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A Note From Our CEO

Passion for education runs in my family. My parents were both teachers and from a young age they instilled in me a deep love of learning and a strong work ethic. As I grew older, I began to understand the powerful opportunities that education offers those lucky enough to receive it – for me: career choices, financial independence, and a sense of self-empowerment. I also became acutely aware of the uneven distribution of these opportunities around the world, particularly for women.

I left for college with this awareness top of mind. While afterwards I decided to go to business school and pursue a career on Wall Street, I always knew that one day I would work to provide women around the world with the educational opportunities I had had.

Fast-forward to 2011 when, after 24 years working at Merrill Lynch, I decided it was time to make a change. After exploring a range of organizations working towards social good, I came across Indego Africa. A nonprofit that was seeking to empower women in Rwanda through business and education? I was sold. 

Three years later, and now as CEO, I have seen firsthand the power of this model to make a deep impact in the lives of women in Rwanda. Today, 64% of our artisan partners are the primary income earners in their families, 77% are able to send all of their children to school, and 90% can afford medical insurance. These are only a few examples of the ways in which these women are lifting themselves out of poverty and creating brighter futures for their families.

Spending time in Rwanda and meeting the incredible women we partner with, I have been deeply moved by their resilience, determination, and sheer ingenuity in the face of trying circumstances. Despite the different contexts in which we live, it is inspiring to be able to relate to one another over what it’s like to provide for a family, be a working mother, or make sacrifices for one’s children. One of the things I am most inspired by is just how far they have come with their educations.

With only a few years of basic education training, many of these women are “dreaming dreams they did not know it was possible to dream” (to quote from one of our artisan partners, Emelienne.) They have already begun to start new businesses and take on leadership roles in their communities. I am deeply proud that today, many of these women have asked us to help them take their educations to the next level.  

That is why, this fall, we are launching a Leadership Academy to provide them with the advanced business and leadership training they need to thrive as successful, independent businesswomen and entrepreneurs. By empowering these women with the confidence and skills to assume enhanced leadership roles in their communities, we hope to grow the next generation of female leaders and change-makers in Rwanda.

I encourage you to think about what your education has done for you, and how much your support could do for these incredible women in Rwanda. The possibilities are endless.

Make their dreams a reality by donating to our Leadership Academy!

#leadership academy, #inspiring, #artisans, #education

Emelienne

Emelienne Nyiramana is the founder of Cocoki – the first cooperative we partnered with when we began our journey in Rwanda in 2007. Emelienne is one of our many artisan partners whose education was abruptly interrupted by the 1994 genocide. When several of her family members were killed, Emelienne was forced into a life of day-to-day survival – eluding génocidaires in fields and scrambling to eke together enough money and food to survive.

Today, Emelienne embodies the notion of empowerment. Since beginning our education programs, she has taught herself how to speak fluent English, studied for (and received!) her GED, graduated from Goldman Sachs’ 10,000 Women initiative, and become a trusted leader, mentor, and role model to countless women in her community and beyond.

We are honored to have Emelienne serve as a Teaching Assistant for our Leadership Academy. In this position, she will assist the Head Teacher in lesson planning & instruction, and serve as a pillar of support and guidance for students.  

We asked her to share a few words with us about why she is excited for this opportunity. Here is what she had to say:

Why do you want to you want to serve as a Teaching Assistant for the Leadership Academy? 

I improved my knowledge so much through the Indego Africa’s trainings. I want to help other women achieve their dreams through the Leadership Academy. 

Why is education important to you?

Education is very important to me because it helped me to be the person I am today, and be where I am today.

What are your goals for your children’s futures?

I want my children to go all the way through university and have any future of their choosing.

What are your goals for your own future?

My goals are to make every woman empowered, teaching them about business, and advising everyone of them to go to school.

By helping Emelienne achieve her dreams, you will help countless other women empower themselves through the education. Donate to our Leadership Academy today!

#education, #psxindegoafrica, #impact, #leadership academy

P.S. - We’re Going Back-to-School!

P.S.- I Made This... supports our Leadership Academy - find out why!

This summer, we collaborated with P.S.- I made this… on a line of vibrant, fun, & vividly colored hand-embroidered patches! As part of this partnership, Erica Domesek, the innovative DIY brand’s founder, traveled to Rwanda to meet our local team, visit our partner cooperatives, and see Indego Africa’s work in action. 

