A Social Business Incubator In The Eastern Congo

Shalom: designing and dyeing fabric


Shalom is a group of fifteen women who design, produce and sell colourful fabrics called Buisa that are used locally for dressmaking. The business is run by Narcisse and is located in Mudaka, a small town of about 10,000 people located 30 kilometres from Bukavu in South Kivu.

The women dye plain fabric imported from Burundi and elsewhere to produce authentic African designs that are sold in the markets at a price that can be afforded even by those women with little income. The designs express the vibrancy of the Congolese and are much preferred to the pre-printed fabrics from China.

Narcisse started Shalom in February 2014 having previously studied in Kampala, Uganda where she acquired the art and techniques for dyeing African cloth. When she returned home to South Kivu she passed on her learning to other women and together they started Shalom.

In July 2015, Ensemble provided a loan to finance increases in production and a second loan in July 2016 to upgrade the buildings and production facilities. All the way through Ensemble helped Narcisse with mentoring and business advice and with planning for development. A market garden using the land next to the buildings is now producing fruit and vegetables for the women to take home along with payment for their work

Narcisse has a vision to create a company that not only earns money for the women, but enables them to learn skills and become know for their designs. So she is increasingly using fabric that contains bazin, a polished brocade that integrates fine patterns and enables Shalom to produce more detailed designs. In this way she hopes to enrich the skill-base and reputation for quality work

The financial benefit to the women and their families is very tangible. There are very few jobs in Mudaka and working at Shalom carries prestige. The benefits also include the increased confidence and sense of future felt by the women who see their work is in demand and their creativity is valued. In a tangible way, Shalom enables the women to express themselves and have a voice in a chauvinistic culture and grindingly poor environment.

Most poignantly Shalom is also a community of women that help each other in times of difficulty. They will spare a little money for someone in need, look after each other’s babies and provide comfort in times of tragedy, which sadly are all too common.