Sewing, or Sowing? A Women-Owned Business Gardens for Better Health

POST BY JESSIE KANTER, PHOTOS BY MAGGIE ANDRESEN // PUBLISHED DECEMBER 2017

The Abahizi Dushyigikirane Ltd. (ADC) Factory, nestled in the beautiful hills of Rwanda’s Rulindo District, has the same appearance as any other building in the small community just outside of Kigali. After entering the gate, it becomes obvious the factory is unique. Brightly colored murals cover the walls, while the sound of hammers, the whirring of sewing machines, and the smell of fabric dye fill the air. Music plays from a distant set of speakers and women busily run in and out of buildings carrying colorful textiles and tools. This is ADC – a women-owned business where members of the cooperative own shares in the company, made with a mission extending  far beyond simply making handbags for Kate Spade New York. This social enterprise is committed to empowering its employees by providing bi - weekly life skills trainings and employing 200 women in a community where opportunities for women to gain full-time employment are almost non-existent.

  Women working at the ADC Masoro Kate Spade New York factory.

Women working at the ADC Masoro Kate Spade New York factory.

The women from the cooperative come together bi-weekly on Friday afternoons to participate in the Life Skills Empowerment Program offered by the factory. In developing the program, ADC worked closely with Gardens for Health International (GHI) to incorporate cooking demonstrations, health, and nutrition lessons into their bi - weekly trainings. After becoming more aware of the importance of proper nutrition, concerns rose internally about workers not eating an adequate diet to support their health and dietary needs. Through this realization, the idea to create a nutrition-sensitive garden next to the factory was born. The garden would serve to support healthy diets and improve the wellbeing of ADC factory workers. In addition, the garden could  generate income for the cooperative by selling excess produce. Finally, the women would use the garden space to learn how to start their own home gardens and improve the nutrition of their families. Once again, Kate Spade and Company reached out to GHI for support on this project.

  The factory employs women from the surrounding area of Masoro, located just outside of Kigali.

The factory employs women from the surrounding area of Masoro, located just outside of Kigali.

We broke ground for the garden project in early October. GHI designed the garden and management plan and began meeting with women from the cooperative who created a committee of artisans meant to be in charge of garden activities. These women were chosen to assist in maintenance of the garden and serve as peer educators to other women interested in learning more about agriculture. We hired external workers from the surrounding community to begin clearing and preparing the land. The following week, GHI staff went to the factory to teach bed building to the agriculture committee and the crew continued preparing the land for planting. Soon after, GHI returned to Masoro to acquire chicken manure from a local family and assist in planting the nutrient-dense crops chosen for the garden, including avocado trees, passion fruit, carrots, beets, orange flesh sweet potatoes, and pumpkins.

  GHI staff visits the garden plot bi-weekly for consultation, and weeding. Above, the author works on a plot.

GHI staff visits the garden plot bi-weekly for consultation, and weeding. Above, the author works on a plot.

When choosing what to plant, GHI looked closely at what would be best for the health and nutrition of the women at the cooperative. In countries like Rwanda where rates of undernutrition are high, a major concern for women aged 15 - 49 is insufficient iron, with can result in anemia. Anemia can cause fatigue and weakness, headaches, dizziness, and shortness of breath. Nationally, it is estimated that 1 in 5 women aged 15 – 49 are anemic. This can affect performance and productivity at the workplace, which is not ideal for a high-speed factory environment. Knowing that proper nutrition can help combat this problem, GHI selected crops high in both iron and vitamin C, which helps increase the absorption of iron into the body. Since most of the women working at ADC are of childbearing age, GHI also considered which fruits and vegetables would be beneficial for pregnant women to consume. Avocados, for example, have more folate than any other fruit. Folic acid helps prevent birth defects of a baby’s brain and spinal cord. Vitamin A rich foods, such as orange flesh sweet potatoes and carrots, are also essential  for healthy vision and immune function.

  Five women were elected to the agriculture committee for dedicated maintenance.

Five women were elected to the agriculture committee for dedicated maintenance.

The women on the agriculture committee were heavily dedicated to working on the garden. Now, everything has been planted and the maintenance of the garden has been handed over to the cooperative, with bi-weekly support from GHI, providing garden labor and lessons on in season-care. After five months, when some of the crops are ready to harvest, GHI will provide nutrition trainings on the importance of consuming nutrient-dense food.

The biggest challenge GHI faces with this project is the expectation of garden maintenance. The women do not have enough time to maintain the garden on top of their regular work. After a full day of work in the factory, the women are less likely to engage in additional agricultural labor after work. As a result, GHI is trying to find a way these women can integrate their duties in the gardens into their official factory work. We hope to to encourage all women from the cooperative to get involved and learn to  reap future benefits from the garden for years to come if they put in work now. We also hope to inspire behavior change in the household by building on existing agricultural  skills and knowledge these women can take home with them.

  Mulching the plots after weeding.

Mulching the plots after weeding.

