Three Courageous Women on Rebuilding Rwanda Post-Genocide
In 1994, from April to July, Rwanda was devastated by a brutal genocide. Hundreds of thousands of Rwandans were murdered and many more were forced to flee their homes and become refugees. During this time, every day, for each minute that passed, six men, women and children were massacred. Hundreds of thousands of women were raped. Because of extreme poverty, more than half of Rwanda’s children couldn’t continue their schooling.
This war-ravaged nation was left with 70 percent women who had to rebuild the country. In an attempt to rehabilitate, the government encouraged women, especially artisans, to form cooperatives and be entrepreneurial. But the women needed education and tools. How could they learn how to form and manage their businesses and find good venues where they might sell their products? The nonprofit organization Indego Africa was formed in 2007 to partner with these cooperatives and help empower Rwandan women to lift themselves out of poverty. Today they engage with 22 different artisan groups across Rwanda.
Working closely with the cooperatives, Indego Africa offers talented craftswomen opportunities to earn sustainable income and receive education. Most of them have never embarked on entrepreneurial pursuits before. But like the old adage goes, “Teach someone to fish and they eat for a lifetime.” The women gain many invaluable life skills. They have received training in design, business management, and technology so they can grow their own businesses. And through Indego Africa’s e-commerce website and with collaborations with boutiques and brands around the globe, the women’s handcrafted products are available worldwide and online.