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Nyamirambo Women’s Center: A true model for empowering women through tourism

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Looking at the Rwanda Tourism Map, Nyamirambo Women’s Center (NWC) is in Kigali Hub, the capital city of Rwanda. NWC is a Rwandan NGO launched at the end of 2007 by 18 women living in Nyamirambo suburb of Kigali (www.nwc-umutima.org).

Rwanda Tourism Map

At the beginning, these committed ladies were driven by the joint vision of addressing gender-based violence, gender inequality and discrimination, which were identified as problems faced by many Rwandan women. NWC’s mission was and still is to provide education and training to disadvantaged women so that they can gain better opportunities for employment.

To fulfil its mission, NWC offers to the community a range of activities, such as free classes in literacy, English, basic computer skills, handicrafts, sewing, hairdressing, empowerment training on gender-based violence and training on community-based tourism.

During its early days, after training several ladies in tailoring, NWC realized that the majority of them were not easily finding jobs or did not have the financial means to set up their own sewing business. So since then, NWC started a Tailoring workshop under the name of Umutima Cooperative (the heart, as in Rwandan culture we relate women with the heart of the family). This model of women’s empowerment was crafted with the idea of creating jobs and improve life for those trained ladies and others in the neighbourhood of Nyamirambo.  Just as little by little a child moves from crawling to running or a bird builds its nest, NWC moved to extend its mission. On top of sewing, NWC started community-based tourism to talk tourists through the amazing story of the Center and helping them to experience the neighbourhood of Nyamirambo – a vibrant part of old Kigali. NWC introduced the Nyamirambo community walks, cooking classes and live basket weaving   as well as good quality “Made in Rwanda” products available at the Center.

NWC now has 73 female members, and employs 55 both permanent and casual workers, and reaches out to around 400 beneficiaries.

Nyamirambo Women’s Center: Office, workshop, and souvenir shop

Little by little, a little becomes a lot. The NWC has kept working hard and has made a bid step in their businesses and are now in VAT- another level showing a good move for tac payers. This shows the success made by these incredible ladies who used to be jobless and are now entrepreneurs able to create sustainable jobs and opportunities not only for their neighbourhood or city but also for the whole country, as they work in partnerships with other organizations such as IVOMO in South-West Rwanda and Red Rocks Initiatives in the North of the country to inspire ladies in remote areas.

NWC is well known and appreciated not only by many tour operators and tour guides but also by tourists of all kinds from high end to back-packers.  It is a place that provides an amazing experience that everyone could enjoy; diplomats, celebrities and ordinary people look forward to visiting and take their friends and families there. It is one of the places to go to – an experience not to miss in your lifetime.

From booking to the actual experience, you will receive a good service, a warm welcome by members and leaders, and a memorable experience in a tour guided by knowledgeable ladies.

Like any other organizations, NWC has been affected by COVID-19 but kept going throughout. It produced facemasks and this helped the organization to generate income and secure jobs. This plan plus support from the Peace Institute and the Slovenian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, who had a project with us to train women in sewing, hairdressing, and literacy, helped in meeting the costs of renting the office and workshops, and buying food for needy members and other communities in the neighbourhood.

NWC was honoured to make napkins, which were used for a dinner attended by His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales during CHOGM, and they received a message of appreciation from him. (He is of course now, King of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.)

NWC believes in continuous growth and building client-based tourism products. So, more tourism products are under development such as the Nyamirambo night tour and the Nyamirambo long walk. At the same time existing tourism products are being improved ready be launched in December 2022. This is in the spirit of continuously providing a memorable experience to their clients.

“Tourism has contributed a lot to us in many ways such as financial resilience for NWC to fulfil its mission which is to provide education and training to disadvantaged women to help them to gain better opportunities for employment. This sector has created jobs and empowered women economically as they earn income and pay school fees and health insurance for their families. These women are socially and psychologically empowered in a way that they feel important in their families and have decision-making power. It has helped women to build ownership and management skills to manage their own organizations and develop their sense of responsibility. We contribute to the environment protection through making reusable bags from kitenge and banana leaves.  (By using our bags, we teach people to reduce the amount of trash, to reuse things that otherwise would have been thrown out and to recycle some things that might have seemed old and useless.) Tourism has contributed to building social relationships for those women, as well as cultural exchange between tourists and us. It has contributed to the visibility of NWC and the country’s image”, said Mary Nyangoma, the Projector Manager in NWC.

Nyamirambo Women’s Center has demonstrated beyond doubt that women can play a vital role in the development of a sustainable tourism. It has also been a great example of how tourism can empower women, and we would urge other tourism organisations to embrace gender and inclusiveness to improve community livelihoods and a strong economy.

“Women are good players in the tourism development and tourism is a good source of jobs, opportunities, and income for women and builds confidence and empowers women in leadership. -Now NWC/Umutima leads the Rwanda Community Tourism Association/RCTA” said Marie Aimée, the founding member and General Manager of Umutima/NWC and the president of RCTA.

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