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Up Close & Indego

#new, #inspiration, #handmade, #impact

Our Blog #artisans

Daphrose’s Cafe

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

In honor of International Women’s Day, we are celebrating the incredible entrepreneurs we partner with – their innovation, creativity, perseverance, and resourcefulness. These ambitious ladies are capitalizing on newfound opportunities, determined to create brighter futures for themselves and their families. They’re saving up money, taking out loans, and using the business skills they’ve learned to take a risk and start something new. We’ll be sharing their stories all month long – hope you enjoy them!

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Spunky, ambitious, and larger-than-life, Daphrose is the proud owner of a cafe at a university in Kigali. A member of the Ingenzi Knit Union (an Indego Africa partner since 2010), Daphrose got the idea to start her own business while takings one of our business training courses. She says: "to open up a business, you need to look at demand. There was a new university coming to my neighborhood, and I thought to myself, 'the students will need somewhere to eat between classes, right?' From there, I started to determine what I would need to get my shop off the ground."

Using the lessons she had learned, Daphrose began to put her ideas into action - starting by taking out a loan. While she admits she was once scared to ask for financial help, Indego Africa's training programs taught her "to be fearless." She marched right into her bank and walked out that day with 300,000 Rwandan francs (~440 US Dollars) to cover the start-up costs of her business. One year later, she's paid back her loan and is running a successful shop selling snacks, drinks, and school supplies to around 50 customers a day.

Now a student at the Leadership Academy, Daphrose has big plans to make her business grow. Through the Academy, she says: “I learned that to sustain and grow my business, I will always need to think of new ideas – to be innovative” – and innovative is exactly what she is! For starters, Daphrose plans to sell hot food to attract customers looking for a place to get lunch. She is saving up money to purchase a photocopying machine (always in demand on a college campus!) and will charge students & teachers for use. Last but not least, she’s got plans to expand to another soon-to-opened university in Bugesera, where she will launch a second branch of her shop. 

Daphrose’s entrepreneurial success is not only an incredible feat for her, but also one that has a ripple effect in her family and community. Through income earned, Daphrose is able to support her three kids, and provide them with a life of opportunity. She is also able to provide jobs for others - at the moment employing two women, with plans to grow that number as her business expands. Finally, she serves as a role model and leader in her community, showing other women and girls just how much they too can achieve.

We are proud to partner with such an awesome lady and can’t wait to see what she’ll do next! Whatever it is, we know it will be great. 

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Meet The Entrepreneurs

#artisans, #inspiring, #inspiration, #impact, #entrepreneurs

In honor of International Women’s Day, we are celebrating the incredible entrepreneurs we partner with – their innovation, creativity, perseverance, and resourcefulness. These ambitious ladies are capitalizing on newfound opportunities, determined to create brighter futures for themselves and their families. They’re saving up money, taking out loans, and using the business skills they’ve learned to take a risk and start something new. We’ll be sharing their stories all month long – hope you enjoy them!

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Immaculee, Shikama Ukore

Tie-dye maven and block-printer extraordinaire, Immaculee used the money she saved from Indego Africa orders to install a water tank at her home where she now runs a successful water business. On any given day, you can see more than 20 people lining up to fill their jugs with the good stuff. 

Daphrose, Ingenzi Knit Union

Daphrose owns a cafe in a university building in Kigali where she sells snacks and school supplies to students. She got the idea to launch her own business through Indego Africa's education programs, which she says taught her "to be fearless." Now a student at the Leadership Academy, Daphrose is developing innovative ideas to help her business grow.

Juliet, Imirasire

In addition to being a farmer, master weaver, and mother of ten (!), Juliet sells fruit from her garden at a local market twice a week. Bananas, mangoes, avocados, and pineapples…she’s got it all.

Vestine, Ejo Hazaza 

Vestine is an aspiring entrepreneur eager to use the lessons she’s learned at the Leadership Academy to make a difference in her community. She says: “There is a water problem in my neighborhood. At the Leadership Academy, I learned how to identify a need and create a business plan to fill it. I am now saving money to start selling water to help people in my village.”

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A Lovebird Story

#inspiring, #artisans, #community

This season of love, we are celebrating two of the cutest lovebirds we know – our artisan partner Daphrose & her husband, Eugène!

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Daphrose and Eugène have been married for three years, though they’ve known each other much longer. They met in 2006 when Eugène, then a construction worker, was hired to repair the fence around Daphrose’s house. In his words, “it was love at first sight.”

