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Up Close & Indego

#new, #inspiration, #handmade, #impact

Our Blog #inspiring

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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Meet The Graduating Class

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

We are so proud of the first graduating class of our Leadership Academy! After six months of advanced business & leadership training, these 25 talented & ambitious artisans are off to do great things (including opening a store together in Kigali!).

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As we welcome in our newest class of 25 students, we want to take a moment to hear from some of our a-m-a-z-i-n-g recent grads about their time at the Academy. Below they weigh in on this past semester, sharing favorite classes, proudest moments, and what they’ll miss the most.

Immaculee, Agatako Cooperative

I enjoyed the class on defining leadership because it helped us understand the qualities a good leader should have, which I believe will enable us to work well with other members of the cooperatives.

Jacqueline, Twiyubake Cooperative

I was so proud when I was able to teach the lesson on inventory to the rest of my colleagues at Twiyubake because I understood the topic so well. Being able to share this knowledge and put it to use was a huge moment for our cooperative.

Annociata, Abasangiye Cooperative

I’ll miss our break times because this was when people shared their stories. I found them all so interesting.

Anne Marie, Cocoki Cooperative

My proudest moment was being able to use a Chromebook for the first time, and use the Internet for research.

Claudine, Imirasire Cooperative

I will miss the teaching most. We got thorough explanations of each topic to ensure that everyone understood.

Lenatha, Imirasire Cooperative

My favorite class was the one on filing and safe-guarding the cooperatives’ records because in my cooperative, we hardly kept our documents but after this lesson, we learned how to file and keep every document especially important ones like our rent agreement.

Immaculee, Ibyishimo Cooperative

My proudest moment was when Rosine {The Leadership Academy’s Head Teacher} told me that I had leadership qualities and that I spoke like a leader when giving a speech.

Epiphanie - Ejo Hazaza Cooperative

I enjoyed the class on working with banks because I learned how to ask for a loan and how to manage the cooperative’s money well.

Illuminee – Covanya Cooperative

I will miss being around the other students. They are like my family.

We hope you’ve enjoyed hearing the inside scoop from some of our impressive Leadership Academy graduates! We can’t wait to share what they do next as they take the lead in their cooperatives & communities. Stay tuned for more insider info soon-to-come on our newest class of entrepreneurial all-stars whose Academy semester has only just begun…

The Leadership Academy is generously supported by the Ann B. Zeis Scholarship Fund.

Click here to learn more

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Inspired By Aelfie

#inspiring, #collaboration, #funwithfriends

We are so excited to partner with textile designer Aelfie on a collaboration inspired by our shared love of bold color, eccentric design, and, of course, the art of the handmade. Aelfie is the visionary behind the beautifully handwoven rugs, whimsically embroidered pillows, and geometric home décor pieces of her eponymous brand.

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We collaborated with Aelfie to create a line of  bright limited-edition plateau baskets, handmade by our partners in Rwanda, which are the perfect way to add a striking pop of color {and conscience!} to your tables, walls and surfaces. Here’s what Aelfie had to say about the collection:

“Each design is comprised of disjointed shapes in vibrant hues. The bowls are a remembrance of Rwanda's recent history and an optimistic artifact of the present. It has been an honor to work with such talented artisans and a company so fiercely committed to ethics and aesthetics.”

Below are some hand-picked-by-Aelfie images of the inspiration behind our collaboration & the pieces that came out of it! We hope you enjoy them & get inspired too. 

To shop our Indego Africa x Aelfie baskets, click here

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Congrats Grads!

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

We are so proud to announce that on April 30th, 2015 the first class of students graduated from our Leadership Academy – an advanced business education program dedicated to building Rwanda’s next generation of powerful leaders, businesswomen, and entrepreneurs!

