In 1985, Musaga was one of the poorest neighborhoods in the outskirts of Bujumbura. It was chosen as a pilot in an urban renewal project for the periphery of the Burundian capital. Different projects were planned and carried out: schools and a health centre were built and Musaga was supplied with water and electricity. Living conditions in Musaga improved, but the huge rate of unemployment persisted, especially among young women. Most of these girls and young women had not gotten the chance to go to school and quite some of them were unmarried and unemployed
mothers. Ideas for training and employment opportunities were
developed. A Belgian NGO VVOB and the ‘chef de zone’ in Musaga set up a textile project. Their first step was to find a Burundian woman, living in the neighbourhood and mastering sewing and printing techniques. This was an important step because it turned out to be the guarantee for the
sustainability of the project, even long after the European development workers left. The Centre Artisanal de Musaga (CAM) was born, also thanks to funding from the Netherlands and the European Union.
The first group of 15 women was trained during 1986: they got a technical training in sewing, printing on textile or pottery. Afterwards they learned commercial skills and got assistance in setting up their own businesses. All the products they created were sold in the shop of the Centre Artisanal.
Only a few years later the Centre Artisanal was an autonomous centre, independent of external financing and providing a monthly salary to the employed women. More groups were trained and more girls and women found a way to earn their living.
Unfortunately the civil war caused a break in the activities of the Centre Artisanal. Until that time the Centre was ethnically mixed: Hutu and Tutsi women worked and lived together peacefully. During the civil war Musaga was declared an exclusively Tutsi neighbourhood and all the Hutu women, including the coordinator of the Centre were forced to leave.
The activities started again in full force in 2003 with 23 women ready to pick up their work again. All of these women got their training before the war and knew how CAM worked. They came from different ethnic backgrounds, which was a clear sign of the openness of the Centre. In 2005 a new group could be trained, in 2006 and 2008 more trainings followed. In total the Centre has trained more than 80 women. Today, in 2011, almost 60 of them are still working there. Others started their own business in elsewhere, and some of the oldest women retired or died. During the first half of 2011, a new project was added to the activities of the Centre Artisanal: another group of women from Musaga was trained to set up a restaurant and catering service.