For Daphrose, it was more complicated. Still recovering from the death of her first husband, she was focused on supporting her two children and romance was the last thing on her mind.

Eugène, though head over heels in love with Daphrose, struggled to tell her how he felt. When her fence was fixed and his job was over, he knew he had to see her again. Searching for a way to cross paths with her again, he found out what church she went to and became a member himself. When he found out she sang in the church’s choir, he warmed up his vocal chords and joined the choir too. 

Soon, they became friends and notorious troublemakers. Relentless jokesters, they used to alternate paying the fines they received for disrupting choir practice. As years went by and their friendship grew, Eugène finally mustered up the courage to tell Daphrose how he felt and asked her out on a date. But Daphrose, wary of investing in a new relationship, did not accept. She evaded his propositions and even tried to find him a new girlfriend. 

But Eugène waited and waited, refusing to give up on his love. He got to know Daphrose’s children and began to serve as a father figure for them – picking them up from school, helping them with homework, and buying them things they needed. It was when Daphrose saw just how much he loved her children that she finally caved in and acknowledged what she’d secretly known for a long time: she, too, was in love.

Today, Daphrose and Eugène are happily married with an adorable three-year-old son named Manzi. Time spent with them is filled with fun, laughter, and family stories. You can tell how much they take pride in their relationship and enjoy spending time together. Daphrose says: “I love my husband. I love everything about him. We have all the same preferences – like picnics and games.” They have even become role models to other couples in their communities, helping them to see the importance of love, communication, and respect in their relationships.

Sometimes, the best things in life are worth waiting for.

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Christine

#inspiring, #artisans, #spreadthanks

Christine of the Ingenzi Knit Union is most thankful to have work that earns her a living – only a few years ago this was not the case.

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Christine was raised by her grandmother who passed away when she was 17 years old. Left to support herself, Christine found a job cleaning a family’s home in Butare. However, when the Genocide began, her employer kicked her out and Christine was left on the streets with nowhere to go. As was the deeply painful case for many women at that time, she became a victim of rape.

Christine escaped from Butare to Kigali, but her struggles did not end there. When she arrived, she stayed with a man she had met during her escape - that is, until he decided to marry her off to a man she had never met. In the years that followed, Christine was forced to bear three children by him. But when one of those children died, Christine was faced with another piece of devastation: he had been HIV+.

She immediately went to the hospital to get tested and found out that she was also HIV+, although somehow her husband had managed not to contract the disease. When he heard the news, he left her and her children to fend for themselves. To make ends meet, Christine began selling avocados on the streets, but her children were often forced to drop out of school because she could not afford to pay their tuition. Soon, hours spent working under the scorching sun took a toll on her already ailing health and she fell seriously ill.

Christine sought solace at Mpore Mama, an association of HIV+ women based at the Kacyiru Police Hospital, where she had first learned about her HIV status. Shortly thereafter, a woman from the United States donated knitting machines to Mpore Mama, as well as several other organizations, which have since merged to become the Ingenzi Knit Union.

With the help of the other women, Christine quickly learned how to crochet and knit – skills that she says saved her life. Today, through Mpore Mama’s partnership with Indego Africa, Chrisine earns a steady income for her work. She is able to provide for her children and send them to school – something that she and her family are deeply proud of. She can also afford medical insurance, which provides her with access to the medications she needs to manage her disease.

Today, Christine is able not only to survive but to live and for that, she is deeply grateful. Her goal for the future is to earn enough money to buy her own house – an investment in her children and in the generations of her family to come. We have every reason to believe that she will accomplish this goal and many more. 

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Immaculee

#spreadthanks, #artisans, #impact, #inspiring, #community, #hope, #peace

This November, we are taking a moment to pause and reflect on all of the things that we and our artisan partners are thankful for. We hope you'll join in! #spreadthanks

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Immaculee is one of the multitalented artisans of the Ibyishimo cooperative. A warm, kind, and inquisitive person, Immaculee exudes a quiet confidence that inspires those she meets. When she speaks, her eyes fill with a light that infuses everyone & everything around her, spreading joy & delight. 

While today Immaculee is deeply thankful for many of things in her life, her journey to find happiness was beset with painful obstacles to overcome.

When Immaculee was 12 years old, she lost her father, seven siblings, and more than 60 relatives during the Rwandan Genocide against the Tutsis. When the violence ended, and the country reeled to reinstate the rhythms of everyday life, Immaculee struggled to cope with this devastating loss. For years she had trouble concentrating in school, particularly around the annual commemoration of the Genocide. She was shaken by every problem she faced, thinking about what her father would have done and yearning for his advice. Unable to manage the emotional stress and pressures of school, Immaculee dropped out.

