We continue to need your financial help to ensure a better life for people like Esperance and to grow the workshop so that more can benefit. To donate please go to or
Imagine life without
Every month the vast majority
of women and girls
in the Democratic Republic of Congo make do -
with rags, dried dung, grass, leaves
simply don't leave home whilst menstruating
Our sewing workshop is now testing our very own washable reusable pads
- another life changing project
Covid 19 is now in our area so production of sanitary pads has halted temporarily in favour of manufacturing face masks - we still need your help - please donate if you can
Life in Congo is not easy and our sewing workshop has had more than its fair share of problems but we're really excited to now have a prototype sanitary pad being tested. We had to find a product that the local population needed and we have to make it affordable.
We're currently selling about 150 pads a month at $3 for a pack of three. For the vast majority that is still unaffordable and we have yet to solve the problem of sourcing a waterproof membrane as there is absolutely nothing available in DRC.
At the moment we are dependent on filling our ruck sacks with off cuts donated by a sportswear company but it has provided us with enough samples to carry out our tests
Narcisse came up with the idea of sanitary pads in late 2017 but was not in a position to do anything about it, so progress has been painfully slow.
However a wonderful young lady based in London, Giulietta, has volunteered to act as her mentor and is guiding Narcisse through producing a business plan and encouraging her to carry out market research and branding as well as trying to find a solution for sourcing the waterproof liner.
Thanks to our ATS® community and Ensemble Pour La Difference our sewing machines are now installed in a small workshop in Bukavu at the southern tip of Lake Kivu, where a couple of ladies make up the test pads, which is safer than our previous locations in Sake and Goma
If we can find solutions imagine what we can do
This project could be big - there are thousands of girls who have to miss school one week in every month and thousands of women who can't leave home to go to market to earn money for their family
We need to raise money to purchase a bolt/s of waterproof lining and cover the costs of shipping to Rwanda, which does have a reliable connection with worldwide postal services, so that one of our team can cross the border from Congo to pick it up and safely bring it back to our workshop
If you would like to empower women in Kivu please help us to provide that waterproof membrane and donate whatever you can now
for donations in US $
for donations in GBP £
To those of you who have already donated, thank you!
You have made the workshop a reality and given hope to the women and their families.
The Background to Our Story
During 2015 the ATS® community raised $11,500 towards the target of $15,000 – which was enough to start our sewing workshop in a single storey building in the centre of Sake. It opened its doors at the end of December 2015 and employed six women under the supervision of Antoinette an expert dressmaker living in Goma.
The early reports were encouraging with the workshop taking orders to make dresses and school uniforms
This was real progress in a town that has been occupied by several different militia in recent years. There are still rebel soldiers in the hills a few kilometres to the north.
Insecurity has blighted life for many women in Sake with many hundreds having suffered torture and sexual abuse, including some of the women employed in the ATS® sewing workshop who have been raped by soldiers
One of them is Esperance, aged 24 and a mother of four children. She was dragged into bushes when searching for firewood for her family and violated by armed men. We have been told her suffering was cruel and degrading and afterwards she needed medical and psychological treatment.
She is by no means the only one and our workshop gave a few of these women the opportunity to earn money, provide for their families and reintegrate into society.
On one trip to Sake, in North Kivu Kelley spent an afternoon teaching them to make dance pantaloons from the hand dyed fabric produced by another of Ensemble's projects. However, it proved difficult to export the pantaloons without a postal system and there are only so many pairs you can carry in a rucksack.
Sadly the situation in Sake worsened with the rebel soldiers affecting the local community, economy and our security.
So it was with a heavy heart that we decided to leave Sake and set up again in nearby Goma
We took on a young University graduate Yvonne who's role was to generate sales. She opened a shop with the workshop in the back and started manufacturing clothing for sale alongside Narcisse's hand dyed fabrics and Olivier's handmade leather sandals (another Ensemble project).
The great news is Narcisse and Olivier met, fell in love, got married and now have a baby daughter.
The bad news is that Yvonne also married and had to move to Burkina Faso with her new husband and once again security was a huge problem.
In the meantime Narcisse had come up with the idea of making washable sanitary pads