Gahaya Links was founded in 2003 by Joy Ndungutse and Janet Nkubana, two sisters who have found that the way to weave straw into gold is through fair trade. Gahaya Links works with 54 cooperatives throughout Rwanda, employing thousands of weavers, most of whom are women. Each cooperative is run by a democratically elected president, secretary, and treasurer -- literacy is the only requirement -- and each cooperative is structured so that Hutu and Tutsi weavers work side by side, promoting reconciliation as the country struggles to come back from its long nightmare.
Joy Ndungutse's designs are taught to master weavers from each cooperative, who travel to the headquarters in Kigali to learn new designs and techniques as they are decided upon. The master weavers then return to their cooperatives to teach the other weavers, thus fostering leadership and community as well as guaranteeing standardized quality.
In addition to the weavers' salaries, Gahaya Links puts one dollar into a savings account for each basket completed. The mandatory savings program has enabled the weavers to buy more nutritious food, pay for their children's education, obtain medical care, and afford to wear shoes. None of these things were possible on their previous incomes. "Our main achievement is seeing how the women we work with have changed from how they were [directly post-genocide] to how they are now." --Joy Ndungutse
Inzuki Designs, founded by Teta Isibo who named it after the Kinyarwanda word for 'bees,' features a bold, innovative style that uses traditional materials crafted in contemporary styling by local artisans. Inzuki is located in downtown Kigali, Rwanda.
Inzuki partners with women’s cooperatives and weaving groups who use their skills to bring ideas to life. The inspiration behind her designs comes from the textures, colors, and patterns of everyday life in Rwanda, fused with modern style and fashion trends. Inzuki specializes in jewelry, accessories and home décor items handmade from local materials.
For the women working in the cooperatives, Inzuki designs is more than just a relationship based on supply and demand. For many of the women it’s a means of rebuilding their lives post-genocide. Through Inzuki, the women have been able to move on with their lives. Because of their work, their children have been able to go to school and the community has benefited with medical insurance and home improvements.