Inspirational stories about gender-inclusive making

Christine Kutwa
Product designer, Kenya

Christine is a design entrepreneur who collaboratively works with makerspaces and hubs in Kenya to create projects that have a direct social impact in her local community. She holds a Bachelors’ Degree in Design and Applied Arts from the University of Nairobi, Kenya.

“Getting in the same field with other men competing for the same opportunity was intimidating, because I did not feel confident enough to compete with them.”

She came across her first maker space in 2018, when she visited friends at the University of Nairobi. She began by working with a laser cutter and 3D printers, creating her small designs of arts and household items. What started out as a hobby inspired her to start her own business “Kriskrafts”. Some of her work can be found on her instagram account Eventually she expanded her business to create custom made items for corporate clients 

 As digital fabrication is currently a male dominated field in Kenya, she says that it was hard as a female designer to get things started at the beginning. It was challenging for her to purchase material from the hardware stores in the downtown area of Nairobi because some of the stores are run by unscrupulous dealers and she counted several times that people in the stores would try to con her, because they assumed that as a lady she would not know the price and products well enough. Another challenge she experienced when she got involved in making was the cost of production. The material costs and the cost of renting machines in the makerspace would not allow her to make a profit . But Christine was lucky as her lab incubated her. This gave her access to machines, materials, and provided very impactful entrepreneurship training, for instance on how to introduce products to the market.

Meeting so many inspiring people with different backgrounds in the makerspace inspired her work with Fablab Winam in the western part of Kenya.

“While technology is everywhere its adoption is uneven all over the world and mostly in Kenya. So, we want to do something to balance this inequality especially in the rural communities” she says. 

She works with primary school children to teach them how to use digital fabrication tools and technology. Students learn how to tackle the challenges in their society and how to adapt to their changing environments using technology. This change in perspectives should also help them when choosing their academic majors and career paths.

From her personal experiences Christine stresses the importance of training and “intervision” in makerspaces. The advice and support of others is key in making your projects sustainable, especially when you invest all your personal resources and capital in a business.

She finally adds that women need a lot of encouragement and people who would tell you “Keep on going!”.

Message to her younger self:

Believe in yourself. Don’t be afraid of asking for help, and for what you deserve.

For further inspiration: