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Photo Essay: Radiant Women of Rwanda

As the old adage goes, a picture is worth 1,000 words. And while it might be a cliché, we have to admit that images have a unique power to transport us into other worlds, creating connections between people miles and miles away.

originally posted on one.org
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That’s why we’re so excited to share a new photo series with you featuring some of the amazing women we work with in Rwanda. This series is part of our brand-new, July-long Makers Month – a campaign celebrating the incredible artistry and skills of the master-makers who handcraft our products.

These stunning portraits, shot by photographer Ashley Turner of hazel & pine, were taken at the Umutima cooperative in Nyamirambo, Kigali, Rwanda—a business of 30 seamstresses who are working together to create brighter futures for themselves, their families, and their communities.

Umutima, which means “heart” in the language Kinyarwanda, was founded in 2013 to provide vocational training, employment, and steady income to socially vulnerable women in Rwanda.

Since then, these women – most of whom are also mothers – have worked tirelessly to perfect their skills and earn enough income to support their families. Today, you can see the fruits of their hard work in our newly launched nursery and kids collection – a line of pattern-happy baby and children’s clothes that these talented artisans make by hand.

We are endlessly inspired by the women of Umutima – not only by their impeccable artistry, but also by their resilience, determination, and hopes for the future.

We hope that these images – filled with bright colors, radiant laughs, and contagious smiles – help transport you to their world and connect you with these women miles and miles away.

Below, meet Francine, Mayimuna, Consolee, and Houssina, four members of Umutima who shared how joining the cooperative has changed their lives.

“Joining Umutima has changed my life forever. I learn so much and I do it with other women, so I do not feel alone. I can now contribute to the finances of my family and this is a huge step for me.” – Francine
“Joining Umutima has changed my life forever. I learn so much and I do it with other women, so I do not feel alone. I can now contribute to the finances of my family and this is a huge step for me.” – Francine
“I have a job that I like. Working gives me independence and pride.” – Mayimuna
“I have a job that I like. Working gives me independence and pride.” – Mayimuna
“I have found great joy being a member of the Umutima. It is a place where I am happy and have found a social community which gives me great support. I earn an income and find peace in knowing that my children will not go hungry.” – Consolee
“I have found great joy being a member of the Umutima. It is a place where I am happy and have found a social community which gives me great support. I earn an income and find peace in knowing that my children will not go hungry.” – Consolee

“I feel proud being an Umutima member. I used to work part time, but now it is a big difference bringing home my monthly salary. With money gained at Umutima I can do a lot of things. I look after my children, I pay school fees, I can pay for rent. I feel independent and proud contributing without asking for help.” – Houssina
“I feel proud being an Umutima member. I used to work part time, but now it is a big difference bringing home my monthly salary. With money gained at Umutima I can do a lot of things. I look after my children, I pay school fees, I can pay for rent. I feel independent and proud contributing without asking for help.” – Houssina