Salha Kaitesi is a Rwandan woman behind the Newcastle-based company, Beauty of Rwanda, which specialises in promoting, mainly online, the Rwandan peace basket commonly known as Agaseke and other Rwandan handicrafts.
Kaitesi describes herself as “a devoted mother with old fashioned values”. She also says she is a reliable and supportive person who enjoys being in the company of friends.
Perhaps it is out of this personality that Salha Kaitesi started her company Beauty of Rwanda last year with an online shop selling the much revered Rwandan traditional crafts specially weaved by poor and vulnerable women in Rwanda.
In her own words, Kaitesi says that she got inspired by the women weavers in Rwanda—their stories, struggles and how they live motivated her to kick-start her online business in 2010.
“These women live in poverty and basket weaving is the only skill they have in order to get themselves out of poverty. Most of them are survivors of the Rwandan Genocide,” Kaitesi says.
“Some are living with HIV and need constant medication and a good meal. They have children to support and sometimes extended family,” she adds.
“The crafts they weave are beautiful but were not marketed worldwide. Because of this situation (poverty) and the urge to get out of it, they have put aside their ethnic differences. Together they are “weaving” themselves out of poverty,” Kaitesi happily says.
Apart from launching the online crafts shop, at the beginning of March 2011, Kaitesi organised an exhibition at the Rwandan High Commission in London.
During the exhibition, Beauty of Rwanda showcased and sold peace baskets, fruit, bowls, inkangara, jewellery and BoR t-shirts.
“The reaction was very positive especially from the Deputy High Commissioner. Guests were really encouraging and thanked BoR for setting a good example,” Kaitesi said adding, “The impact is becoming bigger every other day... sales are improving, lots of media about us and we are proud of our work.”
“I believe Rwandans should take part and lead by example. They should be the first people to support our campaign since charity begins at home.
This is a chance for every Rwandan to help their fellow Rwandan and thus help Rwanda as a whole,” Kaitesi adds.
The deputy High Commissioner Linda Kalimba who officiated at the exhibition said that it is important that, “every Rwandan has an idea about improving their lives and country and nothing should them back.”
Kalimba commended Beauty of Rwanda for the initiative to empower women in Rwanda, adding that the High Commission supports such initiatives.
Beauty of Rwanda is four months old but according to Kaitesi, the demand for the products is overwhelming. Beauty of Rwanda is set to launch in Rwanda in May, 2011.