When: Tuesday, September 5th – Tuesday, September 19th
Why: To raise critical support for our education programs and artisan partners in Rwanda & Ghana!
At Indego Africa, we believe women and youth hold the key to long-term empowerment and social change. That’s why we provide the educational resources and business opportunities they need to create sustainable livelihoods for themselves and future generations.
Since 2007, our customized education and innovative business training programs have helped women artisans in Africa grow and scale their own businesses, become empowered entrepreneurs, and drive economic growth in their communities.
In 2015, we expanded our education programs to include Vocational Training for young women seeking career paths in the artisan sector, and Technology Training for young people in the communities where we work. Over the last two years, we’ve continued to grow our successful education programs for artisans and launch groundbreaking new initiatives to empower youth, refugees, and women across Rwanda & Ghana!
Our Refugee Vocational & Business Training Program is creating livelihoods opportunities for Burundian refugees and their families at the Mahama Refugee Camp in Rwanda.
Our new Young Leaders Academy is providing the next generation of Rwandan entrepreneurs with the advanced business and technology skills they need to succeed in the workplace.
Over the past 10 years, Indego Africa’s innovative model to provide women and youth with access to markets and education has proven highly effective at improving artisan livelihoods.
- In 2008, 100% of Indego's artisan partners fell below the International Poverty Line (making less than $1.00/day)
- By 2016, 89% of Indego's artisan partners were earning more than $2.00/day
To sustain this momentum—and empower generations of African entrepreneurs for years to come—we need your help!
From today through September 19th, we will be running our 4th Annual Back-to-School Campaign to raise support for our education programs in Rwanda & Ghana! We will be sharing personal stories and program updates over these two weeks to showcase why your support is so critical to our artisan partners across Africa.
We sat down with some of our earliest artisan partners to find out what education means to them and why they are so passionate about their work with Indego!
President of Imirasire Cooperative
Chantal Nyirabambari began partnering with Indego Africa in 2009 when she joined Imirasire Cooperative and learned how to weave. She graduated from Indego’s Leadership Academy in January of 2016 and has since been elected president of her cooperative twice! Chantal uses the business skills she’s learned from her partnership with Indego to better the management of her cooperative and her local community.
I wanted to partner with Indego because I knew they provided us with access to markets. This has enabled each woman to find work and in turn, earn money and help their families. Indego's payment system also encourages us to work hard and create good partnerships with each other. The Indego team also gives great advice! In my business and leadership classes, they are always mentoring us and providing opportunities for follow up.
Before partnering with Indego, I was a farmer and earned very little money. now, I am a business woman with a bank account! I have three houses and two motorcycles that my child and husband use, I have a television, and I have clean water and electricity in my home. I was able to purchase all of these things because I saved my money and invested the income I made from fulfilling purchase orders for Indego Africa. I am proud to say that I can also afford my child's school fees. These are not things I was able to do before working with Indego.
Indego has been my savior in terms of getting a job and earning an income. Every positive change in my life has been the result of working with Indego. I was also very happy to a part of the Leadership Academy because I got the chance to learn and receive powerful advice from members of the Indego team, including Rwanda Country Director, Rosine Urujeni.
When I was elected the president of Imirasire Cooperative for the second time, I got very emotional. It feels good to know that I am a person who is trusted by others to help lead the cooperative and the community. I am also proud to be a talented woman who helps bring money to the cooperative. By helping other people, I am building both my community and my country.
In the future, I am looking forward to living my best possible life. I have goals to finish building a third house for my family, continue mentoring new cooperative members so they can be successful, and continue saving money I make from working with Indego. I know I will be able to retire safely and successfully because I am committed to my work, patient with my life, and an active participant in my community.
On Wednesday, July 19th, we stood #WithRefugees and celebrated our remarkable artisan partners with a Photography Showcase at Creative Chaos in Brooklyn!
