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Up Close & Indego

#new, #inspiration, #handmade, #impact

Our Blog #inspiringwomen

Indego’s Inspiring Women: Josepha Mujawayezu

#indegodiaries, #inspiring, #entrepreneurs, #inspiringwomen

In Rwanda and Ghana, our partners are embracing the entrepreneurial spirit, getting creative, and overcoming challenges to start their own businesses. We wanted to hear more from these inspiring women about what entrepreneurship means to them and why they do what they do. In the interview that follows, these trailblazing women share inside stories about their businesses (and the growing pains that come with them)—about achieving work-life balance, navigating stumbling blocks, building future goals, and finding inspiration. They also share empowering advice for other women—any age and anywhere—who are looking to make their dreams happen.

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Josepha Mujawayezu

Founder of Ngwinukorebushoke Cooperative

Rulindo, Rwanda 

Mother of seven

49 years old

“Being empowered to me means having the ability to provide for my family and myself without having to ask my husband.” 

__________

Describe how you first came together with other women to start producing products. When was it and how did you get the idea? How did you recruit other women to join you?

I used to work alone, teaching young girls including my own daughters how to weave until other women got interested in what I was doing and approached me to teach them as well because they wanted a way to earn money. There are now 10 women. 

What is your favorite part about working alongside other women every day?

My favorite part is that I am able to continue teaching them new techniques and skills.

Do you feel that there are good opportunities in Rwanda for women? 

Yes, we have great leaders that continue to uphold and encourage women to better themselves. I feel that in my craft, women are given the opportunity to showcase and sell what we make through various expositions that take place every year. 

What is the hardest part about being a working mom and why do you do it? 

The hardest thing is having to leave my children when I go out to search for materials. Sometimes I go as far as Uganda because they are not always available here. I do it because I am their mother and it is my duty to care for them. This is my means of providing for them and their futures. 

What does it mean to be an empowered woman? 

Being empowered to me means having the ability to provide for my family and myself without having to ask my husband. I earn an income and therefore I can pay my children’s school fees, feed them, clothe them and even afford health insurance. 

What brings you joy these days?

I used to try and sell my products on the road, which is not allowed and therefore I would often get chased around by police and sometimes even arrested. I am happy now because I work from home and sell my products to Indego Africa. I do not have to hustle on the streets every day worrying about police. 

What are your goals for the future? 

I want to buy a house that is close to the road because right now my house is very far. I also want to continue paying my children’s fees until they are able to finish their university studies. 

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Indego’s Inspiring Women: Mavis Adongo

#indegodiaries, #artisans, #conversationswith, #inspiring, #impact, #inspiringwomen

In Rwanda and Ghana, our partners are embracing the entrepreneurial spirit, getting creative, and overcoming challenges to start their own businesses. We wanted to hear more from these inspiring women about what entrepreneurship means to them and why they do what they do. In the interview that follows, these trailblazing women share inside stories about their businesses (and the growing pains that come with them)—about achieving work-life balance, navigating stumbling blocks, building future goals, and finding inspiration. They also share empowering advice for other women—any age and anywhere—who are looking to make their dreams happen.

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Mavis Adongo

Founder of a bolga basket weaving cooperative

Kumasi, Ghana

Mother of three

29 years old

"To be a good leader, extreme patience is required."

__________

Why were you interested in starting a bolga cooperative? What does bolga weaving mean to you? 

Bolga basket weaving is the first trade I studied growing up. I love to make baskets and watch people admire, purchase and use them. It has always been my passion to start up a group focused on making beautiful and colorful bolga baskets for sale.

How does it feel to be a leader of your bolga cooperative? 

What do you think it means to be a good leader? I am extremely happy to be taking the lead in establishing a bolga basket cooperative in Kumasi. I believe a good leader has the interests of his or her co-workers at heart and truly cares about the welfare of all members both personally and professionally. To be a good leader, extreme patience is required. People come from varying backgrounds, thus having patience as a leader can help you deal and work effectively with these people in order to succeed and enable the business thrive.

Do you like partnering with Indego Africa? If so, why? 