On her last day in Rwanda, Erica taught a class to fourteen of our artisan partners on creativity, branding, and starting your own business. The lesson was a precursor to the official launch of our Leadership Academy, which will provide advanced business training to our talented, entrepreneurial, and inspirational artisan partners. We were SO excited about how the class went that we wanted to hear all about it firsthand. We stopped by the P.S.- World Craftquarters to chat with Erica about her experiences in Rwanda and put the PSxIndegoAfrica patches to good use! If you donate any amount between today and Friday 9/12, you will be entered to win our signature Back-to-School backpack, decorated by Erica herself! 

When you were in Rwanda, you taught a spirited and inspiring class to our artisan partners on how you built your brand and the lessons you’ve learned along the way. What was this experience like for you?

This was one of the most memorable experiences ever.  It was an honor being in the presence of such talented women who were passionate about their craft. Being a part of their close community and speaking to them about my world was a new experience, mainly because we spoke two different languages. At first I thought it would be difficult to communicate, however there was an inherent sense of business, a shared passion to create, and a desire to learn from one another that made the day a beautiful experience that I will forever keep close to my heart.

When we hear the word education we think of opportunity and empowerment. What does education mean to you and how has it helped you become the person you are today?

The word education means something different to me everyday, as I am always evolving and try to learn something new each day. Having a diverse set of interests, as well as the ability to join a conversation while being open to listening to others, has helped me develop a deeper knowledge and capacity to expand comprehension of subjects into real life learning. Someone once told me: "talk once, listen twice" - meaning you will grow as an individual if you listen deeper and more thoughtfully. We, as humans, want to absorb as much knowledge as we can. Knowledge is power, and the most powerful thing is to pass on this knowledge to others. 

From branding to budgets, our artisan partners are excited to learn the ins and outs of all things business. What was your favorite subject to study in school and why? 

My favorite subjects were always Art and English. Finding an outlet for my creative side was important in my early development. At the time, I had no clue how these subjects would play such a prominent role in my career, however my parents always supported my creative side and encouraged me to take part in the Arts. I'm a firm believer that empowering one's passions from an early age is essential in our personal growth and evolution.

As someone who is deeply familiar with our work in Rwanda {having seen it all firsthand!}, why do you think it’s important for people to support our Leadership Academy? 

For me, it's as simple as the golden rule. We were taught: "One should treat others as one would like others to treat oneself." Spending time in a developing country where there is a lack of resources like education, technology, finances, etc. one can only think how lucky we are to grow up in a country where we are blessed with the fortune of education.  If the roles were reversed, and Americans did not have such prosperous opportunities, we would probably dream to have support, help, and guidance in our day-to-day from others who were successful in these areas.  It is in the spirit of giving and the thoughtfulness of humanity that I whole-heartedly feel a responsibility to contribute to the building blocks of the Leadership Academy.  Seeing actual results from our support and watching these women go back to their cooperatives and apply business practices and implement new ideas is a beautiful thing. 

Donate to our Leadership Academy anytime today through 9/12 – you’ll be supporting an amazing cause & be entered to win an awesome backpack - made in Rwanda and decorated by Erica herself!

#artisans, #collaboration, #leadership academy, #education

Spoke Woven’s Going Back-To-School

As we prepare to launch our Leadership Academy in Rwanda, we find ourselves drawn again and again to the word “dreams”: our artisan partners’ dreams for their futures and our dreams to help make them a reality. So it was only natural that we sit down with Genga, the designer behind the gorgeous dreamcatchers of Spoke Woven, to talk about the meaning and importance of dreaming and dreaming big.

As the talented designer behind the iconic oversized dream catchers of Spoke Woven, we of course think of you as the ultimate dreamer yourself. Why are dreams so important to you? 

Being the "ultimate dreamer"!! - such an amazing compliment! I believe dreams make up a large part of our composition, as the individuals we are and grow into over time. It is the driving force that guides us to hope, change, build and realize our destiny. I think dreaming is the best way to love and respect the lives we are given and to flourish! 

