May 30, 2011

That moment of fame with "Beauty of Rwanda"

Salha Kaitesi is a mother, a wife and an entrepreneur with a passion of making a difference, especially to the women from the land of a thousand hills. Yes I said women. Don’t we all owe part of our lives to the ladies? Yes we do. The ladies are part of our lives, they have built most of what we are (atleast for me). We look to our mothers for so much and for me, my own mother inspires me. (Huh! Re-read that last sentence. My mother is my own. so why use own in the sentence. Not sure. To emphasize I guess)
Salha is one of the Inspirational ladies making a difference in a country she is passionate about. On one of her recent trips to Uganda (Yes, she visited Uganda) I had a brief chit-chat with her. Some maybe looking forward to a personal up-close with this lovely lady, well I did get the opportunity and used it. (Yes, she is happy, has a son and a man in her life). This chit-chat was with a lady who was voted one of the top 20  most influential African women in the diaspora. Salha is based in the United Kingdom and flies to her country Rwanda occasionally to work and visit. 

So, what is Beauty of Rwanda? (Remember this is copyrighted. It’s her project. Don’t xerox her name already for your Fashion House or something)
You must have read that in the papers already. (She smiles. But I insist for an answer). Beauty of Rwanda is a business company that tries to make a difference to the women in Rwanda. We try to get these women out of poverty. (this is not an easy task by the way. Poverty has never been easy to kick out). This we attain by selling the hand-made crafts by Rwandan women.
Salha (standing from right) smiles for the camera with @djstui

“When did you start this project?” I ask. “When did I start the beauty of Rwanda  you mean?” she asks. “Yes,” I reply.

I started it on 11th November 2010, and then early this year, March to be specific, I had this idea that people should think beyond the crafts. Thats when I came up with the "only one basket" campaign so that we can eradicate poverty for good. Coz’ when you say you are going to eradicate poverty, people start getting scared, we’ve got along way go. We can only play a role in poverty eradication.

How do you get the crafts from the women? 
I buy them from the women in Rwanda and then ship them to the UK. They are then stocked and distributed to the people who would have placed their orders.
The Twitfam at the Onlyonebasket event in Kampala. Picture from #FB  

How are these products bought? 
People buy online for now, although I would like to own a shop where I can display the items for sale. At the moment we only have online buyers. I would love to have a shop or a stall or any physical address that people can come to. That is my next plan.

Queue in a cliché question: Do you use twitter and Facebook? 
(She laughs) ofcourse she had to laugh…… Who asks such a question in this era……? 

I use both Facebook and Twitter for the business. Most of the Ugandans who came for our only one basket event were mostly from the twitfam. Twitter and Facebook play an important role for us especially in marketing and publicizing the business. This is where the story is told to many people at no cost. (Hold on, don’t you pay for the bandwidth you use?) 
Earrings (via #FB)

How has the response to the "only one basket" campaign been?
The response has been good though it has been hard for us in some instances. It has been easy to sell and interact with people who know and feel they are making a difference. We have also been able to make the brand bigger than it was, but for the work we have done so far, I’d say it’s good progress.

Do you get support from people for the cause to move forward? 
In Rwanda, I was able to get more support from Radio Stations where I was given free airtime to talk about the campaign. I also got free airtime on television and space in the newspapers. It has been overwhelming even from people like you. (She means me. You want me to repeat that. Yes. I also offered my support. One big family we are)
Need a caption here:::::: But the lady you see is @itsjust_afsa 

Is Beauty Of Rwanda your full-time job? 
I have a full-time job, but I do Beauty of Rwanda on the side. I have a 9am to 5pm job but in between lunch break and other breaks I may randomly get, I use that time to update the website, facebook and twitter. In the evenings I have to go to my family. At home I spend sometime with my son and when he goes to bed, I get my laptop and start working on the campaign.

Now these are handbags. Felt tempted to buy one for ummm. A friend. 

How did you come up with the “only one basket” campaign? It’s a very catchy phrase. And I woud want to know how you came up with it. Its good.
Really (looks down and smiles), is it that good? I honestly don’t know how I came up with “only one basket.” I just thought about it and there it was. (then she shares something she had never told anyone. Hey don’t dispute. That’s what she told me. So prepare to know what it is.) I get so emotional when it comes to my country. When I am on a plane and it begins descending on Kigali International Airport, I always have tears in my eyes all the time. I don’t know why. I am overwhelmed by the people and the natural beauty that my country has. 

So, only one basket is my epiphany, I ain’t kidding. I remember sitting in front of my computer and I started thinking beyond the crafts. I needed a catch phrase that people needed to get used too. And then the thought just came, (Imagine like how the amazing inventors came up with things like, Pythagoras theory and ooops back to the interview)  only one basket in every household or individual owning one. Do you know what difference this would make? Consider the population of the world, with each one buying atleast one basket. Ofcourse this can’t happen, but we can definitely make a difference. I am so passionate about it that even when things are going wrong, all I know is that if one basket is bought, then one woman's life is getting better. 

May 5, 2011

On the 5th day of number 5

Paint brush in my hands, I smear a part of it on a cloth forming an undefined image. Little is known about what I’d painted, but all I remember was it was something dazzling. I watch, tilt, and admire my dazzling painting. I place down the brush, hold the cloth and hang it on my wall.

25 years ago, someone decided I should be born and there I was. The fine young man that I have become has been through taking the long walks on steep walls.

“Daddy, daddy I want to be doctor when I grow up,” I would tell my old man when I was so young and tender.

The struggles and negligence of a young man did not elude me; they almost swept me off the cliff edge. I almost crushed into the deep water flowing freely on the rocks bellow. The cliff edge was too sharp and slippery. It was very easy to fall off.

I made it passed the cliff edge and crossed to the other side. The other side was dark, with cruel sounds and thorns filled the pathway. In a corner was a clear path. It is used by many but they do not seem happy. They are complaining. Some are being pushed to use that path. They do not want.

I make the decision to walk through the thorn filled path. I bear the brunt and wrath of these sharp, piercing and skin peeling thorns. All I can see is a tiny light ahead of me. That is where I am walking too but the thorns aren’t making it easy.

There are distractions on the way. Finely shaped green apples, money hanging on tree branches and people who are walking in the opposite direction are some of those distractions. Any of these choices will make me go off the path, and getting to the light will be more complicated if not impossible.

 I prefer not to be deterred.

That cloth with the paint is just the first step, the progress I have made in my life. The progress for the last 25years of my life. Walking on a steep wall has never been easy.

A good friend mine did some magic on my picture. This has been one fine inspiration for me be one of the best scribes this country will ever have. The light I am looking forward to getting too.