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Some say the poor can’t save: Rwanda’s Abarikumwe women prove otherwise

The women of the Abarikumwe Association dispel the myth that villagers in developing countries spend their earnings instead of saving them. #TheAfricaTheMediaNeverShowsYou.

10 talented and ambitious women living in the village of Cyeza, in Rwanda’s Muhanga district, formed a cooperative in 2006. They wanted to develop their artistic specialty, weaving with sisal fibres, and make a living out of it. Each woman has her own story to tell, but they all share one thing: the determination to bring financial security to their families.

 

landscape

 

Yusta launched the initiative. After receiving professional training on basket weaving she called friends, and friend of friends, to teach them the necessary skills and ask them to unite with her.

With a positive outlook on life, Yusta and her companions have moulded a space for themselves where they can gather, develop and exchange new skills, designing innovative products and overcoming everyday struggles. The women of the Abarikumwe Association, which literally means “people who are together” strongly believe in the advantages of joining associations, as well as the power of hard work combined with their passion for crafts in lifting them out of poverty.

 

cassava

 

Azizi Life, a social enterprise connecting talented local artists to the wider world has been working with them since 2008. It has given them access to the global market and encouraged them to be evermore creative by producing funky items such as bracelets, earrings, Christmas decorations and napkin rings.

 

coffee

 

The women now make around 50,000 Rwandan Francs ($72.50) a month. With this income they help their families and communities and invest in land. Yusta, for example, bought a small plot of land on which to plant coffee. She sold the coffee and rented other plots on which to plant beans. With the income from weaving and coffee combined she was able to purchase a stunning home for her family of seven, with a plantation and a big garden.

 

Yusta’s companions, the Abarikumwe women, have also found creative ways to save. Their personal savings aren’t in banks but, rather, they eat and breathe. Most often, they come in the shape of pigs and sometimes cattle if they can afford it. Bearing in mind that one pig can birth up to 10 piglets, which can each be sold for 100,000 Rwandan Francs ($145) once they grow up, this is a smart investment.

 

sisal

 

The Abarikumwe women’s stories show how anyone, regardless of how poor they are, can rely on their adaptive capacities, using creativity and innovation to cope with their living conditions and environment. This is the fabric of Africa that is being celebrated through the hashtag #TheAfricaTheMediaNeverShowsYou, created by young Africans to show you the Africa that doesn’t make the headlines.

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