The Smile of Empowered Women

Monday 22nd August – Kigali – RWANDA

I spent a few hours in the company of the women of the Nyamirambo Women’s Centre (NWC) last Monday morning.

After having briefly met them and visited their neighbourhood on my first day in Kigali, I wanted to get closer to their work and skills.


I wanted to zoom-in on the intricate, laborious movements of their hands on the sewing machines, and observe the waves of their needle drawing coloured threads into the vibrant pieces of fabric.

The fabric arrives at the office in big, brown cardboard boxes. From the moment the high piles of flat, packed fabric layers cross the shop room and arrive in the first working room, the women transform that tidiness by adding their creativity to those silent layers of colours.

They will cut, re-shape, stitch together, add volume and depth to otherwise anonymous pieces of cotton, providing them with a new identity.

The women will give life to all sorts of items from bags to dresses, from hats to necklaces, from purses to hairbands. They have also developed a collection of wild animals, like giraffes and elephants, that watch you from the shelves.


Discovering our creativity makes us happier individuals, I believe, but the smiles of those women in Nyamirambo, that I captured on my camera and saw with my own eyes – those smiles feel different.

They are not only the smiles of people satisfied with their creations, but I sense a deep-rooted pride and a calm affirmation of self-esteem.

There is a strength behind the shyness of their self-containment and discretion. Those women have been empowered by their collective work and have grown in their independence over time. They dress up to go to work, honour their skills and value their own professional efforts.

I have disturbed the busy women to ask them questions, taking shots and observing their work from close up.

Even so, they have continued their work diligently and professionally, undisturbed by the interest shown by the many tourists that come to visit – either as a part of the walking tour or as potential customers of the shop. They don’t seem to need the appreciation and recognition of the visitors: they have already acquired that, by themselves.


A constant, but gentle, buzz fills the two main rooms where the women are at work. It is produced by the machines running, the scissors cutting, and the irons flattening, and it is steadily supported by the beautiful and silent smiles of each one of the women.


If you want to know more about the Nyamirambo Women’s Centre visit their website.


1 Comment

  • Thank you very much Elisa for visiting the Nyamirambo Women's Center and for the beautiful story . Many thanks.🙏🙏🙏

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