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Up Close & Indego

#new, #inspiration, #handmade, #impact

Our Blog #community

Sexual Health Education for Young Women in Rwanda

#artisans, #impact, #community, #education, #programs, #vocationaltraining

75% of adolescents who live with HIV/AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa are girls. Research by the U.N. shows that social, cultural, and economic factors—including gender inequality, gender-based violence, lack of financial independence, and lack of access to sexual education—can make young women especially vulnerable.

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Last year, we at Indego Africa expanded our work with artisans in Rwanda to include a new focus on empowering youth. We launched a Vocational Training program to help young, unemployed women in rural Rwanda—a highly vulnerable population—build careers in the artisan sector through technical training and business education.

The goal of this program was to help young women gain critically-needed employment opportunities and earn sustainable income. However, after the program started, we discovered another critical need: sexual health education. 

While a group of Vocational Trainees were learning to sew at the

Abasangiye Cooperative in Rwanda, they overheard older members of the cooperative talking about their HIV treatment. The young women became worried that they could be infected through pin pricks while sewing and immediately raised their concerns with our Education Manager in Rwanda. 

Through conversations between our Rwanda team and the Vocational

Trainees, we recognized that these young women needed training on HIV prevention and transmission, as well as sexual health education more broadly. They were concerned about their health, specifically about HIV/AIDS, but did not have sufficient information about how to protect themselves.

We firmly believe that women and girls around the world deserve

access to relevant, comprehensive sexual health education in order to make informed decisions about their bodies and their health. According to UN AIDS, in sub-Saharan Africa only 28% of young women report that they have sufficient knowledge about how to protect themselves from HIV. 

Further,

in 2015, 7.3% of adolescent girls in Rwanda experienced a teenage pregnancy (up 20% from 2010), a statistic driven by a lack of knowledge about reproductive health, as well as access to health services.

To

address these critical knowledge gaps, we set up Sexual Health Training workshops for all of the young women participating in our Vocational Training

program and invited our older artisan partners to join as well. The course, taught by an experienced female Rwandan health trainer, focused on HIV/AIDS and STI transmission, prevention, and symptoms, but also incorporated lessons on gender-based violence and reproductive health and care. 

The instructor provided the young women with guidance about how to discuss sexual health with partners—conversations which can be challenging, especially when unequal gender roles or financial dependence come into play—and also encouraged them to be proactive about “knowing their status” through regular check ups and blood tests.

For

some of the students, the workshop was the first time they had ever learned about sexual health in an educational setting. Others had received sexual health education before, but often in less detail. The workshop gave them an opportunity to learn about these topics in a safe, positive environment and to ask as many questions as they needed. Further, for the older women, the training gave them important guidance on how to talk with their children about these issues.

“It’s

so important that we get this training while we are young,” a 23-year-old workshop participant, Jennifer, said. “The youth are the ones who have a poor understanding about sexual relations here in Rwanda, especial girls of my age. Many get pregnant or get HIV because they do not have this information.”

Another positive (and

heartwarming!) outcome of the training was that it helped sensitize the participants to the experiences of people living with HIV/AIDS and the need for empathy. One 19-year-old woman, Liliane, said: 

The

most important thing I learned is to take care of HIV/AIDS positive people. We should never exclude them.” 

As we strive to create a

world in which young women and girls can reach their full potential, it is crucial that they have access to information about their health. Moving forward, we are committed to continuing our Sexual Health Training program for young women and expanding the curriculum to cover reproductive health, a topic which several of the participants asked for. In our mission to achieve gender equality and empower women knowledge is a powerful, and necessary, first step.  

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Rad Dads

#ghana, #artisans, #community, #indegodiaries

It’s almost Father’s Day in the U.S., and we’re excited to give a special shout-out to some of our newest artisan partners: the 65 men of the Ahwiaa Woodcarvers Association in Ghana!

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While Indego Africa is known for working with women in Africa, some of our newest artisan partner groups in Ghana are made up of men (more on that here). While supporting women remains the core of our mission, we are also excited to work with these talented male artisans and to help them grow their own businesses and better provide for themselves and their families. So for Father’s Day this year, we thought we’d introduce you to some of these rad dads and the awesome artisan techniques they’re working with.

Woodcarving is a time-honored craft in Ghana with a rich cultural history (more on the myths & meanings behind it here). Legend has it that in olden times a man named Akwasi Yoyo traveled to the Ashanti kingdom of Denkyira, where he learned the craft of woodcarving. After mastering these skills, he brought his finished carvings back to his hometown (which today is called “Ahwiaa”) and showed them to the King. The King was so impressed that he instructed the entire village to learn and practice the art form. Since then, this beautiful craft has been passed down from family to family, generation to generation. 

The Ahwiaa Wood Carvers Association carries on this legacy by continuing the practice of traditional wood-carving today, creating beautiful handmade products ranging from Ashanti warrior masks, to traditional fertility dolls, beaded stools, and more.

The handmade process all starts with—you guessed it!—wood. The carvers source wood from a nearby forest and work with a range of locally-grown trees, including cedar, tweneboa, mahogany, teak, and pawpaw. To create the intricately detailed wooden objects you see on our site, the artisans start by sketching their designs directly onto the wood and then carving out the desired shape with a hacking knife. They then switch to a smaller, more refined knife to shave the piece down and carve out fine details.

After sanding and polishing, the artisans add finishing touches and design elements to each product ranging from wood stains, to brightly colored paint, delicate beads, cowrie shells and more! The final results? Unique, handcrafted products that showcase Ghana’s beautiful raw materials, rich cultural histories, and impeccable craftsmanship.

