Rosette Uwifashije, 30, who lost her sight in 2000 due to illness, can skillfully pass a thread through the eye of a needle with the same speed and dexterity of a clear-sighted person.
A resident of the Muhanga district, in southern Rwanda, Uwifashije has set up a tailoring business knitting different styles and also trains other people despite her disability. Uwifashije told Xinhua she once struggled to make a living. At the family and society level, she also had to deal with stigma and neglect.
Navigating these affected Uwifashije’s spirit and she despaired that she would be unable to achieve her life’s dreams. But after being introduced to Masaka Resource Centre in the Kigali by a friend, her life has since changed. She is one of the select blind women that were supported by Rwanda Union of the Blind (RUB) to build independent lives and realise their potential through the donor-funded Dream project.
The centre ensures rehabilitation support that helps individuals with visual impairment to learn reading and writing Braille, which change their lives. Besides orientation and mobility lessons on how to use a white cane, the center also helps visually impaired persons to build up their independence by introducing new practical skills such as crop and livestock farming.
Thanks to the center's orientation and mobility training, Uwifashije was able to overcome self-pity, move around independently, engage in farming and other activities. Seeking to fulfill her dreams, she later pursued a one-year tailoring course at a technical school in Rubavu, graduating with a certificate.
“The training from Masaka Resource Center was enough to build on,” she said.
“I had to work very hard to pass the tailoring course. The school was far from my home but I was determined to study,” she said. Uwifashije has now set up her own business, and offers skills to many people in her home village.
“I am able to knit different styles depending on clients’ choice,” she said, and to boost her income stream, she trains people in tailoring. “I have mastered the use of a sewing machine normally meant for clear-sighted people,” she said.
Her trainees include visually impaired people recommended by the RUB. “I find a sense of purpose and connection with the rest of the people, and more confident and inspired to pursue my dream,” said Uwifashije. She knits clothes for residents and students’ uniforms.
In 2019, Uwifashije was among the winners of Rwanda’s Youth Connect Awards for overcoming challenges to build entrepreneurship, walking away with Rwf500,000 ($488), which boosted her business and welfare.
In 2021, she achieved another milestone when she got married, acquired a plot of land and is able to pay school fees for her younger sister. Donatile Kanimba, the executive director of Rwanda Union of the Blind, said the project was initiated to empower persons living with visual impairment to live independent lives instead of being a burden to family and friends.