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Up Close & Indego

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Our Blog #leadership academy

Rwanda’s Inspiring Entrepreneurs | Genocide Remembrance Day 2016

#indegodiaries, #inspiring, #education, #leadership academy, #hope, #peace

Today, April 7th 2016, marks the 22nd commemoration of the genocide against the Tutsis in Rwanda, when more than 1,000,000 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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In light of this day, we want to take a moment to reflect on and celebrate the incredible progress that Rwanda has made over the past two decades. Before the genocide, women in Rwanda did not have equal rights as men—they could not inherit land, open a bank account, or work outside the home without their husband’s permission.

However, when the genocide ended, Rwanda was 70% female—women were left to rebuild their country. They cared for children on their own and took in orphans; they paved roads and repaired buildings; they sowed fields and collected the harvest. They tried as best they could to piece their lives back together.

The new Rwandan government recognized that, in order to move their country forward, they needed to invest in policies that promoted the rights of women. Through their concerted efforts, and women-led activism movements across the country, Rwanda passed new laws to advance women’s rights and increase their participation in the workforce, as well as in government. Today, women make up 64% of Rwanda’s parliament—the highest representation in the world!

Even with these remarkable achievements, though, Rwanda still has a long way to go. To this day, more than 40% of the population lives below the poverty line, women are far less likely than men to have wage-paying jobs (when they do, they earn on average 50% less than men), and 1 in 3 women experience domestic violence.

In this landscape, our Leadership Academy—a six-month advanced business education program in Kigali, Rwanda—is helping women to move their country forward.

The Indego Africa Leadership Academy was founded in 2014 with a mission to empower the next generation of powerful female leaders, entrepreneurs, and businesswomen in Rwanda. The program focuses on teaching women advanced management skills that they can use to grow their own businesses, become entrepreneurs, and drive economic growth in their communities. {For more details, see here.}

The second class of our Leadership Academy graduated on January 14th, 2016 and we could not be more proud of their accomplishments! Of the 25 students, 52% started a new business; 12% expanded a pre-existing business; and the remaining 36% plan to start a new business in the near future.

Those who started new businesses hired 8 people and are now earning on average an additional 52,500 Rwandan Francs or $70 per month. These women are now not only better able to provide for themselves and their families but are also creating employment opportunities and economic growth in their communities—paying it forward and using their newfound knowledge and skills to uplift others along the way (how great is that?!)

As we look towards the future, we are so excited to introduce you to our third Leadership Academy class, which began the course on January 20th! We chatted with them to find out what they were most excited to learn and hear their thoughts on the importance of education for women in Rwanda, as well as their hopes for the future. Here’s what they had to say:

Beatha, Cocoki Cooperative

“I am so excited to learn about financial management, business plans, and how to work with banks. Once I find out, I’m going to create my own business plan and ask the bank for a loan.”

Celine, Ingenzi Knit Union

“I want to use what I learn at the Leadership Academy to improve my cooperative and empower other women. On a personal level, I plan to start saving, budgeting, and recording my expenses so that I can open my own business one day. I hope for all of us that we continue to live well and do the work that we love.”

Aisha, Covanya Cooperative

“Because women are the hearts of their families, my hope is that we will continue to develop ourselves and invest in our children, who will in turn contribute to the development of our country.”

Jacqueline, Imirasire Cooperative

“Education is important because it will help us  increase our confidence and be bold in all that we do.”

Josephine, Ibaba Cooperative

“I am excited to learn Word and Excel programs to improve financial records and communication at my cooperative.”

Liberatha, Ingenzi Knit Union

“Education is the foundation of community development. When you educate a woman, you give her the means and the power to educate her children, and that is an important thing.”

Judith, Ejo Hazaza Cooperative  

“My goal is to share the knowledge I receive with other women in the community and equip them with skills so that we can all start businesses and provide for our families. I hope that we will be able to eradicate poverty through  access to educational opportunities for all.” 

We are so inspired by these women and all they have set out to achieve. They have a powerful vision for their own and their country’s futures, and we have no doubt that—with the right tools and resources—they will achieve it. 

To help these aspiring entrepreneurs and leaders realize their dreams, click here.

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Back-to-School Success Stories

#leadership academy, #indegodiaries, #education

This September, we’ve been taking you behind-the-scenes of the back-to-school, giving you the inside scoop on our Leadership Academy and the incredible successes of our graduates. Today, we have even more amazing stories to share about our students and all they are achieving – read on for more!

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To help our partners achieve their dreams, please donate to our Leadership Academy today

Vestine’s Water Business

During the Leadership Academy’s “Introduction to Finance” lesson, Vestine from Ejo Hazaza cooperative said that while she had always wanted to start her own business, she was too scared to take out a loan. Other students in the class, eager to change her mind, immediately chimed in with personal stories about how loans had positively impacted their lives. 

Rose from the Ingenzi Knit Union talked about how she took out a loan to expand her business, which became so successful she was able to buy her own home (and pay the loan back in full.) Anne Marie from Cocoki cooperative discussed the time that she could not afford to pay her children’s school fees, but took out a loan to make sure they would be able to continue their studies. She is now paying it back in installments with the income she earns at her cooperative. 

Armed with these empowering stories, and the lessons she learned at the Leadership Academy on banking and finance, Vestine has since taken out a loan which she is using to open a water business in her community, where many people do not have access to clean, affordable drinking water. We think this is only the beginning for this inspiring social entrepreneur! 

Mentorship, Networking, & Skill-Sharing 

One of the primary goals of our Leadership Academy is for students to use their knowledge and skills to mentor and uplift others. We are thrilled to report that each and every one of our Academy graduates led mentorship workshops at their cooperatives last semester – creating a ripple effect of empowerment for all of our artisan partners.

Another goal of our Academy is to create networking opportunities for women from different cooperatives in Rwanda to exchange ideas, best practices, and – thanks to our recent grads – artisanal skills! Last semester, students at the Academy arranged to go to one another’s cooperatives and teach their members new artisanal techniques (inspired by Academy lessons on market competition and product innovation!) 

For example, Lucy from Covanya cooperative taught the seamstresses of Ibyshimo how to weave, and Jacqueline from Cocoki taught the weavers of Imirasire how to sew. We can’t wait to see the awesome new products (and market opportunities!) that these skills bring about.

A New Business in Kigali

At the graduation ceremony of our first Leadership Academy class this April, our students made an exciting announcement: they are banding together to open an artisan craft store in Kigali! They came up with the idea after taking an Academy lesson on market and customer analysis, which focused on understanding local customers and preferences. Based on what they learned in class, they realized that there was a market for artisan-made goods in Kigali and that by opening a shop, they could create additional sources of income for their cooperatives.

The students worked together to draft a business plan for the project, which will cost about 5 million Rwandan Francs (close to $7,000 USD) to get off the ground. The students plan to pool these funds from each of their cooperatives and are in the process of identifying an affordable shop space with a good amount of foot-traffic to bring in customers. Look out for them next time you’re in Kigali!

We hope that these stories give you a firsthand sense of our Leadership Academy and the impact it is having on women across Rwanda. As students become empowered as entrepreneurs and leaders they are using their knowledge to uplift others, create employment opportunities, and drive economic growth in their communities. 

In order to sustain this momentum and empower more women through the power of education, please donate to our Leadership Academy today!

To donate to the Leadership Academy through the Ann B. Zeis Scholarship Fund, click here

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Back-to-School with The Great Lakes Goods

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Back-to-School with Emelienne Nyiramana: The Power of Education

#leadership academy, #education, #indegodiaries

Emelienne Nyiramana is one of Indego Africa’s first artisan partners (yes, from way back in 2007!), the founder of Cocoki Cooperative, and an inspiring testament to the power of education in transforming lives. While only a few years ago Emelienne was struggling to lift herself and her family out of poverty, today - thanks to education and determination - Emelienne is a full-time Indego Africa staff member, a Teaching Associate at our Leadership Academy, and an influential mentor and leader in communities across Rwanda. We sat down with Emelienne to find out what education means to her and why she is passionate about sharing it with others. Read on to find out!

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To help provide more women with the life-changing educational opportunities Emelienne has had, please consider donating to our Leadership Academy today!


How has education changed your life?

When I began participating in Indego Africa’s trainings, I started to think big and was inspired to continue my education. Since then, I have gained so much and not just financially – I have grown mentally too. Education has enabled me to open my mind and pursue opportunities I had never even dreamed of. 

You have become a mentor to many women in Rwanda,  such as the artisans of Abasangiye & Ejo Hazaza. Why is mentoring other women important to you?

Mentoring is very important to me because it gives me a chance to share what I learned through my education and help other women achieve more so that their lives can change just as mine has. It is encouraging and very important to me when other women trust me and appreciate my advice, and it is also humbling at the same time when they say they want to be able to follow in my footsteps. 

Why did you want to become a Teaching Associate at Indego Africa’s Leadership Academy?

I wanted to become a Teaching Associate to share the knowledge I have received from my education with Indego Africa to uplift other women. I believe the Leadership Academy is important for the following reasons:

(1) The lessons are very good and helpful because they combine business knowledge with computer training and English vocabulary, which are useful to cooperatives/ individuals that want to be better entrepreneurs.

(2) Networking during the class allows students from different cooperatives to discuss and share their opinions and ideas with one another, which encourages them to learn from each other. This also helps them to build professional and/or personal relationships with each other.