For the artisans of the Ahwiaa Woodcarvers Association, woodcarving is not only a lifelong art form, but also a source of livelihood. As many of these craftsmen are dads, we chatted a few of them to hear more about what fatherhood means to them and why they come into work everyday. Here’s what they shared with us:

“Being a father is a difficult but important task. Sometimes when we wake up in the  morning, I have nothing in my pocket. All I want is to be able to provide for my family. I want to be able to give my children what they need in life to help them be successful and become good leaders in the future. It’s what every father wants.” – Adom Gyamfi

 

“I love it when my children welcome me and come to meet me when I return from work. It makes me happy to answer all their curious questions. I feel so proud when I hear good reports about my daughter from school. She is well known and applauded for her good conduct and her passion for keeping the school clean.” – Yaw Antwi.

 

We are so excited to support these artisans as they seek to support and enrich their families! To all the rad dads in Ghana and around the world, we wish you a very happy Father’s Day!

To shop products handmade by the artisans of the Ahwiaa Wood Carvers Association, click here.  

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The Moms of Covanya

#indegodiaries, #community, #mothersmonth, #indegokids

To celebrate the launch of our brand-new baby & kids’ collection (now available on Target.com!) we did an oh-so-cute photoshoot in Rwanda featuring the children of our artisan partners wearing our pattern-happy, perfect-for-summer prints (and playing with lots of balloons and confetti, of course).

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The photoshoot (which you can see in all its smile-inducing cuteness here) took place at Covanya Cooperative in Bugesera, Rwanda—the workplace of 30 amazing artisans and moms who are known for their incredible handwoven products. We were so excited to do this photoshoot in Rwanda and to feature Rwandan kiddies wearing our brand new clothing line, which is 100% sourced, stitched, and finished in Rwanda (with love!)

We chatted with the moms of Covanya to hear their thoughts on the photoshoot, our new Indego Africa baby & kids line, and their experiences more broadly as mothers. And, when we visited, we were happy to find some of their little ones dressed head-to-toe in Indego clothes they had taken home from the shoot! Here’s what the moms of Covanya shared with us: 

“The fabric was so beautiful! At first I thought the clothes came from outside the country. I was to happy to learn that they were from Rwanda!” – Delphine (2 boys) 

“I love being a mom. I love coming home from work and hearing my children scream ‘Mommy’s coming! Mommy’s coming!’ It brings me such joy.” – Alice (1 boy, 1 girl)

“My daughter loves the Indego clothes so much. Whenever I try to take them off she cries because she loves wearing them!” – Joséphine (1 boy, 1 girl)

“The best thing you can give to children is an education—so they can learn, grow, and become independent.” – Jeanne (2 boys, 2 girls)

“Being a mom makes me so happy. Sometimes when I’m having a bad day my kids say: ‘Mom, what happened?’ They make me laugh, and I forget about everything that happened that day.” – Donatha

(4 boys, 1 girl)

“I really appreciate spending time with my kids and enjoying our everyday life together. Nothing makes me happier than being able to feed them and send them to school.” – Claire (2

girls)

To shop our brand-new baby & kids’ collection, head to Target.com

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How the artisan sector can change the world

#artisans, #inspiring, #community, #africa, #indegodiaries

Did you know that the artisan sector is the second largest employer in the developing world, behind agriculture? That’s right: millions of people in developing countries around the globe—most of them women—participate in the artisan economy, practicing traditional crafts as a means to earn income and sustain their livelihoods.

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orgionally posted on one.org

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These numbers are exciting, and there are more where they came from. The global artisan economy is a $34 billion per year industry. Promisingly, countries in the developing world have a competitive advantage in this sector because of their rich cultural traditions, diverse artisanal skills, and unique raw materials. In fact, developing countries today account for 65 percent of handicraft exports around the world.

While these facts paint a powerful picture, the artisan sector still has a long way to go to reach its full potential as a sustainable source of income generation, employment, and economic growth for impoverished communities around the globe. This World Fair Trade Day, we—Indego Africa—wanted to take the opportunity to shine a spotlight on the artisan sector and share more about why we support artisans and fair trade.

First, a little bit about us: we are a nonprofit organization and design company dedicated to empowering artisan women in Africa. Founded in 2007, we partner with 1,000 artisans in Rwanda and, most recently, Ghana to sell home décor, apparel, and accessories that are designed in New York City and handmade in Africa—combining traditional techniques, local materials and amazing artisanal skill. We pool 100 percent of the proceeds from sales, with grants and donations, to run business and entrepreneurship training programs for the women who handcraft our products.

Our model combines access to market opportunities and access to education because these are some of the most pressing challenges that artisans in Africa, and across the developing world, face today. We help integrate artisans in Rwanda and Ghana into the global economy by bringing their products to the international market and providing them with fair, consistent income for their work.

Since day one, we have been committed to paying our partners fairly and in accordance with the Fair Trade Federation’s principles of respect, transparency and accountability (learn more about these values here). We believe that paying artisans fairly is both the right thing to do and the wise thing to do. It’s right because it honors the time, skill, artistry, and expertise that goes into the making of each product and treats people with the respect and dignity they deserve. It’s also wise because empowering artisans—and especially women—is a powerful way to drive economic growth and sustainable development in communities around the globe.

Since working with us, our Rwandan partners’ income has increased significantly (700 percent, to be exact) from approximately 25 cents a day in 2008 to, on average, $2.00 a day or more in 2015! These women use the income they earn to invest in the health, education, and well-being of their families. For example, today, 72 percent of our partners never run out of food (versus only 5 percent in 2008); 89 percent send all or most of their children to school (versus 50 percent in 2008); and 90 percent have medical insurance for their entire families.

We (along with many others) like to call this phenomenon the multiplier effect—that is, the reverberating positive impact that investing in women has on their families and also on their communities. However, we don’t stop at providing women with income. We like to ensure that our impact is self-sustaining by providing women with the education they need to become confident, independent businesswomen. Our training programs equip women with knowledge and skills that empower them to build their own sustainable businesses, create employment opportunities for others, and become agents of change in their communities.

