Solange
Rwanda
Basket Weaver
Widowed
2 children

I am Solange and I am president of Agaseke Vision, a cooperative of women who weave raffia baskets. Most of the weavers in my cooperative have HIV/AIDS, which adds to the challenges they already face with growing families, sick or deceased husbands, and the struggle of finding steady employment. I am originally from Gisenyi, northwest of Kigali on Lake Kivu. I now live in Kigali with my mother, cousin, and two children. I was widowed in the 1994 Rwandan genocide; like other women, I was left wondering if there was anything to look forward to in life. It was so difficult for me as a young widow to support my children, feed them, and help them go to school. I used to farm and do other small jobs for neighbor families to earn money. But the money I got from those small jobs wasn’t enough to support my family. Basket weaving has at least relieved some of my pains. The women in my cooperative weave raffia baskets mostly at home; they meet three times a week in a rented room. Once a week Gilbert Kubwimana, a program manager for All Across Africa, visits us to counsel us and discuss our basket orders. We've waited for so long for people to come see what we are doing. We have been weaving together since 2004, but we are glad that since 2011 we have been working with All Across Africa; they truly appreciate the work we do. I am grateful to All Across Africa for giving us a foreign market for the baskets, though I am worried about the market being sustained. We hope the market will continue to grow so our weavers can earn a consistent income.