Faced with the necessity of supporting herself, Immaculee packed her bags and left her hometown of Gitarama for Kigali. There she found a job at a bar where, as fate would have it, she met her husband {with whom she now has two children}. After her second child was born, Immaculee decided it was time to leave her job at the bar and seek another form of employment. Luckily for us, she was introduced to Ibyishimo through her church and quickly joined the ranks of its talented artisans mastering the art of sewing with ease (and today, friendship bracelet weaving and dreamcatcher making!)

These days, Immaculee tells us that she has much to be thankful for. She is thankful to live in a safe neighborhood and provide a good life for herself and her family. She is also thankful to have earned enough money working with Indego Africa to purchase a plot of land where she will begin to build a home next year. Most importantly, she is thankful for her family and for the feeling of harmony she has in her life.

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The Leadership Academy - Week One

#leadership academy, #education, #artisans, #inspiration

On the first day of school the air always feels different – suffused, somehow, with the excitement of the occasion. Sights, feelings, and sensations are heightened as you take in new surroundings, relishing each moment and preparing for the journey ahead.

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​Wednesday, October 1st was the first day of school for 25 of our artisan partners as classes launched at our brand new Leadership Academy in Kigali. Students, selected from across our partner cooperatives, gathered in our Academy classroom promptly at 9 AM, overflowing with excitement and enthusiasm for what was to come.

After a detailed orientation and question-and-answer session, the students got to work studying the advanced-business-topic-of-the-day: inventory management. The goal of the lesson was to help the students develop effective strategies for tracking products and materials at their cooperatives. Rosine Urujeni, our Country Director, began the session by defining key vocabulary terms and reviewing some tried-and-true methods of inventory management. Once the lecture was over, she turned it over to the students to put what they learned into practice.

The students broke into small groups to complete inventory-tracking exercises based on the kinds of scenarios they experience everyday at their cooperatives. The class ended with a lively competition between the students over which group could get the most answers right. They were, of course, all winners in our eyes.

Day two’s lesson topic was communications with buyers and donors. The goal of the session was to understand the motivations of buyers and donors and hone methods for communicating with them. The class went through several example buyer and donor profiles and brainstormed methods for communicating with them. Rosine then led a discussion on communication best practices, emphasizing the importance of empathy, honesty, accuracy, responsiveness, and enthusiasm. At the end of class, students got to put these methods to the test through a series of role-play exercises - which many took above and beyond, challenging their scene partners with particularly tough characters.

At the end of the session, many of the students expressed how much they appreciated that the lessons were tailored specifically to them and the kinds of challenges they face at their cooperatives. Moving forward, we are confident that they will use the lessons they learn to grow and improve their businesses, leading to increased income and prosperity for all of our artisan partners. We cannot wait for what the rest of the semester has in store, and neither can they!

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Emelienne

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

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.

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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!

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Spoke Woven’s Going Back-To-School

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

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.

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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!

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Marie Josee Numukobwa

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

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.

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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! 

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We’re Going Back-To-School

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

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.

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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

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7 Years Later

#inspiration, #impact, #education, #community, #artisans

They asked; we listened. That’s why we’re going “back-to-school.”

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On September 2nd, we will launch our Back-to-School campaign to raise $12,000 in support of our Leadership Academy: a ground-breaking initiative – beginning this fall – that will provide advanced business training to some of our talented, entrepreneurial, and inspirational artisan partners.

Yet as we prepare to take our education programs to the next level, we want to fill you in on what we’ve been up to for the past seven years. Here’s what you need to know: 

The Program

  • Since 2007, we have been providing our artisan partners with training programs in business management & entrepreneurship, computer skills, English, and Kinywarwanda literacy.
  • These courses were designed and written by our organization’s founders – father and son duo extraordinaire, Matt and Tom Mitro, along with a team of expert volunteers. They compiled the course materials themselves in order to create a cohesive curriculum uniquely tailored to meet our artisan partners’ specific learning needs.
  • In addition to our standard training programs, we also provide workshops for our artisan partners in Sexual Health and Wellness, Breast Cancer Awareness, Occupational Health and Wellness, Savings and Loans, and Domestic Violence.

The Teachers

  • All of our training programs are taught by top Rwandan university students through a partnership with Generation Rwanda (GR) – an incredible NGO that gives merit-based scholarships to orphans and socially vulnerable youth in Rwanda.
  • Each GR trainer has a specialty and teaches his or her course of choice at each participating cooperative once a week.
  • These talented trainers are also given the opportunity to participate in professional development programs with our Country Director, Rosine Urujeni, so they can graduate ready to enter the workforce. 