Over the past nine years, we have seen firsthand the power of the artisan economy to improve livelihoods and drive sustainable development in socioeconomically marginalized communities in Rwanda (and soon, we hope, in Ghana). Around the world, there is still much to be done to truly harness the power of this sector. According to the Alliance for Artisan Enterprise, the artisan sector remains “fragmented and under-resourced,” and many artisans continue to work “in isolated environments, without business skills, market access, and the financial tools needed to boost production and sales.”

With these challenges in mind, organizations and individuals that aim to make a difference by advancing fair trade and investing in the power of education—with an eye towards long-term, sustainable impact—are off to a good start.

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ONE and Indego Africa teamed up last year to create an exclusive basket, woven with colorful sweetgrass and delivered with a note from the artisan by whom it was hand-crafted. You can find it now in the ONE store.

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The F-Word is Out at Story!

#community, #collaboration

We are so excited to be part of STORY’s newest installation, the F-Word! Launching on March 7th, just in time for International Women’s Day, the F-word is about celebrating Feminism and the amazing stories of women around the world (involving many other F-Words like Future, Fun, Fierce, and Family, to name only a few).

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Our favorite F-word? Femininity! To us, celebrating femininity is about celebrating the (many!) wonderful qualities of women around the world—especially the women we partner with in Rwanda & Ghana. We are thrilled to be able to showcase some of our partners’ products and stories at the F-Word, and we hope you’ll stop by to check them out!

 

Here are all the deets: STORY is a unique retail concept store that reinvents itself every four to eight weeks. The F-Word will run from March 7th – March 27th at 144 10th Ave. at 19th St. For more information about STORY and the F-Word, click here

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Introducing…Vocational Training for Youth in Rwanda!

#community, #impact, #education, #entrepreneurs, #vocationaltraining

In Rwanda, only 8% of young adults go to college. College tuition fees are high and, for many struggling families and individuals, the need for immediate income often outweighs the potential long-term benefits of higher education. Many of Rwanda’s youth go straight from high school and into workforce. Some go even earlier.

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When they do, they find themselves without job skills, searching for employment in an economy with few wage-earning jobs on the market. Where does this all lead? A not-so-great 63% youth underemployment rate throughout the country. 

That’s where we want to help. Given the economic landscape for youth in Rwanda, there is a pressing need to equip young people—and especially young women, as they are less likely to be formally employed than men—with marketable skills to help them enter the workforce. So we put our heads together and came up with an idea – to create a brand-new Vocational Training program designed to address this exact challenge! 

Launched on February 8th, our six-month-semester Vocational Training program provides underprivileged young women in Rwanda with artisan skills training and business education to help them improve their livelihoods and achieve financial independence. 

How does it all work? Here’s the scoop: three days a week, 45 young women learn artisan skills at five of our partner cooperatives. The lucky five this semester? Twiyubake (banana leaf weaving); Ejo Hazaza (beading); Abasangiye (sewing); Imirasire and Covanya (both sweetgrass weaving).  

The other two days a week, the young women gather in Kigali to take our Basic Business Training course where they learn fundamental business skills like bookkeeping, budgeting, quality control, marketing, and technology.

By combining artisan skills training with business education, our Vocational Training program will help young women in Rwanda achieve long-term economic security and prosperity. At the end of each six-month cycle, our goal is for the trainees to have the option to either join the cooperatives as full-time members, having mastered the skills necessary to produce products for local and international markets, or to start businesses of their own.

The young ladies participating this semester were all chosen from the local communities around our partner cooperatives. 89% of them currently do not earn income and the remaining 11% work odd jobs that do not earn steady or substantial pay. While they all graduated from high school, none were able to continue on to college because their families couldn’t afford it.

Therefore, they are eager to take advantage of this opportunity to gain valuable job skills. As one woman, Dancille (Imirasire Cooperative) enthusiastically stated, 

“I hope to learn how to weave baskets and how to run a business so I can start my own one day and employ others.” 

Our Vocational Training program is not only valuable to the participating trainees, but also to our partner cooperatives themselves. Most of our artisan partners are survivors of Rwanda’s 1994 genocide and the age demographics of their cooperatives are getting progressively older. They are excited about the opportunity to train and incorporate younger women in order to ensure the longevity and sustainability of their businesses in the long-run. This, in turn, creates opportunities for younger women to rise up as leaders, grow their cooperatives, and help generate economic activity and opportunity in their communities.

We are so excited about the possibilities that lay ahead for these young women as they seek to build brighter futures for themselves and for generations to come. They are motivated, ambitious, entrepreneurial, and ready for action. As one young woman, Olive (Twiyubake Cooperative), kindly noted: 

“Thank you Indego Africa for thinking about the youth and helping us support ourselves by learning new skills. I am ready and excited to put the knowledge I am receiving into practice.”

To support our Vocational Training and provide life-changing opportunities for young women in Rwanda, click here

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Back-to-School with The Great Lakes Goods

#community, #indegodiaries, #collaboration, #funwithfriends, #leadership academy, #back to school

We are so excited to introduce you to our newest partner, Rose Lazar: the founder, designer, and talented maker behind The Great Lakes Goods. Known for her whimsical handmade prints, magical wall charms, and finely-crafted wooden objects, Rose infuses each item she makes with humor, good vibes, and a love of handmade design that we simply can’t get enough of. That’s why we are so exited to launch our new custom collection of Great Lakes x Indego Africa products featuring hand-drawn notecard sets and moon & star garlands. But wait – there’s more!