Indego Africa has been a godsend to me. They love me and are willing to help me show off my skills. They discovered me, and have showed that they love me. I pray all the time that people buy stuff from Indego Africa so that I can have many orders.

Have you faced any challenges as an entrepreneur and a mother of three? 

Children get sick sometimes and as a working mother when they do get sick it is one of the worst experiences ever. I need to stay at home and care for my children, yet I still need to work and keep my job. 

There are times when I have struggled with caring for my kids. There was a time when my husband lost his job, I had to pay off a bank loan and our rent was due. We really had a hard time. 

Starting a bolga cooperative in Kumasi can help us make some money to support our families. With more hands on deck, we can improve on our designs, reach deadlines and collect large orders.

What are your dreams for your children’s future? 

I want them to have an education. With an education, they can get good jobs and become leaders in society. They will be able to care for me when I am old.

I know that one day I will not be here with them, so I want them to have formal education because I know they can survive in this world if they do. 

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Indego’s Inspiring Women

#artisans, #indegodiaries, #inspiring, #bossladies, #inspiringwomen

In Rwanda and Ghana, our partners are embracing the entrepreneurial spirit, getting creative, and overcoming challenges to start their own businesses. We wanted to hear more from these inspiring women about what entrepreneurship means to them and why they do what they do. In the interview that follow, these trailblazing women share inside stories about their businesses (and the growing pains that come with them)—about achieving work-life balance, navigating stumbling blocks, building future goals, and finding inspiration. They also share empowering advice for other women—any age and anywhere—who are looking to make their dreams happen.

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Claudette Mukeshimana 

Vocational Training Graduate

Founder of Gahembe Cooperative

Bugasera, Rwanda

25 years old

“Determination and a strong spirit can take you wherever you want to go.” 

____________________

How does it feel to start your own business and become an entrepreneur?

Indego trained me to be an entrepreneur. Before I had nothing, but now, I know how to save and manage a business. This job has made me an open-minded person. Sometimes you might struggle to make a product or make a mistake on an order, but you continue to work. I used to think that I would be an entrepreneur, but I didn’t think that I would be an artisan. Indego’s Vocational Training program helped me so much because at the end I was confident and capable of doing anything.

What does empowerment mean to you? 

To me, empowerment is more than earning money. It is building knowledge and skills that will help you in your life. 

What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned in starting a new business?

Do what you love, what you are passionate about. Before I started this business, I had nothing. Some of my friends in the village laughed at me. But I decided to borrow money and start my business and today everything is good. I did that because I love this work. It is valuable. Determination and a strong spirit can take you wherever you want to go. 

I have started to advise other youth. Today, I am no longer a job-seeker, and my advice to them is to start their own businesses and do what they love. Where there is a will, there is a means. They should use their full potentials and turn their dreams into reality because everything is possible with a willing heart.

Are there any women you look up to or admire? If so, who and why? How have they influenced you?

Yes, I have some women. There is a woman who always inspired me; she is called Claudine. I knew her from many years ago. She started her business early, so I decided to follow her path. She built a house for her family, she has livestock and she has a very good marriage. She has a well-decorated shop, and I am sure I can do that as well. If she did that, why can’t I do that too? Moreover, the president of Covanya Cooperative, where I trained, inspired me so much as she gave me many examples of what she achieved from being an artisan. She has animals and built a house as well. I have a number of inspirations.

What are your goals for the future?

My first goal is to continue to be a member of the Gahembe Co-op. My ultimate goal is to create my own shop of artisanal materials. Another thing I want to do is to teach the rest of the youth what I have learned. What I do is valuable, and I want to share it with others.

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Empowering Women: Inspiration from Indego’s #Bosslady

#indegodiaries, #inspiring, #impact, #inspiringwomen

At Indego Africa, we are committed to empowerment and equal opportunity for women in Rwanda, Ghana, and around the world. It’s important to us to share this message and help ensure that women’s voices are heard and amplified.

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We sat down with our CEO, Karen Yelick, an inspiring businesswoman, mother, and leader to hear her insights on global women’s empowerment and why Indego Africa’s mission is so important to her. Below she shares her thoughts and experiences from her time on Wall Street as a working mother, her travels in Rwanda and Ghana, and the values that shape her leadership. 

