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.