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In addition to being our partner-in-design, Rose is also a supporter of our Leadership Academy in Rwanda. Through September 22nd, you can buy any of our Indego Africa x The Great Lakes products and your purchase will go towards our Back-to-School Campaign to support education for women in Rwanda!

Click here to shop these one-of-a-kind handcrafted products and keep reading to find out Rose’s thoughts on the power of education, her advice for aspiring entrepreneurs, and why she supports Indego Africa.

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? 

To me, education is something that you never outgrow. There's always a chance to learn something new whether it be from a book you read, an experience you have, a conversation between two people or even a negative experience with something. Whatever triggers that thing inside of you that makes you want to learn more is a very powerful thing. Education to me means never losing sight of that feeling. Education has helped me in that no one ever told me there was a limit to what I can learn. To this day when I figure out how to do something it's an incredibly satisfying feeling.  

At our Leadership Academy, students are learning the skills they need to start their own businesses. As the  founder, owner, and designer of The Great Lakes Goods, what advice would you give to these aspiring entrepreneurs? 

The advice I have for aspiring entrepreneurs is: don't be afraid to take a chance. Whatever you want to do might seem crazy to some people but if you 100% believe in it, the passion you have for it will shine through it and convince everyone around you that your crazy idea just might work. Just be prepared to work hard for want you want to do.  

We love the whimsical handmade awesomeness that is The Great Lakes. What inspired you to work with Indego Africa? 

I wanted to work with Indego Africa because I had already been a fan, buying up your products when I would see them in boutiques around NY. When I investigated who and what Indego was, I thought it was fantastic! Taking these super traditional handicrafts and making them contemporary through color and styling. Then on top of it supporting a community of women makers. I was honored to be asked to work with Indego as I think it's a super inspirational community.  

We are honored to work with The Great Lakes and to bring you beautifully handcrafted products that empower women to achieve their dreams. To shop our Great Lakes x Indego Africa collection and support our Back-to-School Campaign for women in Rwanda, click here

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In Celebration of Makers Everywhere, We’re Off To…

#indegodiaries, #community, #makersmonth

We are off to somewhere new! Read on to find out where!

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Since the beginning of Indego days, it’s been our vision to empower female artisans not only in Rwanda, but across Africa. That’s why we are so excited to start a new chapter of our journey...in Ghana! We can’t wait to share more handmade-with-love products, beautiful images, and inspiring stories with you. Stay tuned for more as we grow our mission for good!
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Weaving Peace – The Beautiful History of Rwanda’s Peace Baskets

#makersmonth, #artisans, #inspiring, #community

For centuries, “agaseke” – traditional Rwandan baskets {like the one pictured above!} – have been an essential part of Rwandan culture – woven into the fabric of everyday life as vessels for food and grains, household catchalls, and gifts for important ceremonies, like weddings and christenings.

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Historically, weaving was passed down from mother to daughter, generation to generation, as a rite of passage marking the transition into womanhood and symbolizing a mother’s care for her children and her country. However, after the 1994 genocide, this age-old tradition took on a new and powerful meaning in Rwanda.

When the genocide in Rwanda ended, 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—overcoming past differences to work together towards a brighter future.

These determined women decided to use traditional agaseke baskets as a symbol of Rwanda’s newfound peace, and the baskets’ iconic zigzag patterns came to represent the image of two women holding hands—embracing reconciliation, unity, and hope for the future of Rwanda.

We are so excited to share our newest collection of peace baskets with you – a line of beautiful, beaded agaseke that reflect Rwanda’s rich cultural traditions and crafts, as well as its ever-brightening future. We love these baskets not only for their simple and elegant design, but for what they represent: a beautiful story of forgiveness, generosity, and compassion that inspires us everyday, and that we hope will inspire you too.

To shop our peace basket collection, click here 

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Fun with Friends #3 Tamar Mogendorff

#makersmonth, #community, #collaboration, #funwithfriends

When we were planning our goings-on-about-town for Makers Month, we knew we had to include a visit to one of our favorite Brooklyn-based makers and beloved partners - designer Tamar Mogendorff! Not only is she a mentor and inspiration to the entire Indego family, but she created some extra special installation pieces (along with the help of the ladies of Ibyishimo cooperative) for our July 22nd pop-up shop.

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She invited us to her studio last week for some coffee, conversation and croissants (oh and a sneak peek of what she has in store for us at next week's pop-up!). Here's what she had to say when we asked her if she'd be up for a trip to Rwanda:
"I love traveling and getting inspired by other cultures—by nature, people, craftsmanship, foods—but at the end of the day, to me the magic happens when I’m in my studio, trying things out and doing this or that to create a product, an actual object. To me, the reason to go to Rwanda would be to work together with the artisans there—both to teach them and learn from them and their techniques, materials, ideas, and aesthetics. It's always difficult to give instruction from afar. You miss the part of the experimenting together, finding new ways to create together, and designing hand in hand. I hope to make it there one day and to explore the possibilities of new creations, more materials, and, of course, to get to know the artisans in person. " 

For more details on our Makers Month & July 22nd pop up shop, click here

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#MakersMonth is Here!

#community, #indegodiaries, #makersmonth, #sneakpeek

We are so excited to announce the launch of our first-ever #MakersMonth — a July-long campaign celebrating the incredible artistry and skill of the master-makers who handcraft our products! Throughout the month, we’ll be giving you insider, behind-the-scenes looks into how our products are made. Whether exploring the exquisite crafts of our artisan partners in Rwanda or the global design partnerships that bring our new, innovative collections to life, we want to share with you the unique stories behind our products, our brand, and our mission to do good through good design. Read on to find out what we’re up to this July and how you can get involved!