The Impact

  • Despite the fact that many of our artisan partners had their educations interrupted by the 1994 genocide (and some never went to school at all), they are excelling in our courses.
  • In fact, we are deeply pleased to report that some of our artisan partners have mastered and surpassed the current level of our programming. They are eager to take their educations to the next level and have asked us to help them make their dreams a reality.

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

This October, we are launching a Leadership Academy in Kigali to provide talented female entrepreneurs with the tools they need to succeed as independent businesswomen, confident leaders, and effective change-makers – catalyzing social and economic progress across Rwanda.

But we need your help! Stay tuned for more updates on how YOU can help our artisan partners reach their full potential. 

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The Peace Basket

#artisans, #inspiring, #inspiration, #new, #weaving, #handmade, #community, #peace, #hope

We recently added traditional Rwandan peace baskets to our home decor collection. In addition to being unique and beautiful items, these baskets also have a poignant history that make them all the more special.

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Following the genocide in Rwanda, women were left to pick up the pieces of their shattered country. In order to provide for themselves, their families, and the countless orphans left in the destruction's wake, many banded together to form artisan cooperatives {like the incredible ones we partner with today}.

Women who had been caught on both sides of the country’s violence – both Hutus & Tutsis – came together to make traditional Rwandan baskets, which have since earned the title of “peace baskets.” By working and weaving together, these women were able to overcome their tragic pasts and foster peace, hope, and reconciliation in the face of enmity and despair.

To this day, peace baskets are a powerful symbol in Rwanda. They represent the generosity, compassion, and forgiveness that have helped this country to rise from its ashes towards a brighter future.

Shop Peace Baskets >>>

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#PSxIndegoAfrica

#artisans, #inspiring, #new, #handmade, #art, #collaboration, #psxindegoafrica, #diy

We are thrilled to announce the launch of our much-anticipated collaboration with P.S.- I made this… - the innovative lifestyle brand founded by Erica Domesek whose mission is to inspire and empower people around the globe to cultivate their inner-creativity and embrace the ever-growing do-it-yourself (DIY) way of life.

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Today the fruits of this crazy-cool & creative partnership can be found for sale on our website: a vibrant, fun, and vividly colored collection of hand-embroidered patches! These iron-on DIY dreams come in sets of two and include inspiration from P.S.- I made this… on how to transform the patches into wearable embellishments on backpacks, sweatshirts, pouches, and more.

The patch collection was inspired by Erica’s passion for vivid color, bold objects and beautiful animals along with our love for Rwanda’s rich culture and landscape. This summer, Erica had the chance to see Rwanda’s rolling green hills, radiant sunsets, and colorful wildlife for herself when she traveled there to meet our local team and visit our partner cooperatives!

Erica, along with Babs Burchfield of Conscious Commerce (the guide to conscious living she co-founded with Olivia Wilde), spent three jam-packed and fun-filled days in Rwanda. Highlights of the trip included ordering custom-made batik jackets at Cocoki, learning how to weave at AJ, and seeing the PSxIndegoAfrica collection come to life in the hands of the talented artisans of IBABA! 

On the last day, Erica taught a class to fourteen of our artisan partners on creativity, branding, and starting your own business. The women were enthralled by P.S.- I made this…’ story and eager to flip through the pages of Erica’s most recent DIY book, P.S.- You’re Invited. There was such spirited dialogue following the class that our Country Director, Rosine, had to cut the conversation short to make sure Erica didn’t miss her flight! Participants left that day feeling inspired by how much they could accomplish with the knowledge, skills, and creativity they already had. 

"Witnessing the process of my illustrations come to life stitch by stitch before my eyes in Rwanda by the women was incredible. The time, heart and soul the IBABA artisans dedicated to each patch was the purest form of craftsmanship.

Indego Africa is doing amazing things where they strive to educate and employ the women of the cooperatives. Never has an organization opened my eyes and put a lens on DIY in such a beautiful and inspiring way. It's an honor to be apart of their organization and spread our colorful mission for good!" – Erica Domesek 

This feeling of self-empowerment is central to the P.S.-I made this… mission and one of the reasons that we love their work as much at we do. At Indego, we are all about empowering women – through economic opportunities, education, and the handmade process itself. We believe that there is something distinctly special and powerful about seeing a product from start to finish - about putting in passion, artistry, creativity, love, and inspiration, and coming away with a unique item that is self-made and totally awesome.

