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The Women’s Opportunity Centre Changing Life in Kayonza District

by Daniel Sabiiti
8:33 pm

At the Women’s Opportunity Centre in Kayonza district of Eastern Province, one Devota Musaniwabo has spent a couple of years in weaving baskets and tailoring local fashion and soccer balls.

Musaniwabo joined the section four months ago to learn how to make hand-made soccer balls among the other seven women at the center which is open for women to explore every career path available.

Her acquired cobbler skills have seen one of her balls bought at $1,000 (Rwf1million) by Federation International Football Association (FIFA) President Gianni Infantino, during the 73rd FIFA Congress, held in  March 2023 in Kigali, Rwanda.

 At the congress, Infantino encouraged every FIFA member to buy similar balls (at the same price) in a bid to support the organization’s new project of supporting young football talents in Africa and local communities.

“This was the greatest event in my life,” Musaniwabo said.

 So far, Misaniwabo and her fellows have made over 140 balls which they sell to visitors at $50 (Rwf50,000) at the center craft shops located on the Rwanda-Tanzania highway.

This achievement was exhibited to the international and local media during their field visit in the sideline of the just concluded Women Deliver (WD) Conference to witness first-hand the success stories of women who are financially and economically empowered in Rwanda.

Financed by a non profit organisation-Women for Women, the Women’s Opportunity Centre supports women from in and around Kayonza district, who were previously living in vulnerable households, to become economically and socially independent.

The Center opened in 2013 to provide vocational and life skills training for women through craft spaces where they work, produce, sell in cooperatives, and save income.

Currently, the center has moved from running an art and craft space to a farm-fresh yoghurt production zone, tailoring school, and handmade carpet making among others.

Visiting the center, one sees creative “pods” and workspaces built from clay bricks, made by a local women’s cooperative and designed in such a way, that Rwandan women can work together in cohesiveness.

There are also talented women artisans who weave baskets and create traditional decoration (Imigongo), paintings and also teach visiting tourists how to make the crafts.

Diane Hensen, a Danish tourist was taken through the thrill of weaving a basket and even though she may not find the locally used material back home, she was mesmerized.

“It is a creative art that is inspiring to realize how much a woman can do. I will certainly try this at home though it will be hard to get the materials used,” Hensen said.

Vivian Kayihura Kayitesi, the Center’s Executive Director says that it has empowered women and many of the key income-generating projects are expected to expand production to pay salaries and utilities.

For instance, the yoghurt production section with a capacity of 3000 litres a day has moved from the production of 400 litres to 900 litres per day earning about $9000 per month.

“We have done a sustainability plan that will allow us growth in production. This is one of our products that do really well and as we grow we are looking at supplying milk to Kigali as well,” Kayitesi said.

Meanwhile, a tailoring space at the centre trains over 10 vulnerable women and girls.  One of them, Clenia Irafasha, 21, an unemployed secondary school graduate says that since 2022 she has been able to earn a living from the trade earning $50 per month.

The new carpet-making space opened in 2022, engages 40 women per day to make carpets on-order.

Nelly Karire, a school dropout and new trainee says she is enthusiastic that life skills will empower her financially and will finance her school.

In this department, women have managed to save $600 in the last four months of training and they are now targeting the Kigali market.

    

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