A Mother’s Touch: Artisan Alexie Uwingabire’s Story

Alexie Uwingabire was born in 1987 in Nyamabuye sector. At a young age, her father left the family. From that day, Alexie was raised by her mother, a bowl weaver. It was not easy for them to meet their basic needs since they had no other source of income to supplement the little gained from weaving. 

Alexie Uwingabire, Photo: MayOney Cinematics for Azizi Life

Alexie was a remarkable child who liked to learn from her mother. At seven years old she started primary school. During her primary education, she used her extra hours to learn weaving from her mother, and, after gaining enough knowledge, she began weaving and used the money from selling her wares to buy clothes, soap, notebooks, pencils, pens, and other school materials. This combination of learning and weaving helped for the whole duration of her primary education.

After passing the National Exam at the end of Year 6, Alexie got the opportunity to continue studying in secondary education, but things were different this time because she was obliged to leave home to board at school. Here it was not possible to continue weaving, but she decided to study hard. During the holidays, when other students were playing around, Alexie was busy weaving bowls. The money she earned helped her to buy school materials, transportation, and, sometimes, a percentage went toward her school fees.

In 2005, after leaving secondary school, she left weaving and got a salaried job for two years, but after becoming pregnant she left this job. After giving birth to her son in 2017, Alexie needed to find another way to earn money for herself and the child. In 2018 she joined other weavers and created a cooperative called Abihuta mu Iterambere, which means ‘Those Who Better Themselves Quickly’.

In 2018 Abihuta mu Iterambere partnered with Azizi Life. After getting this opportunity to take more weaving orders, Alexie’s life and income became more stable and she began to think with greater ambition. This partnership is helping her to raise her son well. She can pay insurance fees for the whole family. She now saves for her mother and for her child in two different saving groups and is now able to rent a house.

Alexie dreams about having a place of her own. In a few years, she plans to buy or build her own house and has also been learning to sew, which will be complementary to weaving. In times when there are fewer bowl orders, she will sew to gain an additional source of income.

Alexie is thankful for her mother who is still weaving after all this time. She’s thankful to Azizi Life for their work in developing artisans socially, economically, and spiritually, and thankful for all the members of the Abihuta mu Iterambere Cooperative.

Alexie, like many artisans and rural Rwandans, is scared of COVID-19 because of the danger to human life and the reduction in orders and income, which has made it has made it difficult to save financially. Her child is also weak. His health has been weaker and medical expenses are high, even if they have insurance.  

If you would like to help artisans like Alexie and their families through these hard times, please consider donating to the Artisan Emergency Food Fund.

Visit the Abihuta mu Iterambere Cooperative page to meet the members and see the beautiful products they make. Any purchase you make will directly support the artisans.

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