Today we celebrate World Fair Trade Day. We rejoice in the fact that sustainability and fair trade have been a part of the Women’s Initiative International since day one.
We celebrate the almost four years of positive impact that Women’s Initiative International has had not only in Rwanda, but also in the lives of countless people here in the States.
AND we are celebrating the fact that awareness about fair trade is growing. Practical steps are being taken everyday towards fair and ethical consumerism.
What is Fair Trade?
As defined by the World Fair Trade Organization, on their website, fair trade is “a trading partnership, based on dialogue, transparency and respect, that seeks greater equity in international trade.”
As I reflect on this definition, I couldn’t help but think about how WII began and how promoting equality and sustainability have been intertwined with our story from the beginning.
How the story began…
Women’s Initiative International was founded in 2018 by a small group of women who saw a need for a sustainable solution for another small group of women across the world.
Our co-founders, based in central Arkansas, have had a deep love and passion for the country of Rwanda for years. When they saw the realities of the living conditions and daily hardships of a group of ladies from the slums of Kigali, Rwanda, they immediately wanted to step in to help.
Prior to joining WII, these women living in the slums were working extremely low-paying and dangerous jobs like street cleaning, illegal street vending, and some had no other option but prostitution.
Most of our women are single moms with multiple children and have been struggling for years to make ends-meet. These women are such hard workers and all of their efforts to support their families continued to fall short due to the inescapable cycle of poverty they found themselves trapped in.
Finding a Solution
Starting with a group of 14 women (that has now grown to 25!) – each woman was given a salary, trained in a trade – either basket weaving, sewing, or a combination of these skills, and since then have been able to support their families with a job that also comes with a sense of dignity.
Each day these women work together to create beautiful, hand-crafted products that our clients here in the States get to enjoy daily.
These women can now afford rent and health insurance for their families as well as some school fees for their children.
Some women have been able to open bank accounts, save money, and a few have purchased homes and rent out space in their new homes for another source of income.
We have seen transformation with every aspect of these women’s lives – some have received Christ through their weekly bible studies and prayer. They have been able to find joy and passion in their work…
It truly feels like a family.
This group of ladies in Rwanda is one of the most influential, but humble groups of women that I have ever encountered and had the privilege of spending time with. They encourage one another, pray for one another, teach one another and deeply love each other.
Our driving statement is that “hope ignites life.” We have seen that play out in this ministry, and we are so thankful that the Lord has given us a front row seat to seeing these lives uplifted and transformed.