November 18, 2011

A Guest Blog From Rwanda

Last July, MSLO employee, Kate Lewis, shared a blog from the wonderful Santa Fe International Folk Art Market and now she has another one from a trip she took to Rwanda.

Hi - I am Kate, an employee who loves folk art and was a guest on Martha's Blog in July with my photographs from the amazing Santa Fe International Folk Art Market, which I attend each year. This market has a great impact on women cooperatives throughout the world, by giving artists, who are part of cooperatives, an opportunity to sell their crafts.  In doing so, these women achieve economic stability, placing them on a new path of self-confidence and empowerment.  I’ve been doing volunteer work for women cooperatives – my contribution to making sure that every woman is treated with respect and dignity.  You may recall that one of the artists attending the Santa Fe Market was Janet Nkubana, a friend of mine for several years.  Janet is a most inspiring individual, who has organized women cooperatives in her native African country of Rwanda, giving a voice to many women there.

I had traveled to Rwanda before the horrific Genocide of 1994 and fell in love with the beauty of the country and with the people.  Last September, I had the opportunity to revisit and attend the wedding of Janet’s daughter, Lucy.  I was also able to see the wonderful work that Janet and her sister, Joy Ndunguste, accomplish for women cooperatives.  After the devastating Genocide that left over one million dead, Rwanda was faced with a tremendous gender imbalance, as so many males perished.  Janet and Joy founded the Gahaya Links Cooperatives, making Rwanda’s ancient basket weaving tradition a source of livelihood for rural women.  This model has proved successful in generating a livable income for more than 4,000 women, enabling those women to rise out of poverty and to feed and educate their children.  I hope you enjoy these photos.