The Seamstress Project “Hope Designers”

Hope Designers is a social enterprise supported by Kar Geno that provides training and employment to HIV positive mothers in Kisumu, west Kenya. The project seeks to end the stigma associated with HIV by demonstrating that HIV positive mothers are resilient, industrious and capable.

It was born out of the need and our desire to help HIV positive mothers make sustainable income, so that they can be independent and able to support their families. Our vision is to create a world where women can create social change through economic empowerment. To bring this vision into reality, we empower vulnerable women in need of socio-economic independence through entrepreneurship. All of the women in our project are HIV-positive mothers.


 “Women are frequently the worst affected when it comes to unemployment and poverty.”

Without any income of their own, women depend on men for everything. If the men are also unemployed, matters get worse, and poverty can be severe. Empowerment of women through self-reliance and financial independence can be achieved by providing business development skills and training. Using the skills and knowledge they have acquired, women can either start up their own small business or take a job.

We produce original items such as handbags, purses, backpacks, aprons, skirts and shirts from African “Kitenge” prints that meet international standards and market demands. Our products are unique and of high quality.

As a social enterprise we ensure that Hope Designers’ members are paid a fair price for their products, which includes payment for pension contributions, sick and annual leave, and insurance contributions for medical expenses. All remaining profits are re-invested into the project. HIV positive women in our project are trained for embroidery, arts and design skills as well as tailoring. The course duration is 6 months for basic cutting and sewing. The participants can then progress to the next level which is training in detailed art and creativity.

Hope Designers too rely on the microfinance. The members set up a dedicated table-banking group which helps them save money and issue loans when needed. By contributing frequent savings installments, each member accumulates shares in the fund. When a member decides to leave the programme, the fund is used to purchase a sewing machine for the departing woman, so that she can start her own micro business and leave not only with an improved set of skills, but also with a tool for the future.

Hope Designers is a supplier of our seamstress products globally through our partner organizations and volunteers. Our past volunteers also provide guidance and expertise on a voluntary basis.

To see some examples of our products and to get to know the members of the group please visit:

Please contact us if you are interested in becoming a retailer of our products.

Meet Our Hope Designers Women

Our sewing mothers are defying stereotypes. Here are some of their stories….


Beatrice was married in 1987 and in 1994 her husband became very ill. “Suspecting it was HIV, I carried him to the hospital on my back. I hid along the way so people in my community would not suspect he was sick, it was so shameful to be HIV positive. In 1995 my husband died of complications related to HIV. We had three children and they also died, though I cannot be sure that it was HIV that killed them.

In keeping with local tradition I was given three other children to take care of. Such was the shame associated with HIV, it was not until 1999 that I went to get tested, the tests came back positive. I kept the secret of my status for 13 years. I began sewing chair cushions to make enough money to buy food, the work offered little returns, and often I was not paid at all. I also began caring for other sick members of my community. Since joining Hope Designers, I have been able to provide for my family and educate my community about HIV-related issues.”


Mildred is 37 years old, has four children and has been a widow since 2003. Mildred found out she was HIV-positive in 2006. Before working at Hope Designers she was a door-to-door hawker selling second-hand children’s clothing. Hope Designers has given Mildred the opportunity to support her family and community.


Judith has been HIV+ since 2005 and is an important member of the Hope Designers family. “In 2014 I joined Hope Designers. It has helped me a lot, now I have the money to care for my family and buy the right foods to help with my condition. I thank God for Hope Designers because it has helped me and women like me so much.” 


Celine is an HIV+ Hope Designer, “Hope Designers has helped me to provide food and clothes for my family and now we can afford to send my children to school. It has made such a difference in my life and in the lives of other women like me.”


Pauline was born in 1976 in Kisumu and was married in 1996. She has 3 sons and lived with her husband until 2004. “He was getting sick and I started to get sick too. That was when I went to get tested for HIV. At the end of 2004 I found out I had HIV. I told my husband but he did not believe me. We got divorced because of that. From there I lived with my children and I was working at my church but they only paid me a small amount a month. Then I joined Hope Designers to sew bags in 2015 and this work has helped me because I am able to provide everything for my children and pay the house rent and also buy things for myself. Hope Designers and Kar Geno has helped me a lot.

My husband is very sick and in bed because he had a stroke. He is helped by his family. My community loves me and I have educated them about HIV they can see my health is going well and are close to me.

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