Increasing resilience of vulnerable women to the socio-economic impact of COVID19 crisis in Rwanda

Date: Wednesday, May 6, 2020

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Women tailors producing protective cloth masks for general public use in Rwanda. Photo: Gahaya Links

Kigali, Rwanda: Ishimwe Fabiola is a 22 year old student. After being trained by her mother on tailoring during her spare time, she was happy to be part of the women making protective masks for general public use. This was following the Government’s directive on the mandatory wearing of masks in public as an additional COVID-19 precautionary measure. She makes between 4000 to 5000 Rwandan francs every day, and by doing this, she managed to provide food for her family during the lockdown while also saving. She is so proud to be among the people actively helping to stop the spread of COVID-19 and she urges the youth to learn different skills that could prove useful in times of crisis.

Ishimwe is among hundreds of women tailors across Rwanda who are navigating this time of economic uncertainty by producing re-usable protective cloth masks for the public, while also strengthening their income-generating skills hence reducing their vulnerability to the socio-economic impact of the COVID-19 crisis.

This initiative is part of UN Women’s efforts in collaboration with New Faces New Voices to support and complement national efforts on health, socio-economic impact and social protection due to the crisis.Through Gahaya Links, a women-owned business, the project aims to not only enhance prevention measures to reduce the spread of COVID-19 infection in communities, but also support women-owned businesses and income generation and employment of vulnerable women.

"The barrier masks made in Rwanda by women come in handy to ensure women in the informal sector and in cooperatives protect themselves and protect peer workers, and also offer women an opportunity to work and earn an income," says Dr. Monique NSANZABAGANWA, Chairperson of New FacesNew Voices in Rwanda.

The partnership allowed the production and distribution of 30,000 masks to vulnerable women and their households, in the City of Kigali. Masks being produced are also sold to various institutions and people.

"Over 250 women have earned a much-needed income from this contribution of protective masks by UN Women Rwanda and New Faces New Voices to the City of Kigali.  Gahaya Links is happy and proud to partner in this great initiative and putting more women to work, especially during such difficult economic times for Rwanda and the world,"says Janet Nkubana, Co-Founder and Managing Director at Gahaya Links Ltd.

Effects of the health and socio-economic crisis linked to the COVID-19 pandemic are expected to be substantial in economies with a large informal sector. In Rwanda for instance, 74 per cent of women are in informal businesses, living on a daily basis without any savings or social protection, exposing them to not only greater economic vulnerability but also to Gender-Based Violence and sexual abuse. 

Fatou Lo, UN Women Representative in Rwanda notes that women are, and will be the hardest hit by this pandemic,but they will also be the backbone of recovery in communities.Therefore, every response that recognizes this will be more impactful. 

‘‘We salute the Government’s authorization granted to several companies for the local production of protective masks and personal protective equipments, UN Women calls on all these companies to hire female workers as a way to mitigate the socio economic impact on women and their families. We can build a better and more resilient economy by addressing inequalities in the response and recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic,’’ says Fatou Lo.