Rwanda is one of the countries in the world with a high representation of women in leadership especially in the legislature. However, despite the inroads made in gender parity, poverty and HIV/Aids stigma has continued to hinder the progression of women in society.

Despite the HIV stigma, Gatsata an association of former prostitutes formed in 2008 has been fighting stigma throgh women empowerment. The association aims to bring people together and talk about stigma to fight HIV/Aids in Kigali through arts and craft.

The Gatsata women at work on their premises in Kigali Rwanda: Photo by Fred Obera

The Gatsata women at work on their premises in Kigali Rwanda: Photo by Fred Obera

“Many people shy talking about HIV/Aids. But we live with it and we want people to know that we are positive and we cannot hide from sharing our experiences,” says the Centre’s administrator Jane Mugiriyamana.

 Fighting HIV stigma

 Gatsata women have shown that stigma can’t stop them; they are ready to take the second chance in life. The women have also shown that given the opportunities and support women can excel in anything.

Beautifully woven small baskets for sale: Photo by Fred Obera

Beautifully woven small baskets for sale: Photo by Fred Obera

As former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton once said, “We need to understand that there is no formula for how women should lead their lives. That is why we must respect the choices that each woman makes for herself and her family. Every woman deserves the chance to realize her God-given potential.”

Empowerment through arts and craft

 The talented women make different kinds of decorated baskets, beads, necklaces, bangles for women which are highly popular in Rwanda. For the past eight years, the women have been earning a decent salary and they are able to pay school fees and feed their families. The success of the project proves that despite challenges, women can succeed if they receive the necessary support.

The business is booming for Gatsata women, the association continues to receive support from community members, who purchase their crafts.