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This #MakersMonth, you’ll find…    

  • in-depth features on the handmade processes and unique stories behind our products and collections! {on the blog}
  • a stunning artisan portrait series with the beautiful and talented mama-makers of Umutima Cooperative launched on our partner ONE’s blog & shot by another partner, hazel & pine! 
  • weekly exclusive giveaways for our wonderful followers & supporters {like you!}
  • an inside look into our studio visit with designer, artist, and collaborator, Tamar Mogendorff
  • a full-day pop up shop & party on July 22nd in Nolita, NYC featuring lots of bright products, special partner & project installations, discounts, drinks, small bites & more! {come & invite your friends!}
  • a brand new #Makers Video, giving you an up-close-and-Indego look into the incredible crafts and techniques behind our products
  • a behind-the-scenes glimpse into the design process & inspiration of our Creative Director, Deirdre King
  • and…a VERY special announcement{you won’t want to miss this…}

We hope you’re as excited as we are about all the fun things we have in store this month! Be sure to follow us on social media and check out our newsletter {sign up here} so you don’t miss a beat. We hope you’ll join in the conversation and help us share our love for good stories, good design, and the art of the handmade this #MakersMonth! 

Our #MakersMonth Pop-Up party is sponsored by Sixpoint Brewery & Insomnia Cookies

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Fighting HIV/AIDS through economic opportunity

#inspiring, #impact, #community

More than 200,000 people between the ages of 15-24 live with HIV/AIDS in Rwanda. Even more are affected by the disease – struggling with taking care of ill family, or dealing with the loss of parents, guardians, or other relatives.

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Originally posted on one.org

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At Indego Africa, we see firsthand the devastating effects that HIV/AIDS can have on individuals and communities in Rwanda. That’s why we are thrilled to partner with CHABHA (Children Affected by HIV/AIDS) to help provide employment & vocational training to the ISANO cooperative – a group of talented young people, all of whom are affected in some way by HIV/AIDS. CHABHA is a nonprofit that partners with community-based organizations in Rwanda and Burundi to support children and youth affected by HIV/AIDS and poverty. The young people CHABHA works with come from the poorest families in their communities, with parents or guardians who are unable to provide for them.

When discussing HIV/AIDS in Rwanda, it is important to acknowledge the 1994 genocide that contributed significantly to its spread. During those 100 days, an estimated 250,000 – 500,000 women were raped, often by known HIV+ men, as a weapon of genocide. Today, survivors and their families continue to struggle with the aftermath of this devastating violence.

While young people in Rwanda, and around the world, are often the most vulnerable population affected by HIV/AIDS, they are also determined to rise above it. The young people of the ISANO cooperative – an Indego Africa & CHABHA partner – are no exception.

ISANO is a weaving cooperative in the Kicukiro district of Rwanda. It was founded in 2013 by entrepreneurial high school student, Celine Mudahakana (in partnership with CHABHA’s Project Independence Initiative) in order to create a sustainable source of income for young people affected by HIV/AIDS. Most of ISANO’s members had dropped out of school because they could not afford to pay the fees. Without education or income-earning opportunities, these young adults and their families were living a life of abject poverty.

At Indego Africa, we believe deeply in the power of education and economic empowerment to transform lives. That’s why we are thrilled to partner withISANO to create beautiful woven products – like a loomed linen spring scarf collection – that provide its artisans with opportunities to earn sustainable, fair-trade income and to learn valuable business skills along the way.

Opportunities like these not only help young people affected by HIV/AIDS escape from poverty, but also help them gain something of immense value: hope. By developing useful, life-long skills, and building self-confidence in the process, ISANO’s artisans are now looking towards the future with hopefulness, rather than despair. They are seeking new ways to grow their cooperative, generating innovative business ideas, and – to quote our long-time artisan partner, Emelienne – “dreaming dreams they did not know it was possible to dream.”

We are honored to work with these brave young people who are not only creating brighter futures for themselves and their families but also serving as role models for others – showing them that they too can take ownership of their futures.

Celine, ISANO’s founder, is thrilled at all the progress that the members of ISANO have made. Her dreams for their future? “I want [ISANO] to influence other generations,” she says, “[I want them] to bring more people into this project and other projects like these so that all young people who do not have opportunities can have the chance to become financially independent.”

We couldn’t agree more and are deeply excited to continue to work with and support ISANO and CHABHA in the years to come, helping more young people to develop life-changing skills.

You can learn more about Indego Africa and the ISANO collection here.

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Fun With Friends! A Day With Thread & Silk

#community, #indegodiaries, #summer, #funwithfriends

We love doing fun things with friends! That’s why we were so excited to do a photo shoot with Thread & Silk – the ethical fashion creation of Chloe Guss, a once-upon-a-time Indego intern.

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Thread & Silk creates one-of-a-kind luxury vintage shirts using 100% recycled fabrics. We love the way these whimsical, eye-catching pieces look with our jewelry & accessories – whether playing off our cowhorn & tin necklaces or accented by our brightly colored textile turbands.

Check out some of the looks we put together below – we hope you love them too!

 

 

For more on Thread & Silk, click here    |   To shop our featured pieces, click here

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Two decades after the genocide, empowering female entrepreneurs in Rwanda

#artisans, #inspiring, #community, #entrepreneurs, #impact, #leadership academy

April 7th, 2015 marks the 21st commemoration of the Rwandan genocide, when more than 800,000 people were killed in 100 days. Indego Africa is a nonprofit social enterprise empowering Rwandan women to lead their country forward.

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originally posted on one.org

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“Inventory, bookkeeping, budgeting, accounting…”

She pauses to catch her train of thought.

“…marketing, saving, taking out loans…I am learning to be a businesswoman.”

Elizabeth is a student at Indego Africa’s Leadership Academy – an innovative six-month training program in Kigali, Rwanda dedicated to building the next generation of the country’s powerful female entrepreneurs and leaders.