Our artisan partners have so many dreams - from sending their kids to school to opening their own businesses. For them, education is an important stepping-stone in making these dreams come true. How has your education helped you achieve your dreams? 

My education has been a HUGE part of my life! I love school! I have a Masters of Fine Arts in Film, from Boston University that I am very proud of. Not only was the education valuable from a skill and knowledge standpoint, but it was the right environment for me to learn about myself and my desires on a very deep, multi-faceted level. So when it came to entering the work world, I felt very confident about not only what I could do, but what I was passionate about doing. That being said, I also believe that education doesn't always come from a school setting. Some people respond to others forms of education like apprenticeship programs or internships or trade schools and they all offer amazing tools to realize your dreams.

From branding to budgets, our artisan partners are excited to learn the ins and outs of all things business. What was your favorite subject to study in school and why?

My favorite subject was literature. I'm a real book worm and, as my life progressed, I became obsessed with film as well. I love stories. The art of writing a story, and the act of living your own story. Being able to read, enjoy, and even sometimes endure the journeys of others, provides so many open doors to understanding truths about yourself. Having the opportunity to have my mind opened through literature of all different cultures and later on through film as well, brought perspectives to my life and opened my eyes in ways I never thought possible.

Help our artisan partners achieve their dreams by donating to support our Leadership Academy!

#artisans, #inspiring, #leadership academy, #education

Marie Josee Numukobwa

Marie Josee Numukobwa is the Treasurer of Twiyubake – a banana-leaf-weaving cooperative located in Mukarange, Rwanda. 43 years old, Marie Josee is the proud mother of six children, a well-regarded health advisor in her community, and a graduate of Goldman Sachs’ 10,000 Women initiative.

She is excited to serve as a Student Fellow for our soon-to-be-launched Leadership Academy, which will provide advanced business and leadership training for some of the incredible women artisans we partner with. As a Student Fellow, Marie Josee will lead weekly small discussion sessions with other students. We interviewed her to find out more about her goals for the Leadership Academy, her business, and her children’s futures. Here’s what she had to say:

What grade level did you complete in school?

6 years of Secondary School {12th grade  in the United States}

What is the most important thing you have learned from Indego Africa's education programs?

I learned how to manage and save my money, which allowed me to buy my own knitting machine. Since then, I’ve started to knit sweaters and sell them in the local markets. I want to teach the women I work with to use the machine as well so they can also earn additional income.

Why do you want to serve as a Student Fellow for the Leadership Academy?

I am interested in participating in the Leadership Academy so I can learn more about how to grow my knitting business, and so I can learn from the experiences of other students.

What are you most exciting about learning at the Leadership Academy?

I am most excited to study business management. 

Why is education important to you?

Knowledge is what will help me and my family succeed in life.

You have six children – what are your goals for their futures?

I want my children to have a better education than I had and to study hard so they can advance in their lives and better themselves.

What are your goals for your own future?

I want to grow my business on a larger scale and open my own store one day. 

Help Marie and other women access the education they need to empower themselves, their families, and their communities by donating to our Leadership Academy! 

#inspiring, #leadership academy, #impact, #education

DANNIJO is Going Back-To-School

This fall, we are going back-to-school with the launch of our Leadership Academy in Kigali, Rwanda – an institution that will provide advanced business education for the incredible women entrepreneurs we partner with in Rwanda. In preparing to take our education programs to the next level, we wanted to chat with some of the amazing women we know here about what their educations have meant to them. Naturally, we thought of Danielle & Jodie Snyder: the sensational sisters behind one of our favorite jewelry brands {and a long-time Indego Africa partner!} DANNIJO. Here’s what they had to say:

When we hear the word education we think of opportunity and empowerment. What does education mean to you and how has it helped you become the person you are today?

Danielle: When I hear the word education, I think of Malala, "Let us pick up our books and pens. They are our most powerful weapons."  Education should be a fundamental right not a luxury--everyone should have access to it.  My education gave me confidence, passion and a strong foundation to go out into the world and achieve whatever I set my mind to. 

Jodie: Education is the basis for navigating a successful, fulfilling, and influential life. My education gave me structure and focus and motivated me to push boundaries and create greatness.  

From branding to budgets, our artisan partners are excited to learn the ins and outs of all things business. What was your favorite subject to study in school and why? 

