"I am now a well-to-do woman. I can eat what I want, wear what I want. I am confident, independent, and self-sufficient. I think back to what I was like only a few years ago and I do not recognize myself. And that is a good thing." – Domitille, 49, President of Hope Cooperative.
Landlocked and the most densely populated country in Africa, Rwanda still bears scars from the 1994 Genocide. And yet, Rwanda has worked tirelessly over the last 18 years to grow into a shining continental star, with policies prioritizing anti-corruption, ease of doing business, education, and gender equality.
It is in this remarkable context that Indego Africa partners with more than 400 women artisans who run nine for-profit cooperatives: Cocoki (Kigali), Covanya (Nyamata), Twiyubake (Kayonza), Abasangiye (Kayonza), Imirasire (Mayange), and the cooperatives of the Ingenzi Knit Union – Hope, Hoziana, Mpore Mama, Susuruka (Kigali and Mayange).
These women are not Indego Africa's artisans and they are not Indego Africa's employees. They are Indego Africa's business partners, and with access to export markets and education, they are lifting themselves and their communities out of poverty.
Indego Africa's artisan partners are starting from the most difficult of circumstances. Many are widows from the 1994 Genocide, sole providers in their households (supporting an average of 5.5 dependents), have little formal education, have inadequate or unavailable healthcare, and struggle with HIV/AIDS.
But with determination and humor, Indego Africa's artisan partners are reclaiming control over their futures. And each woman has an opportunity to translate her experiences of financial security and increased productivity into a lasting sense of self-worth and pride, knowing that she can accomplish anything by working together with others and relying on her own strength.
Indego Africa developed its business model before it choose Rwanda as its implementation partner country. The reasons why Indego Africa picked Rwanda are many:
- Corruption in Rwanda is among the lowest in all of Africa.
- Rwanda was ranked one of the top ten global reformers in the World Bank Doing Business Survey 2010, and second global reformer out of 183 countries.
- In the World Bank’s 2012 index of 183 countries, Rwanda was ranked 45th easiest place to do business worldwide, and 8th easiest place to start a business.
- In 2003, Rwanda adopted one of the world’s most progressive constitutions for women’s representation with 56% female representation in Parliament.
- Rwanda’s 3 year GDP growth rate is the highest among major African economies and neighboring countries, with 7.1% average year-on-year GDP growth since 2004 and a stable inflation and exchange rate.
- Average per capita income has more than doubled since 1994.
- One-third of households in Rwanda are headed by women, which are 12% more likely than those headed by men to fall below the poverty line.