Article written

  • on 23.06.2014
  • at 03:00 PM
  • by Kevin Hind

From Genocide to African Catwalks – How Rwandan Women are Building their Lives and the Fashion Industry 0

Kigali – Before Rwanda’s 1994 genocide, Salaam Uwamariya’s husband, a professor, was the family breadwinner, providing for her and their eight children. Uwamariya sold vegetables at a nearby market to supplement their income.

But like many in this Central African nation, her life changed in just the 100 days starting in April 1994 when close to a million Tutsis and moderate Hutus were killed. Among the dead were her husband and her two eldest children.

But Uwamariya has been able to slowly rebuild her life by making clothes that are sold locally and overseas and which have also even been shown on African catwalks.

Today, thanks to Centre César, a community centre which in 2005 “adopted” her village of Avega in Kimironko, near Kigali, the country’s capital, Uwamariya has learned new skills and is able to support her family.

“I lost my family, a lot of materials, my house, everything,” she tells IPS in the local Kinyarwanda language.

She also lost her parents, aunts and uncles in the genocide.

“I was affected greatly… I can’t express it…”

Avega is made up of 150 houses and has a population of 750. With financial support from Canadian charity Ubuntu Edmonton, the centre runs training sessions for residents whose lives have been scarred by genocide. Classes here include courses in mechanics and silk screening. There is also a school sponsorship programme and daycare centre and a sewing shop where Uwamariya works. Over 85 people are said to pass through the doors of Centre César and benefit from their services every week.

“[Sewing] has improved my life a lot because I get some revenue from it. It improves my life and the lives of my children,”  says Uwamariya, who says she earns up to 3,000 Rwandan Francs (4.44 dollars) for making one dress, which she says takes no more than two days. All sewers are paid a fair trade wage, with the money going directly to the women.

Using industrial machines, members of the centre have been taught to sew by Edison Hategekimana, one of the centre’s two master tailors and the only man here. He taught Uwamariya over a year, but she says it “wasn’t challenging”.

On any given day up to 20 women, including Uwamariya, 58, are packed into a room working laboriously on dresses, jackets, pants, bags, aprons and pyjamas bags and jewellery in bold African prints.

Many of the items they tirelessly piece together are the creations of upcoming Rwandan fashion designer Colombe Ndutiye Ituze.

continue reading on Ips Africa

By Amy Fallon Ips Africa

subscribe to comments RSS

There are no comments for this post

Please, feel free to post your own comment

* these are required fields

P.IVA 11273390150
Direttore Responsabile Giuseppe Frangi