(3) Students are able to focus and give their utmost attention to the program and enjoy what they are learning without any distractions. Before, when trainings were carried out at the cooperatives, some students would try to listen to the trainers and work at the same time so they could get paid at the end of the day. Therefore they could not be fully committed to learning. At the Leadership Academy they are able to dedicate two days a week to studying and also have enough time to work, which makes a good balance. 

How does the Leadership Academy impact its students?

The Leadership Academy gives  students with the knowledge and skills they need to better manage their businesses. The graduates from the first Academy class have been able to change the way they run their cooperatives. For example, some have gotten bank accounts, which they use to pay members and avoid mismanagement of funds. Others have learned new technical skills from their co-students that they did not know before in the hope of accessing different markets.

What has been your favorite moment at the Leadership Academy so far?

My favorite moment was the day we introduced our students to Chromebooks. They were so excited to work with them that no one wanted to take a break. We practically had to force them to go home at the end of class!

Why did you want to become a full-time Indego Africa staff member? What are your dreams for the future?

I wanted to become an Indego Africa staff member to expand my knowledge about international NGOS and to work closely with Indego’s (more than) 800 artisan partners. My dreams for the future are to complete my studies and continue to mentor other women through business trainings. I hope to empower them to go back-to-school as well! 

Please help Emelienne achieve her dreams and empower more women in Rwanda to go back-to-school by donating to our Leadership Academy today!

To support our Leadership Academy through the Ann B. Zeis Scholarship Fund, click here

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Behind The Scenes Video Note From Our CEO

#indegodiaries, #leadership academy, #education, #behind the scenes

This September, we are going back-to-school! Our Leadership Academy is a six-month advanced business education program that empowers women to become entrepreneurs and agents of change in their communities.

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While most of our artisan partners had their education interrupted by the 1994 genocide {92% never completed secondary school} today they are reaching extraordinary heights – creating a ripple effect of empowerment and opportunity in communities across Rwanda. Press play to find out why our CEO believes in the power of education and why you should too!


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We’re Going Back-to-School!

#leadership academy, #education, #bts, #back-to-school

On October 1st, 2014, we launched a Leadership Academy to educate the next generation of powerful female leaders and entrepreneurs in Rwanda. Almost one year later, the results are in and we are so excited to share them with you…read on for more!

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Our Leadership Academy is a six-month advanced business education program that trains women in the skills they need to grow their own businesses and become agents of change in their communities {for more detail, click here}

While most of our artisan partners had their education interrupted by the 1994 genocide {92% never completed secondary school} today they are reaching extraordinary heights – creating a ripple effect of empowerment and opportunity in communities across Rwanda.

In order to sustain this momentum, it is crucial that we continue to fund our Leadership Academy and uplift more women through the power of education. But we need your help to make it happen! 

From today through September 22nd, we will be running our second annual Back-to-School Campaign to raise support for our Leadership Academy. Over the next two weeks, we will take you on a behind-the-scenes tour of this past year, giving you an inside look into our Leadership Academy and the incredible successes of our graduates.

We hope that these stories will inspire you to support our artisan partners as they strive to achieve their dreams. Will you help them go back-to-school?

Click here to donate 

P.S. – the first 25 people to donate today will receive a special, handmade-with-love gift {and a gold star from our Academy Teachers in Rwanda!} So don’t wait – donate today!

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Meet The New Leadership Academy Class

#education, #leadership academy, #impact

We are thrilled to welcome the newest class of aspiring leaders, entrepreneurs, and businesswomen to our Leadership Academy! Following a highly successful first semester filled with incredible business innovation, peer-to-peer mentorship & entrepreneurial creativity, we can’t wait for what the next six months have in store.

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Our second group of 25 students began classes on June 9th, 2015 which kicked off with an orientation and Google Chromebook training session. Since technology use is an integral part of our curriculum (and our students’ ability to access international markets!) we have put that at the forefront of our semester this year to ensure that all of our students start at the same level.

The second week of classes focused on inventory management and cooperative organization – lessons designed to help our partners lay the foundation for successful businesses. During Week 2, we sat down with some of our students (at break-time – they’re busy!) to hear more about their thoughts on the Academy and goals for the future. Here’s what they had to say:

Rebecca Ingabire, Advisor at Agatako Cooperative (25 years old)

“I wanted to enroll in the Leadership Academy for the opportunity to work with other women, build my confidence, and open my mind. Education is important because it will allow me to acquire the knowledge I need to compete in the labor market and grow and develop as a person. Someday, I’d like to open my own mini-market as well as a public speaking club where I can practice my communication skills.”

Therese, Cocoki Cooperative (39 years old)

“As a Student Fellow, I want to help other students in the class learn and also to improve my own knowledge about how to run a business. I’m most excited to learn bookkeeping and computer skills.”