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The Leadership Academy opened its doors for the first time last October to welcome 25 eager students from across 9 of our different partner cooperatives. The goal? To provide these ambitious women with the knowledge and skills needed to bring their businesses to the next level {for more on the launch & selection process, see here}

Six months later, we could not be more thrilled about how well the semester went. The students approached each lesson with incredible curiosity and enthusiasm, paired with a steadfast determination to master all of the material, even at its most challenging. The results? They’re already making sweeping changes at their co-ops – turning them into better-run, more productive & creative businesses that, in turn, will generate more income for all of our artisan partners. They’re also paying it forward by educating and mentoring other women along the way, creating a powerful multiplier effect in communities across Rwanda. 

We held a graduation ceremony at the Academy on Thursday, April 30th to recognize these students’ incredible achievements, and were joined by proud family members, Rwandan government officials, NGOs, and media representatives there for the occasion. We were especially excited to welcome our guest of honor – Rwanda’s Minister of Trade and Commerce, Francois Kanimba, who delivered the event’s keynote address.

Mr. Kanimba congratulated us and our artisan partners on what he called “a brilliant initiative” (!!!) and spoke about the central role women have played in rebuilding Rwanda over the past 20 years, noting that most of Rwanda’s small- and medium-sized enterprises today are run by women. Despite these impressive numbers, he recognized that women continue to face substantial challenges in bringing their businesses to scale, with limited skills and lack of access to markets, finance, and technology – validating the critical importance of programs like our Leadership Academy. 

Rosine Urujeni, our Country Director, and Karen Yelick, our CEO, spoke about the inspiration and vision behind the Academy, noting that the idea came directly from our artisan partners who were eager for opportunities to further advance their education. The curriculum was built by Indego Africa staff and Board members to address the topics most relevant to successfully running an artisan cooperative in Rwanda, incorporating English lessons and technology use throughout. 

Karen described the personal salience of the Leadership Academy for her. As someone with a life-long passion for education, she is driven by a deep desire to provide women in Rwanda with the same kind of life-changing educational opportunities that have done so much for her. She, and the rest of the Indego Africa team, are thrilled to see this dream coming to life.

Two of the Leadership Academy students spoke to the group as well, showing firsthand the powerful impact the Academy had had on them. Rose and Daphrose (the President and a member of the Ingenzi Knit Union, respectively) praised the depth and intensity of the Leadership Academy’s classes, as well as the transformative role that technology is already beginning to have on their businesses. 

They also made a very special announcement: the 25 students of our first Leadership Academy class are banding together to open up a store of their own! Using the skills they have learned, they will go into business with one another, seeking to build a market for their diverse handmade products in Kigali! We could not be more proud to see these empowered, independent entrepreneurs taking initiative and working together to create more opportunities for themselves and their families. We look forward to sharing more about this exciting venture!   

As these students go back and take the lead in their co-ops and their communities, and as a new Leadership Academy class begins this June, we are so excited for all that lies ahead. Thank you so much to all those who have helped make our Leadership Academy such a success – from our team members, to our Boards, to our amazing community of supporters – none of this would be possible without you.

And, most importantly, congratulations to the first graduating class of our Leadership Academy!

The Leadership Academy is generously supported by the Ann B. Zeis Scholarship Fund. 

Click here to learn more

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Celebrating Moms

#artisans, #mothers, #inspiring

Our partners in Rwanda are not only talented artisans and entrepreneurs, but also mothers – strong, determined, loving women driven by the desire to create beautiful lives for their children. These working moms strive everyday to provide for their families. Whether it’s making sure there’s food on the table or earning enough to send their children to school, they never cease to inspire us with their passion, dedication, and dreams for the future.

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We chatted with some of these amazing moms to hear their thoughts on motherhood and what it means to them. Here’s what they shared with us:

 

“Just hearing my child call me mom brings joy to my heart.” – Jeanne, 36 years old, 1 daughter

“When you become a mom, you start to think differently. All you think about is your child – how will you provide for them? Will you be able to send them to school? It fills your every thought.” – Emelinne, 45 years old, 1 daughter, 1 son

“I want my children to have a good life – to have knowledge, jobs, families, and homes of their own. Right now we are poor, but I look forward to a day where we will rise above it.” – Juliet, 40 years old, 4 daughters, 6 sons 

“I am so happy to see my kids grow – to see them healthy.” – Odette, 30 years old, 1 daughter, 2 sons   

“I hope my kids continue to study and to graduate from school. I want them to have the life I never had.” – Josephine, 41 years old, 1 daughter, 3 sons

 

Happy Mother’s Day to all the beautiful moms in Rwanda! 