We hope that our patch collection will inspire you to get down and DIY - transforming everyday items into new, bold, and beautiful pieces. We can't wait to see what you come up with! Grab your favorite patch set here!

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Summer of Dreams

#inspiring, #inspiration, #summer, #new, #artisans, #africa

We are thrilled to announce the launch of our collaboration with Spoke Woven on a beautiful collection of textile dream catchers!

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To bring this dream to life, we sat down with Genga – the wildly creative designer behind the iconic oversized dream catchers of Spoke Woven. Over the course of one marvelous day, we learned all about the inspiration behind her craft and filmed an instructional video for our artisan partners so that they too could learn the art of dream catcher weaving.

IA x Spokewoven from Indego Africa on Vimeo.

Once the video was complete, we sent it along to the artisans of Ibyishimo who quickly mastered the new technique – handcrafting an array of gorgeous textile dream catchers that we are thrilled to now offer on our website. 

One of the {many} things we love about this collaboration is the deep cultural history and mythology surrounding dream catchers. A longstanding Native American tradition, dream catchers are meant to protect sleepers from bad dreams, allowing only positive ones to enter the minds of those at rest. The belief is that bad dreams will get caught in the dream catcher’s web and vanish when struck with the first rays of the morning sun. Happy dreams, on the other hand, will float through the hole in the center of the dream catcher and gently glide down the feathers or fabric to reach the sleeping person below.

We were delighted to bring these traditions across the globe to our artisan partners in Rwanda and we hope that you too will be inspired by the unique blend of Native American and Rwandan traditions encompassed in these textile wonders. As Genga likes to say: All dreams spin out of the same web.

Shop the Dream Catcher Collection >>>

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The Art of The Stitch

#artisans, #inspiring, #handmade, #art, #new, #sneakpeek

On Thursday, June 19th we’re celebrating the art of the stitch – and you’re invited! As you may have noticed by now, we are obsessed with the beautiful hand-embroidery of IBABA – a cooperative of 28 women artisans in Rutongo, Rwanda.

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The women of this area initially learned the art of embroidery in the 1970s from a group of Belgian nuns that, eager to provide young women with a source of income, established an embroidery training center and workshop there. For years, the workshop flourished, at one point employing over 300 women artisans. However, its success came to an abrupt end in 1994 when the Rwandan genocide ravaged life in the region and forced the cooperative to disband.

In 2012, the Rutongo embroidery workshop opened its doors again and we could not be happier that it did. Under the leadership of two passionate and determined French sisters, Véronique and Pascale, the workshop – now known as IBABA – is back and better than ever.

The ladies of IBABA can hand-embroider anything – and we mean ANYTHING. It all starts with a design – be it a flamingo, flower, or feather – which the artisans lightly sketch on Belgian linen secured in an embroidery hoop. Once the threads are chosen, the long & complex process of tightly stitching them together begins. It requires an immense degree of focus, precision, and skill, and the finished products are often so good, they appear to be screen-printed! 

We are consistently amazed by the intricate and vibrant work from IBABA – so much so that we chose to put a frame on it! On June 19th we will be celebrating the launch of our framed embroidery collection at the William Holman Gallery in NYC (65 Ludlow St) from 6-9 PM. Come revel in the art of the stitch with us – tickets available here

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so you want to be an entrepreneur

#artisans, #education, #inspiration, #leadership academy, #impact

So you want to be an entrepreneur…

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How do you do it?

We recently collaborated with Duterimbere – a Rwandan NGO that promotes female entrepreneurship – to address that very question.

Since partnering with us, many women are now earning enough money not only to support themselves and their families, but also to invest in entrepreneurial and income-generating projects of their own (for more information see our 2013 Social Impact Report).

However, building a successful business is no easy feat, and in recent feedback, our artisan partners asked for help in learning the tools of the entrepreneurship trade. So when our Rwanda Country Director met representatives from Duterimbere in Kigali, we knew we had found just the right people for the job.

Duterimbere seeks to integrate women into economic development by stimulating female entrepreneurship and providing education and resources regarding savings, loans, and economic rights. We partnered with them to provide an interactive 5-day workshop for 30 of our artisan partners, addressing the fundamental question: just how do you start and run a successful business?

What we love about Duterimbere’s approach (among many things) is their focus on real-life examples and open discussion. This ensures that workshops serve as useful and practical lessons, rather than abstract thought exercises. In that vein, they kicked off their first session by posing the following questions:

  • how can you be an entrepreneur and also work at your cooperative?
  • what are the challenges that entrepreneurs face?

