Q&A: Janet Nkubana is taking Rwandan handicrafts to the rest of the world

Briefly can you introduce yourself? I was born in Rwanda but raised in Uganda. My parents were the late John Nkubana and Mary Nyirabahire. I am the ninth born in a family of four girls and six boys.

Briefly can you introduce yourself?

I was born in Rwanda but raised in Uganda. My parents were the late John Nkubana and Mary Nyirabahire. I am the ninth born in a family of four girls and six boys.

I went to Kajawo Primary school followed by Bweranyangi Girl’s Senior Secondary School. After I started my professional life I did hotel management but after a short period of time I had to follow my passion, which was art.

When I came back in 1994 I started working in Hotel Kiyovu. I would see many ladies who would come with baskets and exchange them for food. The hotel would sell these baskets and give the ladies the money. When the hotel was privatized that small business was no more. I ended up making this business my own with my sister Joy Ndungutse.

What was your childhood dream and are you living it?

As a child living in a refugee camp where even getting what to eat on a daily basis was an issue, I had no dream in particular. But to some extent I wanted to see myself being a future leader. Now, here I am. An entrepreneur and leader of sorts.

Both my parents never attended school but my father was such a hard working, courageous, God fearing man. He used to tell us if you have the passion you can be a successful person in life. The same applied to my mother. I remember she used to teach us how to make baskets and other traditional trinkets as a means of reminding us of our origin.

When did you start Gahaya Links and what does it aim to do?

After losing the job I had at Hotel Kiyovu I saw how women suffered to get money to support their families by weaving baskets. When I saw that I could join this business, I realized that the loss of my job as a blessing in disguise.

Together with my sister we thought of this business and brought together all that we had saved in 1996. Gahaya Links aims at transforming people’s lives through doing business.

Does the position you are holding making any impact in your life?

I learnt how to be a satisfactory single mother and to appreciate who and what I am. This job has exposed me to many challenges and opportunities at the same time and above all I have learnt the difference between being a refugee and being a citizen of a country.

What are some of the challenges you meet on a day to day basis?

There are large numbers of people who are still knocking on the door looking for jobs but, given the market that we have currently, it’s still a challenge. There some men who don’t believe that their wives can stay at work the whole day. Another challenge was the post-conflict issues between Genocide survivors and women whose husbands are imprisoned for their involvement in the Genocide. But as time goes thing are becoming better.

What do you think are the major challenges to women in the business sector?

They major challenge is when you are not able to identify the products that are needed on the market. Another challenge for women in Rwanda is that they still need exposure beyond our borders.

What advices would you give to Rwanda women?

They should know what they are best at rather than seeing what others are doing. They need to know who are their competitors and clients are, and give their customers good value for their money.

 What is you marital status?

 I am a single mother with five children and other many orphans I am caring for.

How do you spend your leisure time?

Because of my working condition, I don’t have much time for leisure. But Sunday is the day that I dedicate to God and the other little time I have I give to my last born, friends, family and also attend some functions.

What are your future plans?

We are putting up a big factory that will reduce the number of unemployed men and women who are talented in art. We started by doing only baskets but we are going beyond one product.


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