Danielle: Psychology because it applies to every person and every profession. Understanding what motivates people and the importance of strong relationships is the foundation to my success. I also loved English and reading about people--especially in the first person. I love the way the mind works and I've always been able to empathize with genuine, honest and sensitive characters. 

Jodie: History. I loved learning about how we got to where we are today.  I also loved Math because there's always a solution. 

To support education for women in Rwanda, donate here!

#impact, #artisans, #inspiring, #leadership academy, #education

We’re Going Back-To-School

In 2007, we set out on a journey to provide women artisans in Rwanda with access to global markets and education. We were driven by a firm belief that women, with the right resources and opportunities, could lift themselves out of poverty and drive sustainable development in their communities.

Seven years later, we are deeply inspired by the incredible progress they have made. Despite the fact that most had their educations interrupted by the 1994 genocide {and some never went to school at all}, many of our artisan partners have mastered our current training programs. They are ready to take their educations to the next level and asked us to help them make their dreams a reality.

That’s why – this fall - we are going “back-to-school.”

In October 2014, we plan to launch a Leadership Academy in Kigali, Rwanda that will provide free advanced business training to our talented, entrepreneurial, and inspirational artisan partners. Our goal is to provide these women with the tools they need to succeed as independent businesswomen and catalyze economic and social progress across Rwanda. 

But we need your help to make it happen! Donate here and read on to learn more.

Back-To-School-Video from Indego Africa on Vimeo.

Who, What, When, Where and Why

Here’s the who, what, where, when, and why of everything you need to know about the Leadership Academy – starting with the why:

Why:

Women have played a central role in Rwanda’s rise since the 1994 genocide.

  • They have taken on unprecedented leadership positions in government, workplaces, and community institutions, contributing significantly to their country’s economic and social progress.
  • Our artisan partners are no exception. They are emerging as inspiring leaders and entrepreneurs, eager to take on larger challenges.
  • In order to sustain this positive momentum, it is crucial that these women receive the advanced training they need to further develop and hone their business and leadership skills.

There are no other organizations currently providing this urgently-needed educational programming in a free-of-cost, easily accessible manner.

Who:

25 students from across our 18 partner cooperatives

  • These women were selected based on: commitment to their co-ops, previous leadership experience, and demonstrated business skills. Those who are unable to participate this semester will have the opportunity to reapply next semester.

4 Student Fellows  

  • The Student Fellows were selected from the pool of our 19 artisan partners who graduated from Goldman Sachs’ 10,000 Women initiative.Based on their previous advanced business training, these women {while still students at the Academy} will play an enhanced role in the classroom, leading weekly small discussion sessions with other students.

2 Teaching Assistants

  • Our Teaching Assistants, Emelienne {President of Cocoki Cooperative} and Modeste {long-time Generation Rwanda trainer} will assist our main teachers with lesson planning & teaching responsibilities.

Talented Teachers

  • Rosine Urujeni, our Country Director, will teach weekly classes along with an incredible group of specialists from a local NGO {more details on that collaboration to come!}

What:

Students will study advanced business topics.

  • These will include market and customer analysis, technology, accounting, inventory, pricing, product innovation, time management and workplace health and safety.
  • The Leadership Academy syllabus was written by an expert team of volunteers including members of our Board of Directors and Regional Boards.

Students will participate in field trips, networking events, and seminars with successful local entrepreneurs.

Students will have access to an onsite Technology Center with laptops.

  • This will also be available outside of class-time for research, record-keeping, and private tutorials.

Students will apply the lessons they learn to improve the management and performance of their cooperatives.

  • This will lead to increased income generation for all of our artisan partners
When:

Classes will take place twice a week Wednesdays {9AM-5PM} & Thursdays {9AM-3:30PM} per six-month semester.

Students will continue to work at their cooperatives all other days of the week and will receive a stipend for class time. 

Where:

The Academy will be held in an open conference  room on the 1st floor of our office building in Kigali, Rwanda.

Students traveling from outside Kigali will receive a travel stipend, housing, and meals throughout the duration of the Leadership Academy.

Seven years into our journey in Rwanda, we are closer to achieving our mission than ever before. Please help our artisan partners empower themselves, their families, and their communities now and in the years to come: Donate Now