  • how can you overcome these challenges?  
  • what are the opportunities that entrepreneurs have in Rwanda?

With these questions as a driving framework, participants spent the next four days learning the ins and outs of business creation and management. They worked in small groups to create mock budgets and business plans; heard real-life examples about the value of saving money; and even met with a representative of a local microfinance institution to talk about why and how to take out loans. Participants walked out of the final session feeling well-informed and enthused about taking their cooperatives and outside businesses (+business ideas!) to the next level.

We were thrilled about the outcome of this workshop, particularly because its format closely mirrors that of our soon-to-be-launched Leadership Academy, which will provide advanced business training to emerging artisan leaders through bi-weekly training sessions over six-month cycles. Through this program, women will develop the knowledge and skills they need to flourish as entrepreneurs, drive economic growth at their cooperatives, and become engines of change in their communities. Stay tuned for more information on this exciting initiative! 

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Alphonsine

#artisans, #inspiring

Alphonsine was born the second of eight children but today she is the only remaining child—her parents and all of her siblings were killed during the 1994 genocide. Left without support, she was forced to drop out of school and provide for herself.

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In 2010, she and 24 other women banded together to form Abasangiye: a sewing cooperative comprised of women with children born of rape during the genocide. She is now the cooperative’s internal auditor and dreams of opening her own boutique someday.

Shop Alphonsine's & Abasangiye products

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Beatrice

#artisans, #weaving, #inspiring

Beatrice is the Secretary of Gakamba group, part of the Imirasire cooperative known for its vibrant and intricately woven plateau baskets.

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Before joining the Imirasire family, Beatrice worked for many years as a primary school teacher, providing a crucial service for a generation of children whose education had been violently disrupted by the 1994 genocide. 

In 2003, she was selected to become a community educator for the Gacaca jurisdictions—a transitional justice system that was created to address the massive buildup of cases awaiting trial following the genocide. The Gacaca courts were comprised of village councils that conducted public trials aimed both at trying the accused and fostering country-wide reconciliation.

Beatrice joined Imirasire in 2007 and has worked there as a weaver ever since. She uses her income to support her four children and hopes to own a farm someday.

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Jacqueline

#artisans

We never cease to be inspired by the women of our partner cooperative Twiyubake, and Jacqueline, its president, is no exception. She is a mother of six and plans to open her own boutique someday. But when Jacqueline does something, she wants to do it right. That’s why she hopes to travel Europe and America and research how successful businesses run there, using the lessons she learns to build her own thriving enterprise.

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Jacqueline’s dreams are no small feat, particularly given the hardships she has overcome. Twiyubake is comprised of genocide widows who work side by side with the wives of men who killed their husbands. Before banding together as a cooperative, many of these women lived in abject poverty, struggling to obtain basic necessities like food, clean water, and shelter. But through their courageous decision to leave the past behind them, to value forgiveness over enmity, these women have built new and prosperous futures for themselves and their families. Today, they are flourishing entrepreneurs, and their beautiful and intricately woven banana leaf products have garnered widespread admiration and success. They are paragons of strength, setting a remarkable example of what reconciliation and unity can look like. 
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Domitille

#artisans, #inspiring

In honor of remembrance, progress, and hope we will be featuring special posts about our artisan partners throughout the month of April. We invite you to share in their stories.

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Domitille’s laugh can be heard cascading over the hills and echoing through the trees that surround the Hope cooperative, the knitting association of which she is the president. A graceful and self-assured woman, her vibrant smile is nothing short of contagious and her positive energy radiates throughout every room she enters.

While today Domitille is a pillar of confidence and strength, she was not always this way. In fact, her journey to get here was arduous and beset with significant obstacles to overcome.

Only a few years ago, Domitille’s economic circumstances were dire: her family lacked permanent housing, often went hungry, and owned just one piece of clothing each. Her husband was violent and beat her daily, forbidding her to leave the house without his permission, and isolating her from the other women in her community.

However, when her cooperative began partnering with Indego Africa in 2010, her income started to increase. She soon found herself able to buy a house with electricity, feed and clothe her family, send her son to school, and even set aside enough money to invest in a new business of her own.

In her words: “my life really and fully changed . . . I am now a well-to-do woman, with middle income. 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’s economic success engendered newfound confidence and she began to think hopefully about her future. At home, she started to challenge her husband’s control over the household and to call the police whenever he tried to beat her.

Today, her husband’s abuse has stopped and Domitille has become an informal counselor to other women who suffer from domestic violence. She is a respected leader and a powerful role model to the women and girls in her community.

