irreverent, thought-provoking analysis of the industry.
Rwandan Widows Earn Livelihood with American
$99,000 USAID grant provides livelihood for
women in Rwanda.
by The Fiber and Craft Entrepreneurial Development Center (July
(Note: Live 8 concerts were held around the world this
past weekend to highlight the African continent's incredible
suffering. CLN is delighted -- and proud -- that one
industry-related company is actually doing something about the
When "Rwanda" is mentioned in the U.S., images of
genocide and deep sadness come to mind. But when
"knitting" is mentioned in Rwanda, the only images are
those of smiles, laughter, and women working together.
"This is the Rwanda I know – seeing the biggest
smile imaginable from a new knitter after finishing her first scarf,
knowing she will be now able to feed her children using her newly
acquired skills," says Cari Clement, founder of FACED, the
Fiber and Craft Entrepreneurial Development Center.
After a year of grant writing, Clement’s dream of helping women
through knitting has finally borne fruit. The United States Agency
for International Development (USAID) and Rwandans and Americans in
Partnership, a Rwanda-based non-governmental agency, are pleased to
announce the signing of a $99,000 grant to benefit Rwanda Knits, a
program developed by Clement in 2003. With this grant, 13 new, and
ultimately self-sustaining, knitting cooperatives will be
established throughout Rwanda – each group receiving 40 knitting
machines, accessories, yarn and training. Some of the cooperatives
will also receive training in and equipment for finishing knitted
goods for export. This training will include embellishing
(embroidery, crochet, etc.), labeling, inspecting, packing, and
preparation of export documents.
From the initial donation in 2003 of 90 hand-operated, U.S.-made
knitting machines and hands-on training for both refugees in Rwanda
and Rwandan women widowed by the 1994 genocide and AIDS, a culture
of knitting has been slowly developing in this small but extremely
poor country in sub-Saharan Africa.
What started out as a one-time donation to USA for UNHCR (United
Nations High Commissioner for Refugees), to benefit refugee women
living in Rwanda, changed after donor Cari Clement saw and
experienced the passion with which the new knitters took to the
machines and to knitting in general. Not only were the women fast
learners, but they were extremely persevering, determined to learn
everything they could. Within a few short months they were producing
sweaters, baby items, and blankets and selling them in the local
The obvious potential for so many women in Rwanda to earn a
living above the less-than-a-dollar-per day levels was too great for
Clement not to continue with the project. She felt there must be a
way to get more machines sent there, so, after much
grant-researching and the support of Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy’s
office, Clement focused on getting a grant from USAID to benefit
rural women in Rwanda.
Clement and her U.S.-based non-profit entity, the Fiber and Craft
Entrepreneurial Development Center (part of the Centers for Social
Responsibility, a 501c3 organization) will provide the financial
underpinnings of initial support. Other affiliated companies and
organizations, including Caron International, EDImports, and the
Business Council for Peace, will contribute to the program with yarn
donations, business expertise, market expansion, export projects,
business plan development, and more to help in generating the
additional $60,000 in cash and in-kind matching funds required by
the USAID grant.
In January, 2002, Clement sold her company, Bond America, to
Caron International, where she now serves as Director of Fashion and
Design. "I would like to thank everyone at Caron International
and National Spinning for their support in this project. They have
not only donated machines and yarn, but have allowed me to continue
with this project in my work at Caron.
"As an entrepreneur, designer, store owner and magazine
publisher in the creative industries, I have always known that
making beautiful things lifts the spirit and offers hope,"
notes Clement. "In Rwanda, I really saw it happen."
(Note: For more info, call Cari Clement at 802-229-9991, email email@example.com,
or visit www.fiberandcraft.org.
To read previous Business-Wise columns, click on the titles in the
right-hand column. To comment on this or any industry issue, email CLN
(Note: Another company, Signature Plus, is doing a similar
project, organizing village women in Zimbabwe to create handmade
paper products. The company will be exhibiting at the CHA summer
show for the first time -- booth 6505. The website is www.naturallypaper.com.)