Joy Ndungutse and Janet Nkubana co-founded Gahaya Links Cooperatives shortly after the Rwandan genocide ended in 1994 with a vision to “empower rural communities to become entrepreneurs and earn better incomes to live with dignity among their communities.” 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, producing baskets for export to Japan and the U.S., some of which are sold through department stores Macy’s and Neiman Marcus as “peace baskets.” Today, Gahaya Links "Peace Baskets” are sold and admired the world over. Their bespoke home decor, jewelry, and textile collections reflect the beauty and resilience in each of the weavers.
At its heart, Gahaya Links is dedicated to women’s economic empowerment through enterprise design. What began as an opportunity for basic income generation and skills training for women has grown to produce positive multiplier effects in the lives of their children, their families, and their communities. The weavers have achieved access to education for their children, clean water and nutritious foods for their families, and secure housing for their livelihoods, helping to enrich and strengthen communities across Rwanda.
In 2008, Gahaya Links won the ‘Best Corporate Social Responsibility’ award for empowering disadvantaged women in rural areas by providing training opportunities and access to global markets. Their social impact in Rwanda has been profound, with 100% of their women now able to cover the costs of health insurance according to‘Mutuelle de Santé; 80% now own bank accounts; 40% have started their own businesses; and 10% have gone on to become local community leaders