While just over two decades ago Rwanda experienced a brutal genocide, today it is one of the rising stars of Africa – thanks, in large part, to its women. Women have been at the forefront of Rwanda’s development, playing a crucial role in the country’s economic, social, political (and physical) reconstruction.

Indego Africa – a nonprofit social enterprise founded in 2007 – works at the heart of this development. We partner with more than 800 female artisans across 22 different cooperatives – a form of enterprise promoted by the Rwandan government after the genocide to drive economic growth. However, despite the government’s support, for many years artisans struggled to make end’s meet – lacking markets in which to sell their goods and the education needed to effectively run their businesses.

At Indego Africa, we seek to address these issues of access and opportunity. We provide female artisans with sustainable income by selling their beautifully handcrafted products around the world. We help them to become empowered businesswomen through our education programs – the hallmark of which is our newly established Leadership Academy.

Launched on October 1st, 2014, our Leadership Academy is the only free-of-cost advanced business training program for women in Rwanda. Class meets twice a week for a full day and consists of practical and interactive lessons, developed by our own staff and Board of Directors members.

An experienced and passionate team of Rwandan teachers leads the class through each lesson, facilitating student-led group projects, field trips, and guest lectures from successful local entrepreneurs and visiting global thought leaders. The goal of these courses is to help women develop the life-long knowledge and skills they need to grow their own businesses and become successful entrepreneurs and leaders.

Let’s look at Vestine’s story for an example of what the Leadership Academy can mean for women in Rwanda. Vestine was 11 years old when the genocide erupted, and when it ended, she was forced to drop out of school to support her remaining family members. For many years she struggled to survive, and when she was diagnosed with HIV in 2007, she began to lose hope for her future.

Now a member of Ejo Hazaza (an Indego Africa partner cooperative since 2012) and a student at our Leadership Academy, Vestine is emerging as an inspired entrepreneur – not only building a brighter future for herself and her family, but also for her community. She says: “There is a water problem in my village. 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 neighborhood.”

Vestine is one of many women using her new knowledge and skills to make a difference. Another student is using the lessons she’s learned to grow her business – a café – and hire three new employees. Yet another plans to become a consultant and offer advice to other business-owners in her community. All of our students have begun to make improvements to the organization and management of their artisan cooperatives. They are creating better-run, more productive businesses, which, in turn, enable all of our partners to take on more clients, receive more orders, and earn more income.

As we approach the graduation ceremony of the Leadership Academy’s inaugural class on April 30th 2015, we are thrilled and proud to see just how far our students have come. Not only are they driving economic progress in their communities, but they are also emerging as powerful mentors and role models for others – setting new precedents for how much women can achieve in Rwanda.

When asked why she believes the Leadership Academy is important, Elizabeth says: “It has to do with the history of Rwanda. In the past, women couldn’t run businesses or have the same jobs men had. Today, we are confident and ready to take the lead.”

We believe that our students will do exactly that: take the lead in their communities and spread economic growth, social progress, and hope across their country.

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Remembering The Genocide

#community, #hope, #artisans, #inspiring

Today, April 7th 2015, marks the 21st commemoration of the genocide against the Tutsis in Rwanda, when more than 800,000 people were killed over the course of 100 days. 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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We wish to recognize and honor our incredible artisan partners who, through their resilience and steadfast determination, are rebuilding their country. They have not forgotten the atrocities they saw or the loved ones they lost. At times, they may find themselves haunted or overwhelmed by the memories. Yet, despite the pain they continue to endure, they are determined to pave the way for a better future – to strive for reconciliation, forgiveness, and progress over bitterness, vengeance, and despair.

We have the utmost respect and admiration for these beautiful, brave women. What they have accomplished so far, and what they continue to achieve, is nothing short of amazing.

Today, we share the story of Esther – a powerful example of how far many of our artisan partners have come since 1994. Esther is a member of Abasangiye – a cooperative comprised of mothers of children born of rape during the genocide. She lost her husband and all four of her children in the genocide, and, like hundreds of thousands of women in Rwanda, was sexually assaulted and infected with HIV.

In the aftermath of the genocide, Esther was left distraught and alone. She began suffering from severe depression and for years struggled to leave her house or even get out of bed in the morning. She admits to having considered ending her own life. 

It was at one of her darkest moments that Esther came into contact with AVEGA (Association of Widows of Genocide) – a Rwandan nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting and empowering genocide survivors. She began participating in therapy sessions through which she was able to come together and speak openly with other women who had had similar experiences as her own. Through these conversations, Esther began to overcome her trauma and gain the confidence she needed to put her life back together again.

Recognizing how life-changing therapy had been for her, Esther decided to become a counselor herself. She says:

 “I realized how important it is to have someone who listens to you. If I hadn’t found that, I don’t know if I would be alive today. Now, I advise other women who had some of the same problems that I did. I listen carefully to their stories and try to comfort them so that they too can feel like they have self-worth.”

 

Esther also says that being able to have a job and earn an income through her cooperative’s partnership with Indego Africa has been critical to her path to recovery. She says: 

“one thing that makes trauma worse is poverty. Getting up every morning and coming here to work on an order – that makes life worth living.”

Today, Esther is a self-assured and confident woman who radiates warmth and compassion. We are endlessly inspired by her and those like her who have not only overcome so much, but have chosen to dedicate their lives to helping others.

We celebrate our partners’ spirit of generosity, their care for one another, and their commitment to a better future. We wish for continued peace, progress, and prosperity for them and for all the generations of Rwandans to come.

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In Good Company: J.Crew x Indego Africa

#community, #collaboration, #new, #indegodiaries

This spring, J. Crew is bringing a touch of Rwanda to the American home with the launch of the J. Crew x Indego Africa Spring 2015 collaboration! Featuring bright baskets, vibrant coasters, elegant vases, and more, this hand-woven collection is designed to infuse your life and home with beauty, color, and conscience.

