Following the genocide in 1994, Joy returned home to Rwanda where she operated a hotel business. After living in Rwanda for many years, Joy embarked on her childhood dream to match her design talent with a traditional skill to empower rural women left hopeless after the genocide. Under a tree, in a small village called Gitarama, this dream came to light when she invited 20 wome, a group that has since grown to over 4,000 women countrywide now called the Gahaya Links weavers. Joy leveraged her design experience she acquired from her days in America and started teaching a few women how to weave for competitive international markets.

Janet Nkubana

Nkubana returned home to join hands with other Rwandans in rebuilding a nation her parents had left more than three decades ago. Upon her return, life in the country was a stark reminder of her life in the refugee camp, no food or water and people’s devastated with no hope for tomorrow. Nkubana operated a hotel with her sister Joy where displaced women, children suffering with no dignity from emotional trauma of losing their loved ones often frequented to beg for food or any help from hotel residents. As time went on women started bringing their hand-woven baskets in exchange of food. As Janet recalls, “Giving them money was a one day solution, buying their baskets was rewarding them for their hard work.” Janet knew that she would not be able to give them food for a longtime; this was just an act of kindness. She later came up with a solution of opening a little gift store, to sell their products. The shop became a turning point in the weavers’ lives, it give them dignity, hope and brought smiles on their faces. Looking at these women, able to afford the basics, would later make Janet think beyond the gift shop. Janet joined hands with her sister Joy to form what is known today as Gahaya Links. She recalls the day when she and Joy visited a group of 20-30 women with a message to equip them with a skill that could earn them a sustainable income. Today, they are a perfect combination, as Joy comes up with designs and Janet complements them from her art talent she acquired from school and also quick wit finds the market for the products.