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.
“I am an empowered woman because I can do things now that I couldn’t do before.”
When Octavé Mutetiwabo, 38, arrived at the Mahama Refugee Camp, she was anxious because it was difficult to get meals. She used to travel outside the camp to look for what she could to provide for her family. Sometimes she would till fields for local farmers to earn a little money, but it was never enough. As a result, she had to borrow food from her neighbors which made her feel ashamed.
In Burundi, Octavé used to cultivate rice and manage her own shop for a living, but she knew many people who worked in artisan cooperatives. When she heard about Indego Africa’s Economic Inclusion for Refugees program, she joined because she already knew the importance of cooperatives as a vital source of income in communities back home. Octavé hoped to earn enough money to not only cover her, her husband, and her four children’s basic needs, but also invest in other businesses.
Octavé’s life since joining Akeza Cooperative has vastly improved. She is able to buy food for her family and charcoal for cooking. She can easily borrow money when she needs and works with her fellow cooperative members to continue improving her weaving and business skills. Octavé is happy now because gets to work with inspirational leaders and earn a steady source of income.
“The co-op has completely changed my life. We discuss and share everything. It is so sweet to be a part of a community like Akeza.”
Before joining Akeza, Octavé didn’t have any artisan training or confidence in her skills. Now she hopes to make a professional career out of weaving. The business training Indego provided has inspired Octavé to manage and invest her money. She enjoys networking with others at the camp because she is proud of her newfound knowledge and expertise.
“I am proud of my life and skills. I am thankful because my world has changed for the better.”
Octavé is excited to see what the future holds. She wants to continue learning and weaving because she knows how critical it is to have tangible, income-earning skills. Working at Akeza Cooperative has given her what she’s so desperately desired since first arriving at the camp in October 2015- peace of mind.
“I see education as a powerful tool. It’s important to me because it opened my mind and changed my life.”
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.