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Rwandan Entrepreneurs Honored with Global Award

The Alliance for Artisan Enterprise celebrated Rwandan sisters, Joy Ndungutse and Janet Nkubana, co-founders of Gahaya Links, for their efforts to strengthen woman artisans of Rwanda with the prestigious Artisan Hero Award.

The Alliance, hosted by the Aspen Institute, supports over 60 artisans and organizations from around the world to create jobs, increase incomes, enhance cultural heritage, and promote development. The award celebrates artisan work and promotes its role in driving economic growth in developing countries.

U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues Catherine M. Russell presented the award commending the sisters for their efforts in training and employing Rwandan women to preserve the age-old tradition of Rwandan basketry.

“Through their work, Joy Ndungutse and Janet Nkubana have shown a lifetime of commitment in support of Rwandan artisans. They are role models in the artisan sector,” said Gina Rogari of the Alliance for Artisan Enterprise.

Photo credit: Alison Wright

Gahaya Links, founded by Ndungutse and Nkubana, is a fair trade network of more than 4,000 artisans in Rwanda. Since its inception in 1994, the company has provided thousands of women with skills and resources to earn money and become economically stable. Gahaya Links has created more than 70 cooperatives where women of different ethnic groups come together to learn basketry, tailoring, and jewelry-making, and formed partnerships to bring their handiwork to national and global markets. Most recently, the company brought women’s products from rural Rwanda to Macy’s, Anthropologie, and Kate Spade making a positive impact on the country’s economy.

Photo credit: Alison Wright

For many years, Gahaya Links has been a key partner for Women for Women International-Rwanda. In May 2015, 100 graduates of WfWI’s 12-month program who had learned basic business and vocational skills were introduced to Gahaya Links for advanced trainings in tailoring, jewelry making and basketry. At trainings held at WfWI’s Women’s Opportunity Centre, participants gained skills that lead to job creation and sustainable income.

“Building partnerships with Gahaya Links is a key pillar of our work supporting the ongoing development and economic empowerment of women so that they can build better lives for themselves and their families,” said former WfWI CEO, Jennifer Windsor.

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