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20 Years Later |  A Message of Remembrance & Hope

#artisans, #community

Today the world recognizes the 20th commemoration of the Rwandan genocide, when over 800,000 people were killed over 100 days of unimaginable violence. Our hearts go out to the victims, their families, and all those who continue to grapple with the horrors that took place.

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As we pause and remember, we also want to send a message of hope—hope grounded in the remarkable and awe-inspiring progress Rwanda has made since the dark days of 20 years ago. We wish to commend our artisan partners who, through their resourcefulness, perseverance, and steadfast determination, have become engines of change in their communities and helped rebuild their country. We admire their courage and bravery, and share in their unwavering hope for even brighter futures to come.

Below are the inspiring words of Rosine Urujeni, Indego Africa’s Country Director, reflecting on what the 20thcommemoration of the genocide means to her:

"It is a time to remember our loved ones (kwibuka) that we never knew or hardly knew because they were taken from us abruptly and for no reason. It is a time to reflect on what is wrong and what is right; what our actions and words mean to others; and what impact we have on our community and country. 

As Albert Einstein said 'We cannot despair of humanity since we ourselves are human beings.' It is a time to remember that we are the masters of our lives and that our actions will last forever. We shall never forget to keep faith and to hope for forgiveness for those who committed acts of inhumanity.

The 20th commemoration of the genocide means that as human beings we must continue to work for the common good and to uplift ourselves and our communities. We shall never forget that as human beings, we must strive to do what is best not only for ourselves, but also for others.”

In honor of remembrance, progress, and hope we will be featuring special posts about our artisan partners for the rest of the month. We hope you’ll continue to check back here and share in their stories. 

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Inspiration from Rwanda

#artisans, #community, #weaving

Guest post by: Nicole Heim // There is something very special about an item that is handmade. Great care and quality goes into a product when a single craftsperson sees it from start to finish. When that same product also empowers a female artisan, you have a deeply meaningful end result.

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Upon arriving at Cocoki, the sewing cooperative where I’m training a group of five women, I found a large room of highly skilled artisans. While I may have been teaching Claire, Florence, Ngabire, Beata and Goretti a few skills they hadn’t already mastered, you wouldn’t have known it by watching. As I presented each new piece of information, they quickly digested and executed every step, thoroughly and thoughtfully. They collaboratively worked to measure, cut, and sew with special attention to detail, taking initiative when necessary, proving just how capable they are.

In addition to my time spent training at Cocoki, I’ve had the pleasure of traveling to various other cooperative partners of Indego Africa. Each group of artisans possesses their own set of skills, and every woman holds a unique spirit and smile. The walls and windows of each co-op provide a backdrop of inspiration through varying color, pattern and texture.

As the language barrier makes communication difficult, I love to observe the ladies at work. From the outside looking in, I see a family. The women enjoy each other’s company, and many bring their young children to work. As a toddler sits at a sewing machine or a baby sleeps strapped to her mother’s back, it seems clear that when you empower a woman you empower a generation.

Furthermore, the work of Indego Africa offers meaningful ways to empower that extend far beyond a needle and thread. In addition to having an access to income that allows the artisans to send their kids to school and provide for their families, they also receive invaluable education, which instills confidence and encourages them to be independent businesswomen.

I feel very fortunate to have witnessed these initiatives first hand, and to have met many of the female artisans who are being positively affected by them. When you make your next purchase, know that each handmade step was done with meticulous care, and that it’s truly impacting the life of a woman in Rwanda.

want more? check out Nicole’s beautiful blog

photos courtesy of Nicole Heim
photos courtesy of Nicole Heim
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Rebuilding Through Design

#artisans, #handmade, #weaving, #impact

We’re super excited to tell you about a recent collaboration between Judith Haentjes, a Dutch product designer, and the ladies of Twiyubake—one of our first partner cooperatives.

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We’re super excited to tell you about a recent collaboration between Judith Haentjes, a Dutch product designer, and the ladies of Twiyubake—one of our first partner cooperatives. Twiyubake specializes in the art of banana leaf weaving, a complex and challenging technique. Judith, who works mainly with organic & recycled materials, embraced this challenge, collaborating with the women to create innovative new products with a distinctly geometric feel.

