I found out today that Salha Kaitesi has been nominated as Role Model of the Year in the Women4Africa awards. Having heard her speak about founding her Not-for-Profit Beauty of Rwanda recently, I am not at all surprised. Find out more about this inspirational lady, the inspirational ladies she works hard to empower and the impact she has made to rebuild a vulnerable community, in our latest spotlight blog.
Rwandan-born Salha moved to the UK in 2000. A few years later, she returned to her native country for a holiday and to visit relatives. A visit to the local market proved life-changing.
While browsing the local produce and speciality traditional weaving in search for souvenirs to gift to friends in the UK, Salha had an uncharacteristically strong compulsion to find out about the craftswomen who had made these beautiful products. A local shopkeeper advised her that the seller would be dropping off the next order in two days’ time- so Salha got up bright and early and made sure she was there on time to meet Christine for the first time.
A few days later, Salha made the long journey out to Christine’s village, to hear more about the stories behind the beautifully bold jewellery and bowls, carefully and lovingly crafted in riotous colours.
23 years ago, in just 100 days in 1994, 1,000,000 Rwandans were murdered in a horrific act of mass genocide. It was primarily the Tutsi men whose lives were taken. Women were targeted in vicious and cruel sexual attacks, often leaving a legacy of HIV as a purposeful manner of inflicting further pain. The women and children who witnessed and suffered this horror were left not only with the unimaginable trauma- they were also left alone, vulnerable and destitute, with destroyed crops and uninhabitable homes.
What could these women do, to support and bind together their broken families? Without education or training, they are left with few options to ensure an income- the ability to grow a few crops and the traditional skill of weaving.
These proud, dignified and beautiful women of Rwanda are determined not to join the many who beg on the streets to sustain their children. They have the skills to weave, they told Salha, so they put those skills to use, and they weave. Their biggest struggle, they explained, is that the market is saturated- so many widows industriously weaving to support their families means demand, and prices, are low. “If only we had another platform, another market in which we could sell our goods” explained the ladies.
Salha flew back home to the UK, but these words resounded in her head. She didn’t sleep for weeks! She was desperate to help these ladies. But how?
In 2009, Salha, who describes herself then as “clueless- but with a passion” set up a Facebook page called Beauty of Rwanda. It was a place to respect the beauty, the fight and the empowerment of her native countrywomen. In 2011 she returned to Rwanda and came back with a plan. An idea had been born- a business was blossoming!
It took quite a while to start to gain enough trust to build her online selling platform, but Salha started to make a lot of noise! In her first year of business she was nominated for and won 3 awards. By selling to friends and family, her business and reputation began to grow. In 2014 Beauty of Rwanda was registered as a Not for Profit organisation, so the organisation can broaden their support from purely financial, to developing skills, education and further growth among this Rwandan community.
Today, Beauty of Rwanda is supporting Christine and nearly 60 other women, who sustain a community of around 200. She urgently needs two trustees who have an interest and passion in Beauty of Rwanda’s objectives in order to help her move the social enterprise forward, to help, support and empower more women and their families. Can you help? Please email [email protected] to find out more.
Please click here to browse the striking Beauty of Rwanda products. Treat yourself, or a loved one. Bookmark it to return the next time you’re looking for gift ideas. These are gifts that truly bless both the maker and the receiver- a meaningful and empowering present. And beautiful and affordable to boot!
Talbot Jones Risk Solutions is an insurance brokerage specialising in Charity and SME insurance. Do get in touch if you’d value a free insurance review, quotation or advice and we’d be delighted to help you.