The garden project has been a wonderful partnership, made possible with the help of dedicated,  hard working people. As with any project, there are challenges that must be confronted, but they come hand-in-hand with tangible success. Today, our triumphs come in the form of germinating beets and the smiling faces of the five leading women working with GHI on the ADC garden. These small rewards make every challenge worth the effort. So, if you ever find yourself with a Kate Spade handbag draped on your shoulder labeled, “Made in Rwanda,” find assurance in knowing the women who made your handbag are being provided with knowledge and resources to live healthier lives.

Translation by Monica Mutoni

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Umwanditsi na Jessie Kanter & Amafoto na Maggie Andresen

Kudoda cyangwa se Kubiba? Ni gute uruganda rw’abagore rudoda ibikapu rwiga guhinga kugirango bagire ubuzima bwiza.

Uruganda rwa Bahizi Dushyigikirane Ltd. (ADC) ruherereye mu karere ka Rulindo, rufite inyubako isanzwe nk’izindi zose mu gace gaherereye  hanze y’umugi wa Kigali. Ukimara kwinjira mu irembo uhita ubibona ko uru ruganda rwihariye. Imitako isize amarangi y’amabara acyeye cyane imanitse ku nkuta, ukumva urusaku rw’inyundo, guhinda kw’amamashini adoda n’umuhumuro w’amarangi wasaze ikirere. . Umuziki ucuranga mu mbanguramajwi ziri ahirengeye n’abagore bahuze bacanamo  batwaye ibikapu n’ibikoresho bitandukanye. Uru ruganda rwa ADC ni cooperative yatangijwe ifite intego yo gukura ikarenga urwego rwo gukora ibikapu by’ikigo cya  Kate Spade. Uru ruganda rushishikajwe cyane no kongera imbaraga abakozi barwo biciye mu mahugurwa ku buzima aba buri wa gatanu kandi ruha akazi abagore bare150 kandi muri ako gace ntago ari benshi bashobora kubona akazi.

  Abagore bakora mu ruganda rwa ADC Masoro Kate Spade.

Abagore bakora mu ruganda rwa ADC Masoro Kate Spade.

Abagore bo muri cooperative bose bahura buri wagatanu w’icyumweru nyuma ya saa sita kugirango bitabire muri gahunda yo kwiga uko abo bagore bakwiteza imbere kandi izo nyigisho zitangwa n’uru ruganda. Kugirango iyi gahunda igire imbara zirushijeho, uruganda rwa ADC rwakoranye bya hafi n’umurima w’ubuzima mu gitanga  amahugurwa ku guteka indyo yuzuye, ubuzima, ndetse n’imirire myiza. Nyuma yo kwiga akamaro ko kurya neza, byatangiye kugaragara ko abakozi b’uru ruganda batarya indyo yuzuye nkuko bikwiye. Nyuma nibwo bagize igitekerezo cyo guhinga umurima urimo ibiribwa bifite intungamubiri zitandukanye. Uyu murima wari gufasha abakozi gurya neza bakagira ubuzima bwiza n’ubw’ imiryango yabo ariko kandi uyu murima ugafasha uruganda kubona inyungu hagurishwa ibyasagutse. Abagore bakoreshaga uyu murima bakiga uko bashyiraho uturima tw’igikoni mungo zabo kugirango bazamure imire y’imiryango yabo. Nanone ikigo cya  Kate Spade cyasabye ubufasha umurima w’ubuzima bwo gutangiza muri uyu mushinga.

  Uru ruganda ruha akazi abagore baturutse mu bice biri hafi ya Masoro ihhereye hanze gato y’umugi wa Kigali.

Uru ruganda ruha akazi abagore baturutse mu bice biri hafi ya Masoro ihhereye hanze gato y’umugi wa Kigali.

Twatangiye uyu mushinga wo gushyiraho umurima mu ntangiriro z’ukwezi kwa cumi. Umurima w’ubuzima wakoze igishushanyo cy’umurima unashyiraho gahunda yuko ibikorwa bizagerwaho unatangira guhura n’abagore bo muri cooperative bagize  komite ishinzwe imiriro yose yagombaga gukorwa kugirango hashyirweho uyu murima. Aba bagore bagize komite batowe kugirango bafashe mu kurinda umurima kandi bigishe abandi bagore bifuza kwiga byinshi ku buhinzi n’ubworozi. Twangaje abakozi bo hanze y’uruganda kugirango batangire gutema ibiti no gutegura ubutaga. Icyumweru gikurikiyeho, abakozi b’umurima w’ubuzima bagiye kuri urwo ruganda kwigisha abashinzwe ubuhinzi uko bategura umurima bakomeza gutegura ubutaka buzahingwamo imyaka itandukanye. Nyuma y’igihe gito, umurima w’ubuzima wasubiye i Masoro gukurayo ifumbire yimborera unabafasha gutera iyo myaka itandukanye irimo ibiti bya avoka, amatunda, karoti, beterave, ibijumba bya orange, n’amadegede.

  Umurima w’ubuzima usura uyu murima  buri cyumweru kugirango wige ibikenewe, ubagare ndetse n’iyindi mirimo ikorerwa muri uwo murima.