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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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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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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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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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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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DANNIJO is Going Back-To-School

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To support education for women in Rwanda, donate here!

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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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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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P.S - A Conversation with Erica

#inspiring, #inspiration, #psxindegoafrica, #collaboration

On Erica Domesek’s recent trip to Rwanda she visited our partner cooperatives, worked side-by-side with the women artisans, wandered and shopped the vast markets, immersed herself in the rich Rwandan culture, and instantly it was a match made it patch heaven! Inspired by her love of fun colors, quirky objects, and gallant animals—the #PSxIndegoAfrica Patch sets were born. Here is more about what inspires her and how our colorful mission for good began:

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How would you describe your personal style and how does that influence your business?

Colorful. I love mixing funky patterns, colors, and textures to create new styles and fun outfits. Reinventing things in your wardrobe is fun and allows you to be creative. At P.S. – I made this… we call it comfort with a twist—taking things people can identify with and adding a twist to it. It is one part customization and one part personalization. 

Walk us through your creative process for a new DIY project. 

Everything starts with inspiration—traveling, window-shopping, shopping in boutiques, walking down the street, and reading magazines. Finding something that pops out and you can identify with is key. It is the eye-catching moments that help shape the creative process—I see it, I like it, I make it. Craft Math was born through this process. We divide the steps it takes, create an easy formula to design the product and show the simplest way to make it. 

Why does Indego Africa's mission resonate with P.S.- I made this...? 

Indego represents everything I am passionate about—art, education, women, sustaining life, cooperation, and community. The idea that these artisans can create beautiful goods and sell them and sustain a life for their families and communities—at the most basic and pure form—is beautiful. Their workmanship and skill is phenomenal. The sheer detail and time they spend on each stitch, design, and product is remarkable. My passion to help others and spotlight talent is also represented through Indego’s mission. From the onset it was clear we had a shared ethos—creating a dynamic synergy.

photos by Ryan Gall
photos by Ryan Gall

What new projects were inspired by your trip to Rwanda?

So much inspiration! I fell in love with the beautiful vistas, the plants and wildlife, and the rich culture. Our trips to the imaginative and vibrant markets provided for new product inspiration and ideas. I purchased colorful fabrics that I plan to use and incorporate into designs and new products back in New York. 

What is the significance behind the designs of the 

patches

?

I have always had an affinity for topography, wildlife, and rich landscapes. Our trip in Rwanda provided for an opportunity to see the picturesque landscapes, animals, and vibrant countryside. The Crowned Crane is hands down the most gorgeous animal on the planet—and seeing it up close provided for so much inspiration when thinking about designs. The patches are comprised of colorful animals, playful fruits, and vivid objects—encompassing our love for color and the happy moments we experience in life. 

You, like many of our artisan partners, started your own business. What do you think it takes to be a successful entrepreneur?

You have to LOVE what you do. Show PASSION for what you do, be real about what you create and be TRUE to yourself. If you create a product to sell a product, then that is great, and it works for some; for me, it takes heart and soul to run a company and in that success is created and illustrated. I am my own customer speaking to my own audience. 

photos by Ryan Gall

At Indego Africa, we are all about empowering women. What in your life has empowered you to become the person you are today?

I was always encouraged to follow my interests. I did not think that I would be able to “craft a career” out of P.S. – I made this…, however I always had an extremely supportive network of people who believed in what I did. Having the right people in your life is important and helps shape who you are.

Why do you support Indego Africa? Inquiring minds want to know.