The gallery event that our creative team orchestrated spoke broadly to Indego’s long-term vision to empower women across Rwanda and Ghana through hard work, positivity, and teamwork. Our partnership with UNHCR working with artisans at the Mahama Refugee Camp, and the accompanying photography exhibit, are projects that we are passionate about.
With an unprecedented 22 million refugees under UNHCR’s mandate throughout the world, our work at the Mahama Refugee Camp is more important than ever.
Read on to learn more about this photography project and Indego’s work #WithRefugees.
Last year, we launched an innovative partnership with the UNHCR to provide 50 women refugees from Burundi, now living at the Mahama Refugee Camp in neighboring Rwanda, with vocational and educational training.
Our project at Mahama is focused on providing skills to and building opportunities for the women of the Akeza Cooperative. By employing these women in traditional craft and linking them to our market production, we are providing sustainable income-generating opportunities for female refugees and their families. We are looking beyond the camp and rooting their futures – and our wishes for their futures - in a combined skillset of craft + knowledge.
This photography project stems from a commitment to positive representation. These photographs aim to portray refugee women in a way that reflects courage and optimism in the face of their current challenges. As present and serious as the issues and tensions are within a refugee camp, we wanted to showcase an alternative theme: hope for the future. Having been granted access to the camp for this photography project for only a few hours at a designated time and day, we could not wait for the best light, or the best season, or the best moment to capture the best image. But we, like these women, were hopeful. With a little searching, we were able to capture the inherent beauty underlying the rows of tents and dusty roads.
Visually, the Mahama Camp is both breathtaking and overwhelming. A sea of white tents – temporary housing for new refugee arrivals – sits beneath a backdrop of mountains, perched above the clear water of the Akagera River on the border of Tanzania. Hundreds of refugees arrive daily, eeing violence and insecurity in Burundi amidst brewing political unrest.
Many of these refugees have lost nearly everything.
What they haven’t lost, they've left behind in search for a better future & a safer home.
The decision to leave was not an easy one. Many had to leave family members behind who could not travel or refused to join. Although many have found more security in the camp, they continue to make unimaginable sacrifices.
They sleep without mattresses.
They cannot afford basic necessities beyond what the camp provides.
Their children are constantly sick and suffering.
Despite this, these women are full of grace. They’ve embraced the community we’ve helped them create. They are proud of the work they do. They have future goals – to return home to Burundi, purchase land together, and build a craft business there. Akeza, the name of their cooperative, and a name they selected themselves, means, “You Must Search to Find Beauty in Life.”
These photographs tell a story of solidarity, empowerment, and bright hope for the future. We believe these images show the peaceful power of women and the silent strength found in communities of women worldwide. We hope they allow you to gain some insight into these women’s lives and identities - not just as refugees, but also as craftspeople, mothers, friends, decision makers, and leaders. We selected these moments to share because they not only capture the beauty of these women, their group, and their camaraderie, but they also show these women’s search to search their own beauty and identities amidst an uncertain future.
These women have faith in themselves.
These women have hope in each other.
These women have found strength in the community they’ve created.
These women have found solace in their work.
These women live their lives with warmth & color.
These women find joy in their lives & beauty in the face of strife.
These women look forward instead of backwards.
These women stand together because that makes them stronger.
These women are more than refugees.
Our hope is for these women to become self-reliant, whether in the camp or back in their homes in Burundi one day. Our work only scratches the surface of the community at the Mahama Refugee Camp - and for that matter, refugee camps worldwide - but we are proud of our success in transforming this small community within a greater one.
All of us can create change with our hands and with our hearts but, like the women of Akeza, we need each other.
These women may have arrived at this camp emptyhanded, but we want them to return with their hands full - able to create change for themselves and their families.
We are so excited to launch a special line of hand-embroidered children's clothes inspired by our partnership with Briar Handmade!
These adorable outfits were styled and photographed on the daughters of our artisan partners at Ibaba Cooperative in Rwanda- the amazing embroiderers behind both the Izi Collection and our collection of beautiful, handmade baby bonnets in collaboration with Briar Handmade.