World Fair Trade Day is 14 May and this year’s theme,
Fair Trade Is Peace is brought to life in Rwanda, where 400 Hutu and Tutsi women work together, weaving baskets for peace as part of Rwanda’s rebuilding efforts after the devastating 1994 genocide.
Helping create a market for their products is New York City-based Economic Development Imports (EDImports). Founder Liz Wald, a former strategy consultant and Internet entrepreneur, partners with women living in marginal socioeconomic conditions in Rwanda, Kenya and Uganda to design and produce goods for export to North America.
After the genocide many Rwandan women were widowed and left without any economic means of support, stated Ms Wald.
Experts have shown that building a viable economy is essential to building a lasting peace. Women are crucial to this process. EDImports’ bridge to the west gives local women an opportunity to create sustainable enterprises.
EDImports works with Rwandan women to adapt traditional handmade goods, such as the
wedding basket, to meet exacting western quality standards. The company customizes items for clients and special events, such as baskets emblazoned with the breast cancer logo for Charity USA, and ponchos designed to mark the UN’s Year of Microcredit.
Rwandan weavers are now able to purchase food, medicine, and clothing, pay school fees, and open savings accounts with their income. In addition to paying fair, above-market wages, EDImports invests in the community by matching savings account contributions and managing a goat donation program. The artisans, in turn, contribute to a cooperative that develops services and business opportunities for their greater community.
Founded in 2003, EDImports has developed partnerships across East Africa, importing a range of home goods, apparel and event items using culturally significant natural materials with minimal environmental impact, eg, Rwandan banana leaf, Ugandan bark cloth, and Kenyan soapstone. By helping to rebuild economies through export of handmade items, EDImports demonstrates how entrepreneurship at all levels — from small African villages to international markets — can create thriving businesses and support a lasting peace.
To learn more and see fair trade products available for sale, please visit Economic Development Imports.
Rwandan Women ‘Weaving for Peace’ Echo 2005 ‘Fair Trade Is Peace’ Theme — PR News Wire