In 1994 the finish of the Rwandan Genocide, which came from a 100 day mass murder from the Hutu and Tutsi Tribes, left over 800,000 people dead. Studies show that 1 in 10 Rwandans died during these 100 days. The effects of having almost 1 million people die in less than four months is staggering. Rwanda quickly became a country with more women than men. The scars and trauma these women carry with them is both tragic and inspiring. They survived things most of us couldn’t even dream of. They watched their children and husbands get hacked into bits by men with machetes, or were trapped while their neighbors were violently clubbed to death. Their homes were destroyed and burned to the ground while they were forced to watch. For a lot of these women, what they went through after watching this unfold, would be what some would call a fate worse than death. Violent rapings were condoned and these women suffered in the most extreme ways because of it. Some were left after all this took place to, “die of sadness.”
After the genocide finished, these widows were left to pick up the pieces, and somehow make a new life. With their husbands dead, the widows from the Hutu and Tutsi Tribes came together and made peace. By weaving baskets together these women found a way of healing in something that has been a part of Rwandan culture for centuries. The weaving and selling of these baskets to Western markets has gained the Rwandan widows economic independence and improved their local communities.
Now, 24 years later, 50% of homes in Rwanda are run by women. The women in this country still live in extreme poverty. Often $1.25 a day or less is what they have to feed and shelter themselves and their children. They are slowly rebuilding. The Rafiki Exchange has partnered with these very women, and are selling their baskets in our Local Exchanges, on our Online Exchange, and our new Etsy Shop. We are passionate about helping these widows support themselves and their children.
Written by McKenna Gasper