Ki-pepeo by Priscilla Ruzibuka, a children’s clothing line that is transforming the lives of poor women.
Kipepeo means butterfly in Swahili. The butterfly is that it does not start its life as a butterfly but as a caterpillar. The caterpillar undergoes a metamorphosis process which transforms it into a beautiful butterfly. Priscilla wants to be able to help women go through a somewhat similar transformation that will permanently change their lives for the better.
“I grew up seeing this kind of transformation take place with my nanny, Angela. My mother brought her to our house from a poor village somewhere in rural Tanzania to help her look after me from the time that I was born.”
When Priscilla got to 1 and a half years, her parents decided to take me to daycare so Angela found herself with a lot of free time in her hands. Priscilla´s mother then decided to enrol her in a technical college where she gained good tailoring skills. She would drop me off at the daycare center in the morning, head to her classes and later pick up Priscilla after her classes. It was not long before she was sewing shirts, blouses and dresses for everyone in the house. Upon realizing how good she was, they decided to set up a makeshift shop right in front of our house where Angela would exercise her new skills.
The family lived in an estate where many university students and lecturers lived so there was a lot of human traffic outside the house. As you can imagine, she became a big name. She was the go-to tailor that everyone wanted to give work to. Today, she is very successful. Angela now has her own tailoring shop with 4 full-time employees and owns her own home.
The story of Angela inspired Priscilla. The business is continuing and even growing.
There has been an amazing transformation in the lives of the women working for Ki-pepeo. One of them borrowed money from the company- which she repays on a monthly basis- to buy for the husband a motorcycle to ferry people to and from different destinations so that he could earn an income. The husband has been jobless for a long time and it was always a fight in the house on how to spend what she was earning. The husband now has a steady income, pays school fees for the children and recently they moved to a better-rented house that is closer to work. Another woman was able to quit her job as domestic help and is now working full time for us. She has managed to rent a house here in Kigali, sends money back to her parents in the village and is supporting her siblings’ education.
Currently, I have 3 full-time and 3 part-time women tailors and a young lady who manages the shop and supports our marketing. I chose to work with women because I am so passionate about empowering them. So when I started Ki-pepeo I wanted to help the women and my desire to have a children’s clothing line helped me to achieve this.
I am grateful that the company is expanding and this gives me the opportunity to work and impact more women.
Ki-pepeo is a children’s clothing line that uses locally available raw materials to make clothes and works with women from poor backgrounds. The women work as full-time and part-time tailors.