As we celebrate International Women’s Day, we are highlighting the story of Elizabeth from Nyagatare District who crafts shoes from old tyres. This story was captured by Richard Aime Ingabire, our alumni from the I4Opportunities program. Richard is a student at the University of Rwanda and he works as a photographer and storyteller.
Her idea of crafting shoes from waste and repairing old ones came from her father. After her husband died, she was left with children to support and without any source of income. So, Elizabeth decided to follow her father’s steps and learned how to repair and produce shoes from unused tyres. The work wasn’t too hard for her as she had been a tailor of clothes before her husband’s passing.
The decision to start this business was difficult for Elizabeth because this is a craft and business mostly dominated by men. It was not normal to work in her community as a woman who is crafting shoes. But, her business has been successful and provides the basic needs for her family to be able to cover school fees in high school and university.
Now Elizabeth hopes to increase her savings and income in the future, so she can contribute to the development of her community.
The business is also helping to solve the problem of waste caused by used tyres by up-cycling and otherwise burnt item. Every day in sub-Saharan Africa, over one million tyres are dumped in landfills that someone’s overflow into vulnerable neighborhoods or are burnt releasing toxic fumes. In addition to that, it takes up to 80 years for a rubber tyre to decompose while polluting water, air and even become nurseries for mosquitoes that carry diseases.
International Women’s Day is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating women’s equality. And with this year’s theme being ‘break the Bias’, I think you’ll all agree that Elizabeth is showing a way for other mothers in their journeys.