We hope you enjoy the interview and share your stories of empowerment too! Stay tuned for more coming soon, from the words of our partners in Africa. 

What motivated you to leave your successful career on Wall Street and join (& lead!) the Indego Africa team?
Before I joined Indego in 2012, I spent 24 years working at Merrill Lynch, where I had a great career. I loved the excitement, teamwork and intellectual demands of the industry, and felt loyal to the company that had given me flexible working hours when my kids were young.

Ever since I can remember, I have been aware of inequity in the world, especially as it relates to women and children. I knew I wanted to transition into the social good sector at some point in my life, and in the autumn of 2011, three years after the financial crisis, I felt it was the right time. I was also impressed by how much the nonprofit space had evolved over the years and the number of innovative social enterprises that were emerging on the scene. 

Indego stood out to me because of its focus on financial empowerment and education for women, as well as its entrepreneurial work culture. I was excited about the opportunity to use my experience working at a big business, to help women in the developing world better manage and grow their small businesses.

What inspires you about Indego Africa's mission? Why do you think empowering women in Africa is so important (and what does empowerment mean to you?)

I am so inspired by helping women in Rwanda and Ghana earn steady income to provide for themselves and their families. The saying that “privilege is what you’ve been spared from,” really resonates with me. I can’t imagine the stress of not knowing where your family’s next meal might come from or knowing that, no matter how much you might want it for your children, a secondary school education will be off the table.

By providing our partners with steady employment and education, Indego is helping women achieve financial independence and the confidence that comes with it. When we first started, the majority of our partners were earning around 25¢ a day. Now, almost 10 years later, it’s amazing to see these same women running their own businesses and becoming leaders in their communities.

For me, empowerment is about equal opportunity. Rights, equality, and empowerment for women are deeply important causes in and of themselves, and they are also important for society more broadly. To move our communities and our countries forward, we have to give women—half the population—access to equal education, resources, work opportunities, you name it.

Tell us about one of your favorite moments or stories from your travels in Rwanda and Ghana. 

Wow, there are so many. One of my favorite recent moments was a graduation ceremony we held in Rwanda in June for our Vocational Training students, young women from rural communities, and our Leadership Academy students, who are older, more experienced artisans. 

During the ceremony, we alternated between awarding diplomas to the Vocational students and then to our Leadership Academy participants. When they met in the middle of the stage, each pair of women—younger and older—hugged one another.

It was such a beautiful moment to see the intergenerational power of Indego’s work in Rwanda and to see the way these women were united in their passion for education, for artistry, and for contributing to the development of their country.

What are your core values as a businesswoman and leader? 

Integrity, empathy, excellence, collaboration, and adaptability.

What advice would you give to women who are navigating building a career and being a mom at the same time? 

If you establish a career before starting a family, you’re in a better position to negotiate some flexibility with the demands of your job and raising your children.

Keep your foot in the working world after maternity leave.  If you want to scale back, try to transition to part-time or transfer to a less-demanding job with the same company while your children are young and ramp it back up whenever you’re ready. If you leave your job or the working world all together, it can be hard to get back in 3-5 years later.

It takes teamwork between you and your partner to cover all the moving pieces of raising children. Maintain an honest and close relationship with the person who is taking care of your children while you are at work – make them a part of your family. 

Make being home for dinner with your family a priority, try to really be there—no cell phones at the table! Engage your children in lively conversation. The consistency of dinner as family time makes a difference. You can always come back to your work later in the evening.

Name a woman (or women), past or present, who you admire or look up to. 

Diane Von Furstenberg, for so many reasons.

What is your hope for the future of women's empowerment and equality around the world and in the communities of women Indego Africa supports?

Women around the world deserve access to equal opportunities, equal resources, and equal value in society. Women’s voices need to be heard and their rights respected. As a global community, I hope we will continue to make the empowerment of women a priority and push back against those who may try to move us backwards.

For Indego Africa’s partners, I hope these talented, passionate, and determined women will continue to reach even higher and achieve their dreams—for themselves, for their children, and ultimately for the future generations of women and girls to come after them.

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