For years, the 24 seamstresses of Abasangiye worked hard to earn income and provide for their families, sewing wine bags, coasters, and yoga bags for Indego Africa’s early product collections. However, they struggled to advance their skill sets enough to produce more complex items (like apparel) that would have enabled them to diversify their product offerings and earn more income. This, in turn, made it difficult for them to grow their business and support themselves and their families.
we came up with the idea to start an artisan Vocational Training program for youth in Rwanda, we knew right away that we wanted to include Abasangiye. As a little refresher, our Vocational Training program matches young, unemployed women in Rwanda with artisan cooperatives where they receive technical training and mentorship. The trainees also participate in a Basic Business Training course to help them build the skills to succeed in the workforce (check out this blog post for the full scoop). This program not only helps young people in Rwanda gain a career path, but also helps artisan cooperatives themselves recruit new, young members; build their production capacity; and improve their business management.
at the time we were planning the program, Abasangiye’s artisans weren’t able to sew at the level needed to effectively train younger women in their craft, nor did they have enough orders to sustain the addition of new cooperative members.
That’s where Daniel Nshiyime came in. Daniel is our new Production Assistant—a master sewer, tailor, and teacher who spent seven years working at a sewing factory in Rwanda before he started his own tailoring business. We brought Daniel on board to help cooperatives like Abasangiye (and their vocational trainees!) improve their skill sets and sew with higher quality and complexity.
Since February, Daniel has spent three days per week at Abasangiye, conducting intensive training with the cooperative members and their nine vocational
trainees on the ins and outs of sewing. Starting with equipment care, Daniel has led the group through a progression of skills and techniques. The most game-changing? Learning how to work with patterns to sew clothing!
Today, the artisans of Abasangiye and their trainees are able to sew dresses and skirts—including ones with zippers!—on their own, and while there is still
further to go, their final products are miles away from the wine bags and coasters with which they began. As Gaudance, the president of Abasangiye
Cooperative said (with a beaming smile on her face): “I am so excited about how good our products have become. Before, we didn’t know how to make skirts or dresses. Now we’ve learned how to work with patterns and are keeping our quality control strong.”
Having young women working and learning onsite with them has also been deeply valuable for the artisans of Abasangiye. Gaudance added: “We have wanted to recruit younger women for a long time, but we didn’t know how to do it. They are learning quickly and are helping us understand what we didn’t know before. Even when the teacher [Daniel] is gone, the young girls are helping us master what we learned about in previous classes. They can also help us find new markets. For example, they can go back to their secondary schools and help us get orders for uniforms.”
could not be more impressed with Abasangiye’s nine vocational trainees ourselves! Within a short period of time, they have not only become good seamstresses but have also risen up as leaders at their cooperative. Baraka, one of the trainees, has developed such remarkable skills that, when the program ends in July, she will be assisting Gaudance, the President, as a leader of the cooperative.
When speaking about what our Vocational Training program has meant to her, Baraka said: “this program is helpful because it is giving young people practical
skills and teaching us how to start our own businesses. It is giving us an orientation—a platform. What we learned in high school was more theoretical. We
didn’t learn anything that could help us work or start a business. This program has helped me to become self-sufficient and independent. It has also taught me
the importance of working in groups and with others from different backgrounds.”
couldn’t be more pleased (and inspired!) by the progress that the artisans of Abasangiye and our vocational trainees have made this year. Working together, these two generations of women are sewing a brighter future, with a happy ending.
To support our Vocational Training program and provide life-changing opportunities for women in Rwanda, click here.