IBABA RWANDA: Rebirth of a community

IBABA Rwanda is the project of two French sisters with a shared passion for Rwanda, Véronique and Pascale, and their cousin Solange, who joined them recently. In 2012, they re-opened an embroidery workshop in Rutongo, a village in Rwanda. The exceptionally skilled embroiderers of this workshop had tragically stopped all activities following the genocide of 1994.

The history of the embroidery workshop in Rutongo

In the seventies, when the community of Belgian nuns from the Sisters of the Visitation lived in Rutongo, they started an embroidery training center and workshop to help young women from the village. The women were trained and then offered to work in the workshop. They earned a salary and were able to provide a source of income for their families. This initiative was an important social enterprise and represented for many years a great source of socio-economic empowerment for local young women.

The embroiderers developed an unparalleled know-how and their professionalism won praise beyond Rwanda’s borders. The best materials (Belgian linen and French DMC threads) were imported from Europe so that the finest quality of embroidery would be guaranteed, which rapidly became a trademark of the Rutongo workshop. At its best, the workshop enrolled more than 300 embroiderers.

Tragically, the genocide perpetrated against the Tutsis in 1994 put an end to this fabulous enterprise that supported the Rutongo community for so many years. The Belgian nuns moved back to Belgium and the workshop disappeared.