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At Indego Africa, all of our products are handcrafted {with love} by female artisans in Rwanda. Our goal is to take traditional Rwandan artistry and craft and make it beautiful and accessible to modern customers – all while providing sustainable income & life-changing education for the women with whom we partner.

We are thrilled that J. Crew – one of our favorite brands and a beacon of American style – has chosen to feature our products and to share their beauty & rich cultural history with their customers.  

We are even more thrilled {and honored!} to have these items included in J. Crew’s In Good Company collection – a curated selection of  “the coolest goods from the brands {they} love – and love to work with.”

We love everything about J. Crew and how they run their business, making chic and stylish products that are accessible and produced in an ethical, socially responsible way. While we may work in different parts of the world, we share a love of simple, timeless design accented with bright, striking pops of color and pattern. It is in this intersection of elegance and fun, of beauty and whimsy, that we often find our inspiration. As J. Crew likes to say: “the magic is in the mix." 

Above all, we find inspiration in the incredible Rwandan women who handcraft our products. The time, precision, and impeccable artistry they put into all they create is nothing short of amazing, and you can feel the love and care in every stitch.

We are so excited that J. Crew has chosen to celebrate their craft along with us through a collection of bold, bright, and beautiful pieces that evoke the joy and spunk of the women who made them. We hope you’ll celebrate too! Shop Indego Africa for J.Crew here

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Indego Africa x Eileen Fisher

#artisans, #inspiration, #education, #community, #collaboration, #indegodiaries

We are thrilled to announce our collaboration with Eileen Fisher on a collection of scarves, beautifully hand-knit by the artisans of the Ingenzi Knit Union (IKU)! These one-of-a-kind lightweight pieces are the perfect way to welcome in the early days of spring and can be found at select Eileen Fisher stores across the country.

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Our partnership with Eileen Fisher is part of the brand’s larger (and, may we add, deeply admirable) commitment to sourcing handmade goods and investing in socially responsible and sustainable business practices. Eileen Fisher works with artisans around the world to handcraft one-of-a-kind pieces that help to sustain traditional crafts and cultures. They have worked with artisans in a range of inspiring locales including India, Ethiopia, and, of course, Rwanda, not only creating beautiful products, but also investing in the well-being of the communities in which they work.

In late 2013, an Eileen Fisher team featuring representatives from their creative, human rights, production, and design departments traveled to Rwanda and spent several days with our staff, visited our partner cooperatives, and learned more about our operations and social impact. Feeling inspired, they followed up with a second site visit in 2014 as the knitters worked to fill their first (of hopefully many!) Eileen Fisher order!

At the end of 2014, we were honored to have the opportunity to apply for and receive an Eileen Fisher Human Rights Grant to help our partner cooperative, IKU, build a socially sustainable future. The Eileen Fisher Human Rights Grant Program is dedicated to elevating the livelihood of the people who make Eileen Fisher products and to help them achieve long-term happiness through social and economic empowerment. We are confident that this grant will help IKU to achieve these goals.

IKU’s artisans will use this money, in part, to invest in improved handlooms, which will increase the volume, quality, and diversity of products they produce. Further, they will be able to hire a consultant to help them with quality control, design innovation, and implementing better organizational systems at their cooperatives.

These opportunities will make a world of difference for IKU – a union made up four different cooperatives and over 150 women. Many of IKU’s artisans are HIV+ and most often struggle to provide for their families’ basic needs. With the increased production capacity, product quality, and market opportunities the Eileen Fisher’s Human Rights Grant will help them develop, the artisans of IKU will be able to build brighter futures for themselves and their families as empowered artisans and businesswomen.

We are so grateful to be able to work with brands like Eileen Fisher whose values and beliefs so wonderfully align with our own. Here’s to more partnerships & positive change in the years to come!

You can find out more about Eileen Fisher's great work around the globe here.

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Thanks Google!

#impact, #leadership academy, #entrepreneurs, #community, #education

As the graduation ceremony for the first class of our Leadership Academy approaches on April 30th, 2015, we want to say a huge THANK YOU to Google for helping to make this first semester such a success!

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Google donated Chromebooks to our Leadership Academy in order to provide students with the critical access to technology they need to become more effective businesswomen. Over the past six months, students have learned how to use these computers to improve the organization, management, and growth potential of their cooperatives. For example, they’ve used the Chromebooks in lessons about budgeting and forecasting, cost-tracking, sales data analysis, and researching local market opportunities.

Given that women in the developing world often experience unequal access to technology, we are deeply grateful to Google for doubling down on their mission to making the world’s information “universally accessible and useful” to all. 

Equipped with new technological skills and six months of advanced business training, our artisan partners will be able to grow their own businesses and thrive as awesome, independent entrepreneurs. Thanks again, Google!

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Calling All Lovebirds - An Interview with Tamar Mogendorff

#inspiring, #artisans, #community, #indegodiaries, #collaboration

We are thrilled to announce the launch of our Lovebirds from Africa Collection – a collaboration with Brooklyn-based artist & designer, Tamar Mogendorff! Tamar is known for her one-of-a-kind soft sculptures – beautiful stitch creations which artfully blend fantasy, whimsy, and impeccable design. We partnered with Tamar to bring her incredible craft to Rwanda, where the artisans of Ibyishimo adapted her techniques to create our “Lovebirds” - delicately stitched fabric birds perched on textile-wrapped wooden mobiles. The embodiment of creativity & artistry, Tamar never ceases to inspire us with her handmade process & aesthetic. Our Creative Director, Deirdre King, sat down with her to find out what inspires her and why she chose to partner with Indego Africa. Read on to find out!

