Who We are
After the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi, Rwanda was faced with a gender imbalance, with many women left as widows, single mothers, wives with husbands facing long jail terms, and teenage orphaned girls. Thus, our artisans are less privileged rural Rwandans, majority women whose relatives and husbands were either killed during the genocide, fled the country or are in prison charged with genocide related cases. DOES THIS HAVE TO GO HERE? Gahaya Links was founded to train rural women after the devastating 1994 Rwanda Genocide that left over 1 million dead. MORE BACKGROUND ABOUT THE STATE OF RWANDA? In 1990's sisters Joy Ndunguste and Janet Nkubana offered the women a small shop to sell their baskets and earn an income to meet their basic necessities. DO THEY WANT TO GIVE MORE BACKGROUND?
Gahaya Links became the first Rwandan handcraft export company to benefit from the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) which enabled the company to penetrate the US market. With Fairwinds Trading, Inc and Macy’s, Inc partnerships, the company is now the leading exporter of Rwanda’s one-of-a- kind baskets through its Path to Peace program. The Macy’s relationship is the cornerstone of Gahaya Links’ success.
After the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi, Rwanda was faced with a gender imbalance. Women, left as widows, single mothers, teenaged orphans, and wives with husbands facing long jail sentences, made up approximately 70 percent of the population. Thus, our artisans are less privileged rural Rwandans, majority women whose relatives and husbands were either killed during the genocide, fled the country or are in prison, charged with genocide related cases.
But Gahaya Links, in its true form, began far before it was officially registered as an export company in 2004. Something about experiences growing up in Ugandan refugee camps and watching the women around them struggle When the sisters returned to Rwanda after the conflict had ended in the summer of 1994, they found their country devastated. What buildings remained were riddled with bullet holes and the newly appointed ministers began work seated on boxes and crates. As they began to rebuild their own lives, they could not ignore the struggles of the women around them. In 1996, they went to the town of Gitarama and spoke with women there about their problems and needs. From a young age, the sisters had been taught by their own mother to weave baskets, and they had seen the income that the sales of those products could generate in the right markets. So, the women brought their friends, and under a tree in Gitarama, the sisters first proposed the trainings that would later become Rwanda’s biggest handcraft export company. After just a year, those 20 women turned into 600, and they began expanding their work to other provinces throughout Rwanda. Soon, with their own personal funds running out and piles of baskets building up around their home, the sisters realized that to continue supporting these women, they needed to find a real market for their work. So, in 2004 Gahaya Links was officially incorporated as Rwanda’s first handicrafts company, just ten years after the genocide. Shortly thereafter, Gahaya Links became the first Rwandan handcraft export company to benefit from the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), allowing them access to the type of large markets in the U.S. they had been searching for. And soon thereafter, transformative partnerships with Fairwinds Trading Inc. and Macy’s Inc. helped turn Gahaya Links into the leading exporter of Rwanda’s one-of-a- kind baskets. worked with women in uganda doing the same work 1996 Met a single woman in Gitarama, told her to find friends (20 women) and came back to have a meeting started just as training and skill development Gitarama group grew to about 600 women, all the trainers from there - pilot project before expanded (area became known for baskets) started to replicate the same thing in other provinces - training, they would create their own associations, eventually registered as formal cooperatives realized we needed to make a market - registered Gahaya Links (up till them, own resources) center opened around 2006
Macy's was the first large-scale deal in 2005 - small deals that taught a lot before then