Visiting More Than Sparrows — A Collective of Former Sex Workers

Some of the More Than Sparrows women beading outside their workshop.

A few days ago I visited More Than Sparrows in Kigali, Rwanda, a privately run collective of former sex workers in Rwanda who make and sell crafts to stores, restaurants, and an online store in Toronto. When I arrived all the women were out for lunch but the manager, Jane, showed me the workshops and the stores and explained the organization and the work they do. It was founded by Western Christian Missionaries but they left it behind to Jane a few years ago. Most of the women who work there now were recruited when it started and have now been with the organization anywhere between 5 and 8 years. Most of them have kids and all of them have left sex work behind, Jane said. The name comes from a Bible quote, and Jane said though the organization is no longer explicitly about religion, they often “do devotions” together, singing and reading passages from the bible. When the women came back they were at first resistant to talk, but once they separated out into their work they were more willing to tell me their stories, translated by Jane, about their pasts, how they found More Than Sparrows, and their favorite crafts to do. They make necklaces, pillowcases, clothes, lampshades, art, earrings, and many other items.

-Ema O’Connor