Ejo hazaza, Rwanda

The women of Ejo Hazaza are living with HIV/AIDS and struggling to prevent transmission of the virus to their babies. These extraordinary women met through a “Preventing Mother to Child Transmission Program” at the Nyacyonga Health Clinic, outside of Kigali Rwanda. The Nyaconga clinic is sponsored by WE‐ACTx (Women’s Equity in Access to Care and Treatment), a nongovernmental agency providing HIV care to women and their children in Rwanda. The women decided to form a craft collective to generate income to buy baby formula as an alternative to breastfeeding in an effort to reduce the risk of transmitting the virus to their babies. They produced woven plastic shopping bags that they sold in street markets. However, many women throughout Rwanda weave these bags and as there are no tourist or export opportunities, the sales potential is very limited.

Manos de Madres’ involvement with the women of Nyacyonga began in the spring of 2010 and resulted in the launch of the Nyacyonga Jewelry Initiative. Manos provided and funded all materials and training for a line of fabric jewelry and guaranteed the purchase of all production, without any sales restrictions. Buoyed by this opportunity, the women determined to transform their collective into a fully licensed cooperative that they eloquently named, “Ejo Hazaza” because “Ejo Hazaza means ‘tomorrow’ and we hope to continue to live tomorrow in good health by supporting ourselves financially and each other emotionally.” 

In addition to product development, marketing and sales, Manos de Madres' support is currently focused on funding business and computer literacy training so that Ejo Hazaza can master the technology and skills necessary to enter the global marketplace. Kindly note that 100% of donations go directly to funding development and training. We thank you for your generous support!

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ineza, Rwanda

The story of INEZA is one of strength, courage and community.  All of the women of INEZA are living with HIV/AIDS as a result of genocidal rape and sexual violence.  However, rather than focusing on the horrors of the genocide and its aftermath, the women of INEZA are a testament to the power of Rwandan women to work towards a better future for themselves, their families and their nation.

The INEZA sewing group was formed in 2006 by WE-ACTx (Women's Equity in Access to Care and Treatment), an international initiative launched in the fall 2003 by AIDS physicians, activists and researchers in response to the women and AIDS crisis in Rwanda.  Headquartered in Kigali, WE-ACTx provides HIV testing, care, treatment, support, and education. They focus on empowering HIV-positive women and girls to take charge of their lives and become leaders in the fight against AIDS.

The 25 women of INEZA were among the first to be treated by WE-ACTx.  Between 2004 and 2006, these women had received supplemental nutrition support from the World Food Program of the United Nations. When the UN program ended, the women were left with no way to feed themselves and their children. WE-ACTx established the sewing group as a means to generate income as well as to provide a place for the women to continue healing the physical and emotional wounds left by the genocide. Margot Moinester interned with WE-ACTx in the summer of 2007 and assisted INEZA in designing and producing a product line targeted to the U.S. and European markets.  While still utilizing traditional vibrant African fabrics, the collaboration resulted in fashion-forward personal accessories featuring highly desired functional elements for the Western consumer. Manos de Madres funded training for INEZA to improve production efficiencies and to learn how to price products in an effort to insure a living wage. The line was launched at the August 2007 New York International Gift Fair.

This summer marks the four-year anniversary of Manos de Madres’ involvement with INEZA.  The collective is now a fully registered cooperative, which insures democratic management and distribution of funds.  The women are recognized as highly skilled tailors and their products can be found in a wide variety of shops throughout Rwanda, the US and Europe.  They have evolved from just being grateful to have a place to go every morning to healthy and successful businesswomen. To quote Marie, “We are INEZA - a sewing cooperative of 25 women living with HIV/AIDS in post-genocide Rwanda.  We view INEZA as a family of hope where we have the opportunity to make an income to support our families and ourselves.  We no longer live in desperation, but are INEZA – doing well!” 

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Solidarite', Rwanda

Solidarite’ is an association comprised of 375 women and men joined together by their commitment to fight HIV/AIDS and alleviate poverty in their community. Solidarite’ supports 340 orphans and vulnerable children and approximately 30% of Solidarite’ members are living with HIV/AIDS.

Working out of a small workshop in the outskirts of Kigali, Rwanda, the women of Solidarite’ come together to learn and practice the traditional crafts of sewing, weaving, beading and carving.   Manos de Madres met the weavers of Solidarite’ in the winter of 2008 and were captivated by their passionate commitment to self-sufficiency. Solidarite’ receives no financial support from outside organizations and is sustained solely by the income generated from the sale of their crafts. With a limited domestic market and significant competition, the opportunity to export to the U.S. gave Solidarite’ its first avenue for significant income generation and growth.  In the nine months after Manos began working with Solidarite’the number of weavers increased by 50%, from 30 to 45 women.

In addition to importing their baskets, Manos de Madres has acted as an advocate for the weavers of Solidarite’, spearheading a campaign for them to receive national recognition for their craftsmanship in the form of the highly coveted “Certificate of Authenticity.” Manos de Madres has also funded the purchase and shipping of a large, semi-permanent “wedding” tent for Solidarite’. In addition to providing shelter for the weavers and other artisans, the entrepreneurial women of Solidarite’ rent it out for weddings and weekly church services.  This has spurred the launch of an innovative business making wedding decorations.

Solidarite’, weaving hope for a brighter future.


Shwe Shwe poppis, south africa

Based in Soweto, a township outside of Johannesburg, the Shwe Shwe Poppi Project is the economic empowerment and fundraising arm of the African Children's Feeding Program, an NGO that feeds over 21,000 children daily.  We fell in love with the dolls and the project during a visit to South Africa in the fall of 2009.

The designs were created by the children of the Zola nursery, a preschool for children with HIV/AIDS and other severe illnesses. Each of these enchanting and fanciful poppis (dolls) is one child’s drawing come to life; they have their own fun personalities and bear the story and name of their young creators on a colorful hangtag. The dolls are sewn from Shwe Shwe cloth, a cotton fabric in endless, vivid patterns that is iconic to South Africa and highly collectible.  Handcrafted by a cooperative of 29 mothers and grandmothers, the Shwe Shwe Poppi Project has changed the lives of the artisans and inspires the community by bringing hope of a brighter future.

Manos de Madres is honored to partner with this extraordinary initiative to further our shared goals of poverty reduction through the economic empowerment of women. For our distribution in the US, Manos de Madres has selected three of the poppis (“Faith”, “Hope” and “Buyisilie”) in four fabulous versions: standard size dolls, extra large dolls, key chains and mini angels.