‘Only One Basket’ campaign: How weaving has empowered Rwanda’s rural women

“If I could get everyone to buy just one basket or any other item be it jewelry or tableware, imagine what that could do for these women,” says Salha L. Kayitesi, the founder of Beauty of Rwanda.On Saturday May 7th, 2011, Salha launched her ‘Only One Basket’ campaign and showcased some of the most beautiful crafts made by some of the less advantaged women, most of whom are survivors of the 1994 Rwanda Genocide against the Tutsi.
The founder of Beauty of Rwanda Salha L Kaiytesi
The founder of Beauty of Rwanda Salha L Kaiytesi

“If I could get everyone to buy just one basket or any other item be it jewelry or tableware, imagine what that could do for these women,” says Salha L. Kayitesi, the founder of Beauty of Rwanda.

On Saturday May 7th, 2011, Salha launched her ‘Only One Basket’ campaign and showcased some of the most beautiful crafts made by some of the less advantaged women, most of whom are survivors of the 1994 Rwanda Genocide against the Tutsi.

People gathered at Kwetu African Cuisine in Kacyiru, Gasabo to be a part of a beautiful journey towards a poverty free Rwanda.

“I looked at these women and their wonderful skill and thought about how I could make life better for them, I wondered why anyone should live the way they did,” she says.

It was this immense connection to the women that made Salha market their products through starting her company, Beauty of Rwanda.

Of course as expected mostly women showed up for the event but there were also a few men who made the effort to represent others. The afternoon warmth was a bonus to the event. 

An auction was also on the line up. A set of baskets that had me start the bidding with a lousy Rwf3,000, were sold to a gentleman for a cool Rwf40,000. The best bidder’s son about five or six years old also carried home a tableware item at Rwf10,000.

On how she organized the event Salha says, “There was lots of help and lots of people just wanting to support us. Most of them are just individuals and felt it was for a good cause so they wanted to be a part of it.”

Daisy Kizza Angela working with Fountain Publishers was among the guests who showed up to help Salha launch her campaign.

“I got to know about Beauty of Rwanda from Salha as an old friend in high school. This campaign means a lot to me because we are really trying to boost the sale of local items,” Kizza said.

“There is hope for women through Beauty of Rwanda because our crafts are good, the women are skilled and love what they do.

If people just learn to support good causes like these then there is hope!” emphasizes Kizza.

Christine Kado one of the ladies who weaves these beautiful crafts lives in Ruhango Byimana and has three children. 

“Weaving baskets has changed and improved my life. I am also able to raise my family because of the new market for our crafts. All my three children are in school and I can feed us and also save some money,” says Kado.

Gertrude Umurungi who lives in Kimironko says she was very inspired by the thought of Beauty of Rwanda and came to support Salha.

“I think more people should have come because this is our own thing and it’s going to help our own people. It is something that has a very good cause,” says Umurungi.

Among those who showed up is Christi Whitekettle, the Marketing and Communications Manager for Azizi Life.

 “There is absolutely hope for these women and many more.  We definitely see that with fair wedge income, the women are changing their own lives and those of their families and investing in their communities,” explains Whitekettle.

“Azizi means excellent and treasured because of our belief that every person’s life is treasured. We have a very similar vision to Salha and Beauty of Rwanda and so we have connected through those networks,” she adds.

It was not an all women event. One gentleman, a friend of Salha’s only known as Konde from Kigali said he believes that, everything has a start and Salha’s was an impressive one.

“Humble beginnings always end up with bigger endings,” says Konde adding that, “I’ve been good friends with the founder and have followed her on her blog.

The whole idea behind this venture is very important for us than anything else because we know that people in rural areas can actually benefit from this.”

The aura of baskets, beads and jewelry was impressive, the people who clearly understand what it means to give to a good cause showed up and the wonderful crafts were bought.

At the end of the day, those who bought an item understood that their contribution will help a family they might never even have the honor of meeting.

Hopefully Salha will be able to spread the message across to our neighbors as she takes the ‘Only One Basket’ campaign to Kampala this week and show them how much more Rwanda has to offer.

rachelgaruka@yahoo.co.uk

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