Born in Rwanda’s Eastern Province, Joy Ndungutse spent her childhood and early adult years in exile due to political instability in her country. She grew up in a refugee camp in Uganda, continuously exposed to the tremendous hardships that women endured with a lot of patience and empathy. Dreaming that one day she would be able to give back to these strong and compassionate women teaching her how to live a humble life, Ndungutse saw an immense opportunity in the art of basket weaving. As both her mother and oldest sister were weavers, her parents were able to cover the costs of school fees with the income generated by the sales of baskets combined with her father’s salary. After graduating from high school, Ndungutse moved to Arusha where she was trained as a secretary. She then worked in a couple of countries, including the USA, for 15 years, where she took her designing classes in the evenings and getting involved in humanitarian projects.
Driven by ambition, Ndungutse’s strong desire to work towards women empowerment translated into a weaving initiative when she moved back to Rwanda after the genocide. While running a hotel and the country’s first furniture store, she trained local women in rural areas and designed baskets, modern in style and shape, that these women could make using traditional weaving skills and techniques. Before she knew it, Ndungutse was embarking on a long journey that would give birth to Gahaya Links. Today, Ndungutse is a single mother of three, living in Kigali. She is Vice-chair/Country Director New Faces New Voice Rwanda Chapter, Founding Member of Alliance for Artisan Enterprise and Advisor to Girl Hub Rwanda. She is delighted to see that the number of women achieving financial independence in Rwanda is increasing over the years and that the local culture is alive and vibrant.