When this project first began, I told you some of the women's stories, and with their permission I am going to give you an update on each over the next few posts. First up is Lydia from Kikagate, the oldest member of the Bitengye Designers, and now 60. Quite elderly in a country where the life expectancy of a woman is 54. She had such difficulty learning to use a treadle sewing machine that a couple of years ago we taught her how to make beaded bracelets as an alternative, and now she's a happy camper. She's also delighted to have a new pair of specs - there was only one glass in her old pair when she arrived here from 40 kilometers away, having ridden side-saddle on a boda-boda (a motorcycle) in order to get here. She has four grandchildren that she looks after on a daily basis, ranging in age from 5 to 12. One of her sons was sponsored by friends of the Kitambaa Sewing Project, and now works as a brick-layer, helping to support her and the rest of the family.
Here Kamidah is putting the finishing touches on an apron she's making (this is one of the top selling items the women make). Of her 12 children, only 4 are still at home and dependent on her. You may remember that early on she bought a plot of land with bananas and coffee growing on it in order to provide for her family. Well both were infested by a local bug of some sort, and never one to give up, she is now in the business of replanting the entire plot. She has also put up a small building on the plot, which is now the home of one of her children. Another of her sons was sponsored some years ago, and is now working as a carpenter. A second son is presently attending trade school. Her desire is to learn how to make school uniforms, to supplement her current income.
Justina lives in Rubingo, and was in a house that was almost falling down when we first met her. When she first started earning an income from her sewing, she bought a boda-boda for one of her sons. He earned enough from this to buy a plot of land, together with the proceeds from the sale of the boda. She built herself a new house on this plot, from which she operates a small shop, selling bananas, cakes and sewing, and also used clothing. Her son pictured here with her, was sponsored in brick-laying and given a tool kit to start him off. He has been successful in his work, and has now sponsored one of his brothers to get the same training. Justina has also made loans of some of her earnings, charging interest, which also earned her some of the money to buy the land.