By Sheereen Charles
Formed in 2007, Indego Africa is a nonprofit organization that encourages and empowers women in Rwanda. Its goal is to combat poverty in Africa by providing female artisans with the tools to become successful businesswomen. The organization offers gifted women the chance to earn a living and obtain an education. Through this program, women are honing their entrepreneurial skills and making sustainable products. All of their creations are handmade and sold globally on Indego Africa’s website. Designers and brands have collaborated with the company to help design, sell, and support the women. The women attend design, literacy, business management, and technology-training classes that help them enhance their business. Because of the Indego Africa program, women around the world now have knowledge and the ability to independently navigate and grow their own business.
In 1994, Rwanda was crippled by a brutal genocide. Thousands of Rwandans were killed; others lost their loved ones and their homes. Belancilla Kangondo is one woman who sought out help from Indego Africa. Before connecting with the company, she was working as a farmer, earning a measly 43 cents a day. Her husband was imprisoned for genocide-related activity, and she had trouble providing for her family. Kangondo credits the company for teaching her the skills to be a successful craft worker. “My life would be terrible, I’d have no house, and I would not afford to pay the people who now work in my farm. All I have, I have achieved because of Indego Africa. When someone provides you with knowledge, they give you something very essential,” she says.
Marie Josee Numukobwa, another artisan talks about the many things she has learned. “We have been able to do things that we were not able to. In the business management trainings for example, I learned how to save money, unlike before when I used to spend it all. I learned how to work. I did not have to keep asking my husband for money. Now when I want something, I buy it myself.”
Jacqueline Musabyimana, a woman who was once a stay at home wife says: “My thinking changed. I matured. I became hopeful. Before I used to ask my husband for everything: clothes, shoes, soap. Sometimes I would be embarrassed to ask for some things. But now, I contribute more to the household expenses. I pay most of my children’s school fees and health insurance too.”
Today, Indego Africa continues to encourage and empower women. They work with 23 different artisan groups across Rwanda and employ over 800 women. Indego Africa has brought about change in the way African women think of themselves. Despite their hardships, they now pride themselves as being leaders and intellectuals in their community. The company helps women support their families, while teaching them to build lucrative and maintainable businesses for the future. To find out how you can help Indego Africa, visit indegoafrica.org.