“Realizing my power is rooted in self-esteem, and it has influenced the trajectory of my life.”
When Grace Muteteri first started weaving baskets in Rwanda, she never imagined that her skills would one day lead to a new opportunity and see her work, as well as the work of countless other women, recognized on an international level. But that’s exactly what happened after she and the women in her savings group took a leap of faith that would change their lives through Women for Women-Rwanda’s (WfW-Rwanda) Stronger Women, Stronger Nations program (SWSN).
Grace, a skilled weaver, struggled with the commercial aspects of trading the handmade crafts she created before joining the SWSN program by WfW-Rwanda, an independent sister organization of Women for Women International (WfWI), which provides women with vocational training to earn an income and collect savings. Her work as a farmer also did not bring in enough money for her and her family. An SWSN program graduate, she was chosen to train other women from her community in basket weaving. With her leadership role, Grace came up with a new, unique idea: what if she and her group could create soccer balls as way to generate an income?
After agreeing on the idea, she and her group proposed this project to leadership at the Women’s Opportunity Center in Urugo, (WOC), a center established by WfWI thanks to the generosity of Bloomberg Philanthropies and individual donors, where women are trained in various skills to earn an income and improve their living conditions. For many women, their lives were impacted by conflict and the Genocide against the Tutsi in 1994.
Grace did her best to support her mother, younger brother and father while grieving the loss of her older brother, who disappeared during the genocide. She also tried to find a way to secure a better future for her children and provide for them.
The leadership at WOC recognized the potential of Grace’s idea and provided them with the equipment and materials to make it a reality. Over the next few weeks, she worked alongside women from her community to make the soccer balls. Many were survivors of the genocide, while others had been impacted by the pervasive issue of violence against women in their communities. They were all surpassing traditionally restrictive views of women’s freedoms to participate in this project, and to rebuild their lives through economic self-sufficiency.
Despite a lack of materials necessary to craft the soccer balls, the women were determined to succeed, and their project was kept going by the support and donations they received. Their efforts paid in a big way. The soccer balls, with “Made in Rwanda” proudly stitched into their fabric, received an endorsement from Gianni Infantino, President of FIFA, making them one of the most popular items produced by women at the WOC. During the 73rd FIFA Congress which took place in Kigali, FIFA officials also visited the women’s center. The international attention they received gave them the support to continue the project.
Through WfW-Rwanda’s programming, Grace and other women in her community used their power to take control of their lives, transform their livelihoods and create a better future for themselves and their families.
“Realizing my power is rooted in self-esteem, and it has influenced the trajectory of my life,”
Grace says, “I never imagined that a person could multiply their income from 200 Rwandan francs to reach tens of thousands. This is how realizing my power has changed the course of my life, this helped me continue to strive and go where others are, embracing new opportunities.”
Grace’s story is just one example of the power of helping women to transform their own world. By providing women with the skills and resources they need to succeed, we create a world where women are empowered to take on new challenges and achieve their dreams.
By donating to Women for Women International, you can make a difference in the lives of women around world. Together, we can create a world where marginalized women have the skills and resources to thrive after surviving war and conflict.