Rwanda is a small mountainous country located in the Great Lakes region of East Africa, just south of the Equator. The country is ecologically diverse for its size and characterized with highland mountain landscapes in the west giving way to savannah grasslands and low altitude marshes to the east. Tourism, minerals, coffee, and tea are Rwanda's main sources of foreign exchange. Although livelihood practices vary geographically, agricultural production serves as the foundation for the rural economy. Rwanda is actively promoting entrepreneurial development in it's Vision 2020 push to become a middle income country. Administratively, Rwanda is divided into five key Provinces. They include the Western, Northern, Southern, Eastern, and Kigali Province located centrally.
The cooperative is made of 15 women, most of whom are widows as a result of the 1994 Geneocide against the Tutsi. The women of Kakira design and create reliefs on wooden panels using cow's dung. Once the cow dung has dried, the works are painted, dried again, and ready to be used as decoration.
Twiyubake Leather Sandal Cooperative - organized by Hands of Mothers (Manos de Madres) - is a cohort of incredible young people who did not receive a chance for a proper education, and all living with HIV. Many are the head of their households, struggling to provide for their families. Twiyubake provides an opportunity to grow together as a community, learn new skills, and connect with like-minded individuals who all want a chance to create a better future for themselves and for their families.
Hands of Mothers involvement with the women began in 2010 and resulted in the launch of the Nyacyonga Jewelry Initiative. The women seized this opportunity and have been determined to succeed. They named their cooperative Ejo Hazaza because "Ejo Hazaza means 'tomorrow,' and we hope to continue to live tomorrow in good health by supporting ourselves financially and each other emotionally." Their goal is to be able to send their children to school, access health insurance and proper nutrition.
Grace was born in the Southern Province of Rwanda in a village called Byimana, a village well known for basket making. She attended only primary school because her parents didn’t have enough money to send her to school and continue her education. She came to Kigali when she got married. After 20 years of marriage, her husband passed away, so now she is in charge of her whole family. Her work supports her and her four children. She is proud because her children don’t lack anything - they have enough to eat and dress, and go to school.
Chris was born in the DRC (Democratic republic of Congo) to a Kenyan father and Rwandan mother. Both parents passed away when he was only five, leaving he and his two brothers to be raised by their grandmother. Chris has been passionate about dance nearly all of his life, having started getting involved at the age of four. He recalls that it was his uncle - now living in South Africa as a singer - who taught him to dance and inspired him. Chris made this his career and dreams of taking dance to another level in Rwanda.
Born in a neighboring community, Donatha moved to Hindero (village on the outskirts of Muramba) after getting married. She and her husband have been married for 20 years and have eight kids. She is highly motivated and very proud of her craft. She is excited to have visitors and says that it is an honor that someone would come from so far away to learn about Rwanda, and spend time with her and her family.
“What’s there to do around here?” I ask at the reception desk of a small, rural hostel. To my surprise, the most enticing of the responses I got was, “walk around.” That was after being here in Rwanda for about 3 weeks. In the seven mon ... read more