Indego Africa manifests our motto of doing well by doing good. I believe in their mission to empower women through sustainable business. I think we all have a responsibility to give back where and when we can. Some people have the means to give money, where others can only give their time and energy. It is important for us to give wherever and whenever we can. In this and age, everyone is able to find and do something - small, medium or large - to make a difference. We should constantly strive to find other passions outside of our normal confines. Indego Africa exemplifies doing well by doing good and they exhibit this each day from Rwanda all the way to New York City.

Get your #PSxIndegoAfrica patches! >>>

 

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Marnani Design for PSxIndegoAfrica

#inspiring, #art, #psxindegoafrica, #new

Martha Napier is the lead illustrator behind the fashionable, sparkly, and whimsical illustration brand, Marnani. She is also the artist behind the gorgeous watercolor illustrations that come with our PSxIndegoAfrica patch sets! We chatted with her to find out more about her creative process, what she’s inspired by, and why she supports Indego Africa. Here’s what she had to say:

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How did you get involved with the PSxIndegoAfrica project? 

Actually, this was completely a chance of fate. I have always been a fan of P.S. I Made This (I’m an avid crafter myself, and obviously love to work with my hands), and recently had the pleasure of connecting with Erica. She was really the brainchild in asking me to come on board with the collaboration with Indego Africa. Needless to say, an instant love-affair was born. I was so pleased to be introduced to the Indego team and it's mission. I also just adore the patches (I’m still coming to grips with the concept that they’re handmade), and what they represent.

Word on the street is that you used to work in the fashion business, at one point serving as Senior Designer in womenswear at Michael Kors. What inspired you to pursue your love of illustration full-time?

Ah, well I love fashion, and I always will. I guess the best answer for this is, to me, illustration, art, fashion—they are all so related. I don’t necessarily feel like I am no longer a designer, though I am obviously not designing clothes anymore (not to say this isn’t in the plans for the future!). Right now, what I love about illustration, is I feel like it’s the link between fashion and art. It’s a commercial form of art, and I’m able to paint for a living. I truly could not be more grateful.  My experience at Michael Kors was amazing, and a fantastic education. I had the pleasure of working with the top people in the fashion industry, and to be a part of a brand that just continues to grow its global presence. Ultimately though, I really missed working with my hands, and getting them dirty painting and creating—it was time to launch my own illustration business, Marnani Design! Working for myself has allowed me to pursue the clients I used to dream of working with—the possibilities are endless—now, I just need more hours in the day!

So you’re a fashion-lover, designer, and illustrator. How would you describe your personal style and how does that influence your artwork?

Whimsical, Colorful, Sparkly and TEXTURED. My personal style totally influences my work and visa versa. I wouldn’t have it any other way. I don’t put anything out there for my brand, Marnani, if I don’t like it. That’s the beauty in working for yourself! I think so many designers feel the need to dress in all black, or fit into a mold (chic, minimalist, etc), but I’m just me.  In today’s over-saturated market, I think the more you can stand out, be authentic, and even be “colorful”—literally, and in spirit, the stronger your point of view will be.

We absolutely love how fun, whimsical, and electrifyingly colorful your illustrations are. Walk us through your creative process. 

First of all, Thank you!—My goal is to always make colorful, charming, and whimsical work that put simply, just makes people happy.  I want to create joy with my work.  Living in a city like New York, the air is just so rich with inspiration. I know it sounds like a cliche, but it's also the undeniable truth. New York has it all--I find myself walking everywhere, more recently, I ride my bike.  As I ride, and as I walk, I am constantly an active, observant sponge. I soak up colors, textures, sights, smells---anything and everything, to eventually put them to the paper with watercolors (I try to bring paints with me, at the least, I always have a sketch book). Whether I am working on a client project, or personal work, I usually try to educate myself on the subject by gathering “visual ephemera,” and then I usually sketch a few times before working on the final piece. My iPhone probably has one too many pictures on it (I’m always snapping “visual notes). Recently, I have challenged myself to only sketch with paint (no pencil first), as this really unleashes my personal style, and results in a fresher, more authentic end result.  I have been illustrating “live” much more at corporate and private events, which also encourages this, as I am forced to capture the subject in a matter of fleeting seconds. Oh, and Instagram! My creative process always involves instagram!

