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macy’s celebrates 10 years of the rwanda path to peace initiative

Rwanda Path to Peace two women

This post is sponsored by Everywhere Agency. All opinions are, as 
always, 100% my own. Note: Please click on the links even if you 
see strikethroughs, which I can't seem to get rid of. They still
work and this is such an important cause.

I have always believed that female energy has the power to change the world, and Macy’s Rwanda Path to Peace initiative absolutely proves that’s true.

In 1994, more than a million people were massacred in the tiny African country of Rwanda in a violent ethnic cleansing. In a period of 100 days, 20% of the population was slaughtered. It was one of the worst genocides in human history yet the rest of the world went about its business, oblivious to the horror and suffering.

With so many men dead or in jail, the women of Rwanda, most of whom found themselves suddenly needing to become the breadwinners of their families, took it upon themselves to do what needed to be done. The Hutu and Tutsi women, representing both sides of that deadly genocide, came together to weave baskets of peace.

Politicians and world leaders could learn a big lesson from them.

As a traditional and ancient Rwandan art, basket weaving was a perfect symbol of the women’s cooperation and a natural way for them to make a statement — and a difference. Each design is unique and handcrafted from sisal and grass by women who learned to weave from their aunts, mothers and grandmothers.

In 2005, Willa Shalit, an American artist, activist and social entrepreneur, showed the baskets to executives at Macy’s who made a commitment to sell the baskets and go into business with the weavers.

“Macy’s Rwanda Path to Peace program was one of the first-ever ‘trade-not-aid’ efforts and is the longest-enduring, impacting thousands of women throughout the country of Rwanda,” she said. “This important initiative, in partnership with the Rwandan weavers’ cooperative, Gahaya Links, has enabled women in Rwanda to take care of essential human needs, send their children to school, buy health insurance and malaria nets, and to help rebuild their communities. We are so grateful to Macy’s and its customers who have responded with open hearts, so that Americans can directly support peace and prosperity from one continent to another.”

I was lucky enough to be in New York last week for the 10th anniversary celebration at Macy’s, where they revealed these gorgeous red and white commemorative baskets.

Rwanda Path to Peace 10th anniversary baskets

I would love to visit these women in Rwanda one day because I was so moved listening to Janet Nkubana, who runs the program in Kigali and works directly with the weavers, as she described the way entire villages have been transformed by the income generated by the sale of these baskets.

Besides the financial benefits, one of the most important results of the initiative has been a decrease in overall violence. In many cases, women whose families were “enemies” during the genocide, have made peace with each other through weaving.

Rwanda Path to Peace weavers

Additionally, the baskets have not only led to peace between the Hutu and Tutsi, but also between men and women. Domestic violence has decreased dramatically now that men respect that women are wage earners. That fact also allowed women to have increased personal power in a formerly male-dominated culture, which has led to greater stability throughout Rwandan society.

The gratitude of the Rwandan weavers was demonstrated in a hand-beaded shield Janet presented to Terry J. Lundgren, chairman and CEO of Macy’s, Inc.

Rwanda Path to Peace at Macy's

“From my first visit to Rwanda, my life was permanently changed by the strength of the weavers I met,” he said, “knowing what they have endured and all they have taught us about courage, forgiveness and grace. I want to thank our customers for continuing to support this effort and for helping us make a difference in the world.”

The longevity and success of this amazing initiative are truly a testament to how we can use our shopping dollars to make a difference.

Rwanda Path to Peace baskets

Let’s support our sisters in Rwanda by giving their beautiful and unique baskets as holiday gifts this year. They would make ideal hostess gifts and beautiful decorations for our own parties. And just think how meaningful the baskets would be to teachers, who could use them in classrooms and share the story behind them with their students.

What could be an easier way to show the power of female energy than shopping with a conscience?


  1. Those baskets, are pretty. I hope they generate a lot of sales for this to help those who are in need in Rwanda.

  2. Robin (Masshole Mommy) says:

    I hope these baskets generate MILLIONS! I love that they are doing this.

  3. I love that Macy’s is supporting the Path to peace initiative in Rwanda. The baskets are beautiful made and makes us realize that there are people and stories behind the products, while helping a TON of women artisans in Rwanda.

  4. This is a wonderful initiative that Macy’s is doing. Rwanda has a history of really bad things, and the people there deserve something better.