Umurima w’ubuzima usura uyu murima  buri cyumweru kugirango wige ibikenewe, ubagare ndetse n’iyindi mirimo ikorerwa muri uwo murima.

Mu guhitamo imyaka yo guhinga, umurima w’ubuzima witaye cyane ku bihingwa bishobora kuzafasha abo bagore bo muri iyo cooperative kugira imirire myiza. Mu bihugu nk’u Rwanda aho umubare w’abafite imirire mibi uri hejuru cyane, icyitaweho cyane ku bagore bafite hagati y’imyaka 15-49 bafite imyunyungugu mike mu mubiri bishobora gutuma bagira ikibazo cyo kubura amaraso. Kubura amaraso bishobora gutera umunaniro no gucika intege cyane, kurwara umutwe, no kubura umwuka. Mu gihugu hose bivugwa ko 1 mu bagore 5 bari hagati y’imyaka  14-49 bafite ikibazo cyo kubura amaraso. Ibi bishobora kugabanya imikorere myiza yabo mu kazi kabo byadindiza iterambere ry’uruganda.

Bakimara kumenya ko imirire myiza ishobora  kurwanya icyi kibazo, umurima w’ubuzima wahisemo ibihingwa bikungahaye ku myunyungugu na vitamine C bizongera imbaraga imyunyungugu zo kwivanga neza mu mubiri. Bitewe nuko abagore benshi bakora mu ruganda rwa ADC bari mu myaka yo kuba babyara, Umurima w’ubuzima watekereje imbuto n’imboga zitandukanye zifite akamaro kanini ku bagore batwite. Urugero, avoka zikungahaye kuri vitamine B9 (folate) kurusha izindi mbuto zose. Aside iva muri Folate irinda kwangirika k’ubwonko n’urutirigongo igihe umwana avuka. Ibiribwa bikungahaye kuri vitamine A nk’ibijumba bya Orange na Karoti ni ingenzi cyane kuko birinda guhuma ndetse bikongera imbaraga umubiri zo kurwanya indwara.

  Abagore batanu nibo batowe mu itsinda ry’ubuhinzi kugirango basigasire uwo murima.

Abagore batanu nibo batowe mu itsinda ry’ubuhinzi kugirango basigasire uwo murima.

Aba bagore bagize itsinda rishinzwe iby’ubuhinzi bari bafite umuhate wo kwita ku murima. Ubu ibihingwa byose byaratewe kandi inshingano zo kwita ku murima zahawe uruganda ariko umurima w’ubuzima ukazajya utanga ubufasha rimwe mu cyumweru utanga abakoze bakora mu murima ndetse n’amasomo ku guhangana n’imihindagurikire y’ibihe. Nyuma yamezi atanu, igihe imyaka imwe n’imwe izaba yeze, Umurima w’Ubuzima uzatanga amahugurwa  ku mirire myiza bigisha akamaro ko kurya indyo yuzuye.

Imbogamizi ikomeye cyane Umurima w’Ubuzima uhura nayo ni ukwita ku murima. Abagore bo muri uruganda nta mwanya uhagije bafite wo kwita ku murima no gukora imirimo yabo basanzewe bakora muri uru ruganda. Nyuma yo kumara umunsi wose bakora imirimo yabo mu ruganda, ntago baba bagifite imbera n’ubushake byo kujya kwita ku murima. Ibi byatumye Umurima w’Ubuzima ugerageza gushakisha uburyo aba bagore bakora imirimo yo kwita ku murima no gukora akazi kabo ko muruganda. Twizeye ko tuzashishikariza abagore bose bo mu ruganda kwiga no kwita ku nyungu zizava muri uwo murima nibawitaho uko bikwiye. Twizeye no kuzahindura imyumvire yabo twongera ubumenyi basanzwe bafite ku buhinzi ndetse bakazabujyana no mungo zabo.

  Basasira ubutaka nyuma yo kubagara.

Basasira ubutaka nyuma yo kubagara.

Uyu mushinga w’ubuhinzi ni ubufatanye bwiza bwagezweho kubufasha bw’abantu bafite umuhate mwinshi. Nkuko biba mu yindi mishinga, hari imbogamizi ziboneka, ariko akenshi ziza zizanye n’intsinzi. Twongerwa imbaraga no kubona beterave  twateye zitangiye kumera ndetse n’akanyamuneza abagore batanu bagize itsinda ry’abayobozi Umurima w’Ubuzima ukorana naryo mu murima wo muri ADC. Ibi bituma tugira imbaraga zo guhangana n’imbogamizi duhura nazo. Ubwo rero niba warigeze wisanga ufite isakoshi ya Kate Spade ku rutugu rwawe yanditseho ngo “Made in Rwanda” umenye ko abagore bakoze isakoshi yawe barimo guhabwa ubumenyi n’ibindi bikenewe kugirango bagire ubuzima bwiza.

Byashyizwe mu Kinyarwanda na Monica Mutoni