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What made you want to work with Indego Africa?

Tamar: I am always excited to collaborate with others. With Indego Africa, I felt there was a great challenge there for me to try and create pieces from the materials, and somehow the culture, in Rwanda. I feel very fortunate to be able to create and make a living from it, and I want to try and help others to do the same.

What inspires you?

Tamar: Everything. It can be random. Materials are a great inspiration. My friends. Conversations. Sometimes I seek inspiration - I go travel or open a book, etc. - but most of the time it’s just random moments. Working in the studio is when real stuff happens though. 

What do you love most about your job/work/career? What is the hardest part?

Tamar: The people I meet through my work - so many amazing creative people, so many who have become close to me. This is the biggest treasure. Besides that, the fact that I can wake up every morning and still play and create my own visions is a gift that I'm grateful for. I love what I do; I'm very passionate about it, and that’s what also makes it hard sometimes…

We want you to come to Africa & meet the awesome ladies we work with! What would be most exciting for you if you went?

Tamar: It would be amazing to meet the awesome ladies! To work with them, learn from them, and maybe teach them something in return…

We are all about empowerment, entrepreneurship & creativity. Why do you think these things are important? 

Tamar: Because they give us freedom, purpose, hope, and real happiness. 

What is your advice for women artisans, designers & entrepreneurs? How can they find their voice in the design world?

Tamar: Love what you do. Be honest to yourself. Work hard. Be generous. Do things step by step. 

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How You Can Change The World With Every Dollar You Spend

#inspiration, #impact, #community, #indegodiaries

Our Development & Communications Associate, Hayley Doner, published an article in Elite Daily! Read on for her thoughts on conscious consumerism and how you can change the world with every dollar you spend.

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In the age of corporate bailouts, companies “too big to fail,” global worker exploitation and industry-driven climate change, I admit to at times feeling helpless as an individual seeking to make a meaningful difference in the world. 

How could I drive positive change in the face of systems rigged to favor profits at the expense of human health, well-being and dignity?

How could I, a 5’4″ girl who loves musical theater and little to no resources to speak of, take on the biggest and baddest corporations of the world?

After duly indulging these feelings of hopelessness and despair, I decided it was time to put on my big girl pants and figure out what I could do to make a difference.

While today I am lucky enough to work for a company that has values that align with my own, I realize that not everyone can do the same. What we all can do, though, is think about the decisions we make every day, and how we can make them better.

We all share something in common; we’re consumers.

From the groceries we eat to the clothes we put on our backs, the decisions we make about what and what not to buy impact the world in which we live.

As Olivia Wilde, actress and cofounder of Conscious Commerce, likes to say, “Your dollar is your vote.”

By choosing to spend money on products we believe in, we can not only make a difference in the world, but we can also send a powerful message to corporations that we don’t support.

This line of thinking, popularly referred to as “conscious consumerism,” is on the rise, especially amongst Millennials. We, more than any generation before us, care deeply about where our products come from and the effects they have on our society.

Study after study shows that young people (ages 18-34) are more willing than other generations to spend extra money on products and services that support good causes.

We are also more likely to research a company’s business practices before making a purchase. These trends pressure corporations to adopt socially-beneficial practices and create an environment where socially-responsible companies can thrive.

Even so, maybe this whole conscious consumerism thing is a little bit new to you. Where should you start?

Here’s my easy, three-step guide to becoming a feel-good, socially-conscious consumer:

What are you passionate about? What keeps you up at night? For me, that’s women’s equality and empowerment. I love to support companies that create opportunities for women around the world.

1. Know Your Cause

(Full disclosure: this is what the company I work for, Indego Africa, is all about.)

Once you know what you care about, it’s time to do the research. What companies are out there, supporting causes you are passionate about?

2. Do Your Research

How are they doing it and are they doing enough? (If not, looks like you just got the next big startup idea…) There’s also due diligence to be done on the companies where you already shop.

How are their products made? What (if any) socially-responsible programs do they invest in and how serious is that investment?

You may have to dig deep, but finding out answers to these questions can help guide your purchasing decisions in whatever way makes most sense for you.

Now that you have this knowledge, be a pal and share it with your friends. As the social media generation, we have the unique ability to spread information quickly and to large groups of people — good or bad.

3. Spread It Around

We can use these platforms to amplify our voices when we want to, amassing our collective power to promote companies we love or call out corporations for their sub-par actions.

By 2017, Millennials will have more spending power than any other generation (totaling more than $10 trillion over the course of our lifetimes).

But, with great power comes great responsibility. What issues do you care about? What kind of world do you want to leave to your children?

By simply asking ourselves these questions, we’re already one step closer to making a difference.

Let’s spend that $10 trillion wisely, friends!

This article was originally published in Elite Daily

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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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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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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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Good Bye Yves!

#community, #inspiration

We are sad to say goodbye our team member, Yves Ndashimye, as he leaves Indego Africa to pursue a new job opportunity…in Singapore! Yves has been with Indego since almost the beginning, starting out as Generation Rwanda trainer and transitioning in 2011 to work full-time as Indego’s Accounting and Operations Associate.

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Here's what Yves had to say about his favorite moments at Indego:

"The Anthropologie order was one of my favorite moments at Indego because it helped some of the women buy their own property and brought them to a new level of financial success.

I loved being in front of the women when I was a Business Management trainer. I liked the way we shared our life stories and gave advice to one another.

I also loved working with people from different backgrounds and cultures throughout my time at Indego."

From balancing the books to managing our {many} shipments from Rwanda to the U.S., Yves has always greeted every task with a smile. We greatly appreciate his unwavering dedication to Indego Africa, and wish him the best as he continues on in his professional journey as a bright young leader! 

Bon Voyage Yves! 

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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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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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