We are inspired by the vibrant colors, patterns, and landscapes of Rwanda. What inspires you?

Color, color, and more color!  Truly-- anything unique, or just happens to catch my eye. I think this has a lot to do with an emotional response—I seek art, products, clothing, which tell a story, and which I can connect to. In today’s mass-produced and over-consumed world, the precious nature of the handcrafted good is so special. That’s what I think is so great about Indego Africa—you empower women across the world in Rwanda by showing them their skillsets are valued, and even desired. The fact that many of these women have these skillsets, which are rare today, and almost a dying art---their work is inspiring to me as an artist! I am so glad their skills are being celebrated in a significant way.

Personalize & customize – these are two of the main tenets of the DIY lifestyle that P.S. I made this… is innovatively spreading around the world. So, what would you do with PSxIndegoAfrica’s collection of hand-embroidered patches?

It’s funny you should ask-- Erica actually asked me this exact question when we first met in her studio to discuss the project. I love the ideas that the P.S I Made This team put together—but if I had to come up with one on my own, I would love to take two and make earrings! I am all about things not matching. One day, I would love to start a line of shoes that don’t match—so why not start with earrings that don’t?  I think I’d probably start with the teal bananas and the rainbow elephant. Who wouldn’t want those as fun earrings?

You, like many of our artisan partners, started your own business. What do you think it takes to be a successful entrepreneur?

Oh gosh, what a tough one. There is so much that goes into running a successful business, and honestly, I am still figuring out a lot of these things myself! However, I would say what I think what sets people apart is just good old-fashioned hard work. Living in New York, I have met so many wonderfully inspiring people, all with great ideas. However, ideas are nothing, without some real sweat and persistence. You many not figure it out right away, but I truly believe if you keep going, stay the path, and surround yourself with good mentors, and positive thinkers, you can have a successful business.

At Indego Africa, we are all about empowering women. What in your life has empowered you to become the person you are today?

My best friends and I always remind each other of what was told to us on our college commencement day -- we have won the “lottery of life.” This is so true in so many various ways. While like anyone else, I have faced my share of adversity in my life, I have also been amazingly blessed. I have parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and friends -- and now a husband -- whom all believe in me and cheer me on. I truly don’t know where I would be without their support and energy. I also come from a long line of strong and successful women. It was just in my blood to grow up, utilize my talents, be thankful and humble, and always challenge oneself to strive to measure up to your potential. 

Why do you support Indego Africa?

As I mentioned before, I am so thankful to have been introduced to Indego Africa by the PSIMT team. I can say I will definitely be an avid supporter moving forward. I think working on the PSxIndegoAfrica project definitely inspired me to connect with other artisans, and appreciate handmade goods. I also firmly believe in the importance in supporting female artisans and entrepreneurs.  In a way, I rely on this myself.  If I didn’t have an audience, clients, or customers, I would not be in business. As an artist, I also think what separates Indego Africa, is their ability to curate these truly stunning pieces -- they are works of art, in my opinion. There isn’t a single piece that I wouldn’t absolutely adore in my home or closet. Usually a procrastinating shopper, I am thrilled it’s July, and I already know where I’m doing my holiday shopping this year!  The best part -- I will be pleased to tell the recipients about the women who made them.

See more of Martha's beautiful watercolors here >> 

& grab your patches to get down & DIY! >>>

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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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SUMMER MANIFESTO

#inspiring, #inspiration, #summer

The days of summer are upon us, when time slows down and the world is set aglow. When nature fills us with rapture and warmth infuses our souls.

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It is a time to pause—to breathe in fresh air and breathe out your wildest dreams. To dig your toes in the sand and hum along with the trees. To put a flower in your hair and chase the radiant sun. To celebrate laughter and revel in effervescent fun. 

Summer is a time for reflection. For imagination. For adventure. For love. For creativity. And for finding inspiration.

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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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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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