How York is selling beautiful African gifts to the world

14 Nov 2012 @ 1.10 pm
| News

Amy and Habiba in Rwanda. Photographs: Kigali Crafts
The autumnal feeling is everywhere in the UK! Leaves are turning multiple shades of orange, red and yellow, and the nights are drawing in.

The temperature has dropped suddenly and it’s that time of year again when you realise one of your gloves is missing and need to buy a new bobble hat. Not forgetting that seasonal festivities are looming and the slow panic of Christmas is rising…

But when you buy that new hat or winter socks, do you question where they are made, how they are crafted or by whom?

Ethical consumer consciousness is becoming more and more imperative at a time when the global recession is having an impact, not only upon the developed world but also on those countries and populations, primarily those of developing countries, dependent on global economic stability.

Kigali Crafts Ltd, a York-based social enterprise and ethical trading business, works to empower and support women and their families still affected and entrapped by the impact of the Rwandan Civil War that started in 1990 and the Rwandan genocide of 1994.

The company’s evolution over the past two years bridges the gap between the developed and the developing world, so that people gain skills and knowledge needed to work themselves out of poverty.

Amy Trumpeter, the managing director of Kigali Crafts, saw the Rwandan genocide’s effects first hand when she visited the country in 2010. It was for this reason that Amy decided to create and run Kigali Crafts in the UK, trading fairly with Rwandan women who make the products sold through the business.

Kigali Crafts is also involved in the grass-roots organisation of medical and mental health support for women and their families affected by the conflict. Amy’s passion for the business is clear but her overwhelming wish to support Rwanda and its people is even clearer.

The women in Rwanda try out one of their necklaces. Photograph: Valerie Fierens. Above right: the fabric necklaces on sale at Kigali Crafts. Photograph: Ieva Blaževičiūtė
When in Rwanda, Amy was inspired by women like Habiba and Immaculate. These Rwandan women suffered immeasurably during and since the genocide. All members of Habiba’s family, excluding her brother, were murdered whilst Immaculate, diagnosed as HIV positive, had an alcohol abusive husband and was unable to see a way out of poverty.

Today, Kigali Crafts sells products that Immaculate and Habiba make, giving them a regular income to empower them and their families. Now these women are able to support themselves whilst learning invaluable skills for their future, such as sewing, accounting and business management.

This illustrates the importance and effectiveness of long-term development and support for these communities.

The evolving Kigali Crafts business moved to The Mount, York, in April 2012, and is currently run by eight volunteers. Today, Kigali Crafts supports over 100 Rwandan women with the aim of further expansion and charitable incorporation.

The financial side of the business has become more stable since receipt of sponsorship from other organisations such as BA Careers and Trumpeter Media.

The beaded pens made by Habiba

Nevertheless, the current economic recession coupled with the European financial crisis highlights how necessary it is for consumers to embrace and understand the positive impacts that fair trade and ethical consumerism can have in a globalised marketplace.

It is through businesses and organisations like Kigali Crafts that people can gain awareness of the ethics of trade. So the Kigali Crafts story continues…