In August 2013, COFAPRI initiated a Sewing Skills Programme, which trains women and girls from rural areas in sewing and knitting activities.
COFAPRI started with 5 women. Bahati trained these women in sewing as herself was trained in sewing skills before setting up the project.
The women and girls who learn at the centres will, in turn, be able to go on helping others as the team is growing. Bahati trained them, as she also had learned this skill in Kigali where she lives for job. After having trained these 5 women, then it was decided to start a sewing centre with 2 sewing machines only.
The number of women in training went on increasing. The first cohort of women was made of 30 women and girls who were ready to begin training - six groups of five for six months. Then a second team of 26 registered for the same programme. Both cohorts graduated in public on April 10, 2016. Different local and provincial leaders, as well as COFAPRI members were on rendezvous. The women who got their certificates in sewing are now working in teams and they decided not to detach from COFAPRI. Now they have 10 sewing machines that they are using with a well experienced trainer.
On the graduation day, the local traditional leader gave COFAPRI women a trophy. For him, this is a symbol to mean we are doing a great job, by reaching in remote areas where big international organisations fear to reach or have never reached. COFAPRI was enormously thanked to helping women and girls in rural areas to address poverty and become self-reliant.
Today, a new team of women and girls who are keen to be trained has now already started the same programme. COFAPRI is now glad to say that the women and girls who graduated are now helping the new team with lots of practice. Their trainer is only now dealing with theories. This combination of efforts makes the organization sound wonderful.
The participants to this programme are rural women, including those who have been victims of rape, subjected to domestic violence, orphaned girls, and women who have been widowed by the DRC’s ongoing civil conflict.
The sewing activities take place at Munya Centre. Women come from the surrounding villages to be trained. The villages are around 4 to 5 kilometres away, along rough, mountainous paths.
Along with sewing, we have also introduced the teaching of knitting skills too, which is also very popular.
The women are only able to meet four times a week for training, because they have other duties. This lengthens the period of time required to sufficiently train the women.
Materials and equipment
Currently, some of the materials that COFAPRI needs are purchased from Kigali (in neighbouring Rwanda) and are then taken to the DRC. The materials bought from Kigali tend to be cheaper and more durable than in Bukavu.
Sewing machines are an exception; they are purchased in Bukavu and cost between USD $135-150. Once in the DRC, other materials are bought.
Acquiring materials is time-consuming, as COFAPRI coordinators search for affordable materials.
Furthermore, COFAPRI does not have the facilities it requires. We have been lucky enough to get support by the traditional local leader who gave us the house in which the activities take place. But still, the women do not have enough furniture, such as chairs and tables on which they can measure and cut their cloths. They often measure and cut on the floor
Munya is about 40 kilometres from Bukavu; the journey is difficult, even more so during the rainy season as the road becomes slippery and hazardous - the road has many holes filled with water and sometimes mud.
The journey from Bukavu to Munya village is generally made on trucks, which are typically also full of goods being transported (including food and materials such as bricks, wood, and stone). The journey can take up to 2 hours.
From here, COFAPRI pays people to transport the materials (on their heads) by foot to the villages where the materials will be used. Cibimbi and Kalango villages are a further 10 kilometres from Munya - (as it is for Ishamba village).
There are no roads in these villages. The journey is mountainous and can take between one and two hours - the conditions are bad, with mud, holes and puddles.
The women participating in the sewing programme are beginning to generate a small income from the sale of children’s clothes in the market, at Munya, and also to friends. Since they have graduated, they are now generating a small scale income and they are happy they are no more as they were before. The women say the market is becoming larger and larger; the way is long but they have started moving ahead.