The women of Twiyubake are especially impressive not only for their exceptional artisanal skills, but also their backstory. The word “Twiyubake” means “to rebuild ourselves” in Kinyarwanda, and this is exactly what these women are doing. Made up of genocide widows working side-by-side with the wives of imprisoned génocidaires, this remarkable cooperative fosters unity and reconciliation in post-conflict Rwanda. Here’s what Judith had to say about working with them:

“I had the honor and pleasure to work with seven women, who are part of the Twiyubake family. I spent two weeks with them in their workspace. Together we experimented with banana leaves and developed some new products for Indego Africa. It was an absolutely touching experience for me, as they welcomed me warmly, were extremely open towards me and motivated to make the most out of the weeks.

It was definitely a new experience for both sides. Me as a European product designer travelling to the countryside of Rwanda to collaborate with women that I don’t share a language with (I had a translator) and that are culturally very different from me. And on the other side seven women from Kayonza that have a designer, a profession that they don’t fully grasp, coming to work with them. We definitely needed a warming up period with each other, but it became such a successful time because we stayed open to each other. In addition these ladies are very distinguished in their craft and have a great group dynamic, which makes it very easy to work with them. After two weeks I had learned so many things about these women’s lives and became so fond of them that it was difficult for me to leave. All of them are truly fascinating, lovely, warm and talented women.”

Photographs from Twiyubake courtesy of Judith Haentjes
Photographs from Twiyubake courtesy of Judith Haentjes
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People, Places & Things

#art, #africa, #artisans

Magic Ladders Exhibit at the Barnes Museum We love people, places and things – here is a person that creates beautiful things that you can see at a place!

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Meet Yinka Shonibare – the artist behind the stunning and provocative Magic Ladders exhibit at The Barnes Museum in Philadelphia. Born in Britain but raised in Nigeria, Shonibare subversively examines the relationship between Europe and Africa through the colonial and postcolonial period.

The Magic Ladders exhibit is sponsored by Anthropologie and features Shonibare’s signature life-sized mannequins clothed in colorful Dutch wax fabrics produced in Europe but most closely associated with Africa (similar to those we package our products in!) These dramatic, playful, and irreverent sculptures are both visually spectacular and deeply thought provoking, inviting the viewer to think critically about notions of race, gender, and cultural identity*.

So if you’re in the Philly area, we highly recommend checking out this exhibit. And if you’re not then…ROAD TRIP!

Details:

Yinka Shonibare MBE: Magic Ladders

The Barnes Foundation

2025 Benjamin Franklin Pkwy

Philadelphia, PA 19130

Dates: January 24-April 21

*Some language provided by the Barnes Museum.

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International Women’s Day: Inspiring Change

#artisans, #community

We love this word because it so perfectly describes the incredible women artisans we partner with in Rwanda. That’s why we’re thrilled that the theme of this year’s International Women’s Day is “inspiring change”!

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This phrase encapsulates both the awesome, jaw-dropping, and INSPIRING changes we’ve seen in the communities of women we work with, and the way our artisan partners continue to INSPIRE change by re-investing their income and energy in their communities.

(Phew, that was a lot of inspires. But we’re not done yet…)

Inspiring Indego Women
Inspiring Indego Women

Our goal is to inspire change by empowering women. Recently, we’ve followed through on that mission on our own staff! As of January 1st, Karen Yelick has been promoted to CEO, thus making Indego Africa an entirely women-led and almost-entirely-female organization (we love you, Yves!)

We also have big (and we mean BIG) plans ahead for this year that we can’t wait to share with you.

Ok…one sneak preview? We’ll be launching a newly improved version of our already stellar education and training programs that will help women artisans become pioneers of progress in their communities.

So to all our readers out there: what inspires you and how will you inspire change this year? Eager minds want to know.

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You’ve Got a Friend

#community, #artisans

We are thrilled to announce our newest line of accessories, the Alia Collection, featuring a trendy twist on a childhood classic: friendship bracelets. Made with love by our artisan partners at Ibyishimo, these whimsical handcrafted bracelets are the perfect new addition to your arm party.

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The Alia Collection was inspired by one of our most exemplary friends, Alia Tutor. A member of our Board of Directors, and a passionate advocate for the women entrepreneurs we work with, Alia’s generous dedication to Indego has helped empower our artisan partners to rise from poverty and pursue their dreams.

So the Alia Collection is a celebration of friendship—a celebration of care and generosity and all of the wonderful things they bring.

We hope you’ll wear a bracelet and spread the love.

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Fun Fact #1

#artisans

Fun Fact #1: The Florence Earrings were named after this incredible woman!

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Florence Mukamana

She is totally rad and hopes to visit NYC one day.

Another fun fact? She told us her role models are all the young men and women who come to Rwanda to teach English.

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