  5. I love these baskets and what they mean for the women in Rwanda! Now I have an excuse to head to Macy’s

  6. Not only are the baskets beautiful but the story behind them is even more so.

  7. I just love all the bright colors – and the cause is very worthwhile – thank you Macy’s.

  8. They are gorgeous baskets and more! This is terrific of Macy’s to promote and thank-you for bringing it to my attention.

  9. I remember hearing about the massacre, but I have never heard of this basket weaving! I think it’s so great that they came together to do this. I love hearing positive stories like this, even if they stem from horrible things!

  10. This is such an awesome program. The baskets are incredibly unique and beautiful. Those patterns are amazing!

  11. I am a Macy’s girl through and through. I didn’t know about this so will check out the baskets today. They look so beautiful!

  12. This is a positive way to bring awareness to this awful macassare. The baskets are beautiful!

  13. Oh wow go Macy’s for being at the forefront of such an effort, those baskets are beautiful as well. x

  14. We were so lucky to have you. Thank you for lending your voice to this cause. Every tweet, every Facebook post, every blog helps bring awareness of the baskets, contributes to sales. And sales are what make a difference in the weavers lives. Murakoze which is Kinyarwanda for Thank you!

  15. These are beautiful..and it’s so great to see a huge retailer behind such a good cause.

  16. The Rwandan tragedy was so horrific, it is still hard to believe. This initiative is just fantastic!

  17. Thank you for sharing this. I’m amazed and inspired by the resiliance and determination of the Hutu and Tutsi women. May their work generate abundance!

  18. I love programs like this! And those bowls are adorable – so perfect for the holiday season and all the parties.

  19. What a great initiative for Macy’s to back. Those baskets are truly beautiful and I wish these women much success.

  20. Peace through weaviing — that is one beautiful thought! Isn’t it amazing that art can help us bridge those gaps? Maybe finding that common ground in beauty is a larger answer than we can even imagine. Beautiful piece Lois.

  21. The past violence is so sad to hear about. I am glad to hear that the women have united to try to create peace in the area.

  22. Those baskets are beautiful. I hope this will generate lot of sales.

  23. I hope that they make a lot of money for this cause. Those are so nice!

  24. So glad that Macy’s is taking such initiative in helping women in war-torn countries like Rwanda. These baskets are beautiful and a testament to the spirit of the women who make them.

  25. Wow! 20% in 100 days. That is an unbelievable number. So sad.

  26. I remember crying all the way through Hotel Rwanda. I am loving these baskets and all they represent. I hope they sell many of them!

  27. I absolutely support this cause and give kudos to Macy’s for getting behind such an important social issue and generating awareness and the opportunity for people to take action. I think these baskets are just beautiful!

  28. Those baskets are incredible! Truly works of art. Its amazing the talent and skill that goes into making them. What a great cause.

  29. These hand made items are gorgeous. I love that more and more people are supporting important causes such as this.

  30. These baskets are incredible and the program is amazing! I am glad that more people are getting involved and supporting this important cause.

  31. I hate knowing all the pain and misery the people of Rwanda have gone through. I am glad people are trying to help.

  32. Hallejuah for peace and in the time for the holidays. I love those baskets and would give one for a gift.

  33. The baskets are beautiful and what a great cause. I do think these would make great holiday gifts for so many different people and great conversational pieces too.

  34. One of the best ways to promote peace and independence is to teach people to own and operate their own businesses like this program does.

  35. I am so thrilled about all of this, Lois. The baskets are gorgeous and the awareness they are spreading – and the money they are making to create a difference – is awesome. I’m so glad this retail giant has hopped aboard to do something for the Rwandans. Love that you wrote this post.

  36. It’s nice to know exactly how our shopping dollars are making a difference. And these baskets are great!

  37. This is an easy cause to get behind. My mom would love a basket like this.

  38. I do remember the massacre – yet like many of us I could not go over there or do much about it other than pray.
    This is a wonderful story that Macy’s has done something! Working together with the Hutu and Tutsi women, and helping more than just with money!

  39. Wow that is pretty awesome. I haven’t ever heard of this before. Those baskets are amazing, and I hope they bring in a lot!

  40. This is a wonderful initiative at Macy’s! Rwanda has a history of really bad and good things, and the people there deserve hope, a better future!

  41. I’m glad that Macy’s is raising awareness about this issue. It’s important to never forget.

  42. Thank you Macy’s for this timely move to empower the women of Rwanda. It is sad that there are still women who suffer from discrimination. I hope we all support this campaign and buy these pretty baskets for ourselves and to give away as gifts. They are, after all, a great way for us to help out.

  43. I love this way that Macy’s gives back.

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