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Meet Jane Uwahamahoro, a social entrepreneur promoting women artisans

Growing up in a village without her parents and raised by her grandfather and step-grandmother, Jane Uwamahoro was intimately acquainted with hardship from a young age.

“I grew up in a place where suffering was part of everyday life, especially for women,” Uwamahoro recalls. Despite these challenges, or perhaps because of them, she nurtured a dream to change the narrative for women in her community.

KU Social, born out of Uwamahoro’s vision and her experience at the Akila Institute for Women, focuses on teaching improbability skills to rural women. “Women learn on the job by producing the most innovative handcraft,” Uwamahoro explains.

The initiative doesn’t stop at craftwork; it also includes training on financial savings, leadership, and self-confidence, equipping these women to break the cycle of poverty and gain financial autonomy.

Uwamahoro’s educational journey was marked by adversity and resilience. Denied the chance to study in Kenya due to her financial situation, she found a new path at the Akila Institute, where she was supported by people who had never met her.

This act of kindness was a pivotal moment for the social entrepreneur, inspiring her to pay it forward. “I thought, if people from outside the country supported me, what should I also do to give back to my community?” she reflects.

With a modest beginning in 2015, starting with two women, two sewing machines, and a 1.5 million Rwf prize from a business idea competition, Uwamahoro has grown KU Social into a flourishing enterprise. It now boasts three market locations, including international clients in the US and Senegal, and faces the day-to-day challenges of financial management and market sustainability.

Her dream extends beyond current achievements. She envisions building a women’s center, a “big house where they can meet, learn, and enjoy themselves.” This aspiration, aimed for realization within five years, showcases her commitment to creating a lasting impact.

Throughout her journey, she has learned the importance of love, passion, and persistence in overcoming obstacles, even in the face of daunting challenges like the COVID-19 pandemic. Her enterprise not only survived but thrived, securing a crucial grant post-pandemic to reboot operations.

Uwamahoro’s message to young girls and women in rural areas resonates with empowerment and self-reliance.

“Don’t let your background determine your future,” she advises. Her story is a testament to the belief that with hard work, determination, and a sense of responsibility for one’s future, it is possible to transcend hardships and contribute meaningfully to one’s community.

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