Uwase Agatha, Auditor at Imirasire Cooperative (39 years old)

“I want to participate in the Leadership Academy in order to gain the knowledge needed to effectively perform my duties as an auditor. I am most excited to learn about wealth management and recording financial transactions. Education can help you to become a leader in your cooperative because when you are educated, people have more confidence in you to lead them. I want to become more innovative at making products and be a really good entrepreneur by 2017.”

Leonie Mukarukundo, Vice President of the Hope Cooperative at The Ingenzi Knit Union (36 years old)

“Education is important because it gives you knowledge. It will help me to help my children. My goal for them is to attend school through the university level and get the education that I did not have the chance to receive.” 

Chantal Nyirambali, President of Imirasire Cooperative (50 years old)

“I am most excited to learn about marketing and leadership. Education is important because it helps you to get advanced knowledge and allows you to grow. My goal is to be able to fully provide for my family and be a role model to women in my community.”

Aren’t these women just amazing?! We certainly think so! Stay tuned for more insider info throughout the semester on our partners’ progress in and outside of the classroom – there will surely be much to share!

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

Click here to learn more

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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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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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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


“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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Thanks Google!

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

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

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

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

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

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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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A Day at the Leadership Academy

#inspiration, #education, #leadership academy

On October 1st, 2014, we opened a Leadership Academy in Kigali, Rwanda, dedicated to building powerful businesswomen, entrepreneurs, and leaders. What is a day like at the Leadership Academy? Read on to find out!

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It’s 8AM on a tranquil Wednesday in Rwanda. Though class doesn’t start until 9, students have already begun to arrive, hugging and laughing as they greet one another. Some have traveled from far away – like Jacqueline from Twiyubake Cooperative or Elizabeth from Agatako – and are eager to set down their bags and get ready for the day.

At 8:30 tea is served and students gather together to sip and enjoy rolls of bread. Though many of these women met for the first time only a few short months ago, they have become fast friends – leaning on each other’s shoulders, playing with each other’s hair, and grasping hands as they share stories and exciting news.

When Robertine, our Head Teacher, signals it’s time for class to begin, students rush to their seats and pull out pens and papers while Teaching Assistants distribute notes on the lesson. Today’s topic is “Planning For Your Cooperative’s Future” and the enthusiasm is palpable. 

The goal for this class is for students to understand how to improve their cooperatives’ functioning through the use of a core mission, shared values and visions, group objectives, and long and short term strategies. Robertine’s teaching style is dynamic and interactive. After introducing the topic and defining the terms, she shows the students mission statements from a range of other companies – from international NGOs to major department stores - and asks them to weigh in on why or why not these statements are effective. Students’ hands shoot into the air and they stand as they are called on to respond – being sure to practice their public-speaking skills (like eye contact and projection) as they go.

Spirited dialogue and questions continue until noon when lunch arrives and students line up to enjoy a range of traditional Rwandan food options like sautéed cassava leaves and roasted yams. When they are finished, they take a few minutes to enjoy the sun and quintessential Rwandan views outside – the greenest hills speckled with red-roofed houses rolling on into the distance.

Class picks up again and it’s time for the students themselves to take the lead. They work together in small groups led by Student Fellows - Goldman Sachs 10,000 Women graduates who are mentors in the classroom – to create their own mission statements, values, visions, objectives, and strategies for their cooperatives, which they then share with the class. Example visions include: “Improve the lives of our members and our customers” and “Develop women in Rwanda through beautiful crafts.”  

The goal of lessons like these is to help women develop the life-long knowledge and skills they need to grow their own businesses. No topic is taught in isolation. Throughout the day, students discuss how the lessons they are learning apply to their cooperatives, talk through challenges they are facing, and work together to find solutions. The results are powerful. Already, Leadership Academy students have made significant improvements to the management of their cooperatives – instituting new inventory tracking systems and better bookkeeping; creating annual budgets; and identifying new market opportunities, as just a few examples. They are becoming powerful mentors and role models for their peers – passionate about what they are learning and eager to share it with others.

As class comes to a close, students end the day with their parting ritual, rubbing their palms together and shooting their hands into the air shouting “Bravo!” Indeed, there is much to celebrate.

The Leadership Academy is generously supported by the Ann B. Zeis Scholarship Fund. Click here to learn more

To learn more about our Leadership Academy, click here.

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The Leadership Academy - Week One

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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A Note From Our CEO

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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#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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P.S. - We’re Going Back-to-School!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Spoke Woven’s Going Back-To-School

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Marie Josee Numukobwa

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

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

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

What grade level did you complete in school?

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

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

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

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

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

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

I am most excited to study business management. 

Why is education important to you?

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

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

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

What are your goals for your own future?

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

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

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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:


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.


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!}


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

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. 


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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so you want to be an entrepreneur

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

So you want to be an entrepreneur…

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How do you do it?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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