Rwandan Artisan's Love and Tenacity Helps Her Community Thrive

25 years after genocide devastated Rwanda, a brave woman named Immaculee loved her country so much that she wanted to make a difference. Immaculee Nyiramuhakwa saw the poverty in her home and community, and desired to change the world around her. She is a gifted weaver, and knew how valuable that was. She invited a group of impoverished women to come together and learn the craft. Out of the vision for a better future for their community, the group called themselves the Abaharaniriterambere "People Fighting for Development" Cooperative.

15 years later, the group is comprised of 26 women and 2 men. They are working with excellence in their area of specialty, using locally grown products such as banana leaves to create functional household items. 

This reminds me of another Immaculee from Rwanda. Immaculee Illibagiza wrote about her surviving the Rwandan genocide of 1994 in her book, Left to Tell: Discovering God Admist the Rwandan Genocide. She and seven other women survived by hiding in the tiny bathroom of a pastor’s house. She details the terror of it all, but amazingly, also shares the incredible faith she found in Christ in the midst of it. With no personal space and very little food or water, she passed the long hours by reading the Bible and praying. Since then, she has become an inspirational speaker and been involved in many important initiatives for her country.

The resilience of the people of Rwanda is inspiring. Men and women of bravery and fortitude who love their country dearly and desire a better future have worked hard to see it revitalized. Immaculee Nyiramuhakwa is one of those people and helps lift her Rwandan community out of poverty with the weaving cooperative.

The cooperative group’s goal is to develop themselves and their community through their art. In the past year, the group members have been able to use their income to provide food, clothing, and soap for their families. The married women of the group have seen peace and happiness grow in their homes as they have had the opportunity for financial independence and the dignity of being significant contributors to the family’s wellbeing. The members of Abaharaniriterambere use their time together not only to weave and exchange advice, but to discuss important topics such as women’s rights. With Immaculee still leading the way, this group is determined to continue to better themselves and their community, and to stand strong in Rwanda’s vision for a better future. The artisans currently work in the local schoolyard in Nyaruguru District, but they dream of building their own weaving house.

Their beautiful, locally sourced products are made by hand, and are great conversational pieces for the Western market. Entertaining guests with a banana leaf nesting tray or the banana leaf divided serving tray are great ways to serve in style, and more importantly, share the stories of the inspiring people behind the products. 

Banana Leaf Nesting Tray Sets from Rwanda 

Banana Leaf Divided Serving Tray 

The weaving cooperative is among 30 independent groups in Rwanda who partner with Azizi Life. Azizi Life is a partner of Jesus’ Economy. The vision of Azizi Life is “to participate in local initiatives for the development of Rwandan communities, working towards physical and spiritual wholeness for all.”

When you shop at Jesus’ Economy, you can choose the “Shop Fair Trade by Artisan” feature. Each of our artisans has a special story, and is changing lives in their family and community. You can also choose the “Shop by Country” feature, and choose Rwanda to support Immaculee and the Abaharaniriterambere Cooperative.  

Rachel Thompson
Rachel Thompson


Writer at Jesus' Economy