2013 Congressional Budget Justification
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WASHINGTON - January 18, 2012
WASHINGTON, D.C. – January 18, 2012-Gahaya Links Limited, a for-profit Rwandan company, proves that economic empowerment can change rural Rwandan women’s lives. Two USADF grants with Gahaya Links transitioned the company from a small time purveyor of woven baskets to a large scale exporter of internationally renowned artisanal jewelry and home décor products. This growth has helped thousands of women who are members of participating cooperatives achieve financial independence throughout Rwanda.
A dynamic and entrepreneurial set of sisters, Joy Ndunguste and Janet Nkubana, founded Gahaya Links to work with rural women after the 1994 Rwanda Genocide. Today Gahaya Links is a thriving global exporter business that relies on over 4,000 members from 52 independent savings cooperatives across Rwanda.
USADF helped Gahaya Links move beyond what co-founder Janet Nkubana describes as a “handbag accounting” system and has taught the company’s owners and members how to measure accountability and other business management practices. The co-founders believe that the skills gained in their USADF grants made them more organized and more competitive in the global market place.
“USADF said, ‘What can we do for you?’ ” as Nkubana recalls. “No one had ever asked us this before. We knew an organized accounting system could take us to the next level.”
USADF’s grants also pushed Gahaya Links to measure impact, evaluate pricing and diversify their products. In addition to authentic baskets, Gahaya Links now designs, produces and sells jewelry and handbags. “USADF is really how we became connected to the rest of the world,” said Nkubana. Major customers now include several major U.S. based retailers.
These days eighty percent of cooperative members use cellphones for communication, as well as bank accounts and the ATM to withdraw cash. For some women, it’s the first time they ever have withdrawn money on their own, independent of husbands. Better organizational infrastructure has improved the lives of women, increased quality and reduced operational costs, according to Nkubana.
More and more of the weavers have access to clean drinking water and they can better contribute to school fees for their children. Gahaya Links encourages women to take control of their future through a savings program. One woman saved enough money to launch her own transportation business. Gahaya Links takes pride in now providing job skills and employment opportunities to thousands of women, one woven basket at a time.
To learn more about USADF’s work with marginalized communities and populations, visit http://www.usadf.gov. Discover Gahaya Links products and the company's story at http://www.gahayalinks.com. Follow us on Twitter @USADF.