I leave the camp, I want to use the skills I learned to teach other Burundians how to weave.”
Josephine chose to join Indego’s program over other livelihood opportunities at Mahama because she wanted to learn how to make baskets using sisal. When Josephine was a teenager living in Burundi, her mother taught her how to weave and make baskets using plastic thread, but Josephine says she always wanted to expand this skillset.
Since working with Indego Africa, Josephine’s weaving skills have vastly improved. She is now a contributing member of Akeza Cooperative, a “very confident” businesswoman, and the primary income earner in her family. She is able to afford school-related fees for her children and the day-to-day expenses of her family’s life at Mahama.
“I used to work alone but now I weave with others. I’ve learned to share even the smallest amount of what I have with my cooperative. It feels good to exchange ideas and live well with others.”
One of Josephine’s proudest accomplishments has come from her work as a member of Akeza Cooperative. With the income she’s earned and saved from fulfilling purchase orders for Indego Africa, Josephine has been able to purchase a sewing machine. Her husband now uses that machine to make money for their family by sewing clothes and household items for others at the camp.
Although she only attended school through the sixth grade, education remains very important to Josephine. She wants to continue perfecting her weaving skills and learning how to manage a business so she can create a brighter future for herself and her family.
International Women’s Day 2018 is an opportunity to transform momentum into action, to empower women in all settings, rural and urban, and celebrate the people and organizations that are working relentlessly to claim women’s rights and realize their full potential. Our Economic Inclusion for Refugees program is dedicated to doing just that.