If there is one women-led, African social entrepreneurship venture that springs to mind when we speak about the power of collaboration, it has to be Gahaya Links in Rwanda. The brainchild of sisters Joy Ndungutse and Janet Nkubana, this for-profit Rwandan handicraft company founded on the simple principle of women economic empowerment through fair-trade, is this month celebrating a decade-long partnership with the prestigious Macy’s retail group in the US, called the Rwanda Path to Peace initiative.
Major US retailer, Macy’s, is celebrating 10 years of its Rwanda Path to Peace initiative, offering customers special commemorative designs to honor the decade-long partnership. Originally launched in fall 2005, the program affords an opportunity to create economic sustainability and stability for the women weavers of Rwanda impacted by the country’s civil war and genocide, and is now the longest-lasting program of its kind. Macy’s Rwanda Path to Peace program was one of the first-ever ‘trade-not-aid’ efforts and is the longest-enduring, impacting thousands of women throughout the country of Rwanda. This important initiative, in partnership with the Rwandan weavers’ cooperative, Gahaya Links, has enabled women in Rwanda to take care of essential human needs, send their children to school, buy health insurance and malaria nets, and to help rebuild their communities.
“Macy’s Rwanda Path to Peace program was one of the first-ever ‘trade-not-aid’ efforts and is the longest-enduring, impacting thousands of women throughout the country of Rwanda,” said Willa Shalit, co-founder of the programme.
Macy’s Rwanda Path to Peace program brings the age-old art of Rwandan basket weaving to customers in the United States, with products available in select Macy’s stores and on macys.com. The vibrant colorful baskets range from a classic 9-inch fruit bowl to a 16-inch large statement piece, with retail prices ranging from $30 to $60.
“As an early and dedicated advocate for this program, I am so proud of the decade of work we have been honored to do through our Rwanda Path to Peace project. Through this program, Hutu and Tutsi women, representing both sides of a devastating genocide, have come together to weave baskets of peace. From my first visit to Rwanda, my life was permanently changed by the strength of the weavers I met – knowing what they have endured and all they have taught us about courage, forgiveness and grace. I want to thank our customers for continuing to support this effort and for helping us make a difference in the world,” said Terry J. Lundgren, chairman and CEO of Macy’s, Inc.
Macy’s commemorated the anniversary with a special customer event at Macy’s Herald Square in New York City on Oct. 20. The in-store celebration featured live musical performances, traditional Rwandan food and a ceremony honoring the women who made this project possible.
For more information about Macy’s Rwanda Path to Peace, visit macys.com/Rwanda
To read the startup story of Gahaya Links here.
Macy's, the largest retail brand of Macy's, Inc., delivers fashion and affordable luxury to customers at approximately 775 locations in 45 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and Guam, as well as to customers in the U.S. and more than 100 international destinations through its leading online store at macys.com. Building on a more than 150-year tradition, and with the collective support of customers and employees, Macy's helps strengthen communities by supporting local and national charities giving more than $69 million each year to help make a difference in the lives of our customers.
About Gahaya Links
Janet Nkubana and Joy Ndungutse, co-founded Gahaya Links Cooperatives shortly after the Rwandan genocide ended in 1994. These inspiring sisters had a vision to turn ancient basket weaving skills into a source of livelihood for thousands of rural women. Many of the women, like Janet and Joy themselves, were returning refugees or survivors of the genocide. The women started weaving baskets in exchange for food. Initially bringing together about twenty women, the sisters taught them how to weave and how to enhance their weaving skills with new design techniques. Today, Gahaya Links manages a network of over 4,000 weavers across the country, organised into around 72 cooperatives that help provide much needed income and stability. The sisters have successfully opened the business to international markets, and today, Gahaya Links "Peace Baskets” are sold and admired the world over. In October 2015, Joy Ndungutse was recognised with the prestigious Artisan Hero Award 2015 by the Alliance for Artisan Enterprise, Aspen Global Health and Development, and The Aspen Institute.