18 May 2012

Kigali {Part 2}: Ejo Hazaza & Cocoki

Many of you already know that one of the main reasons I went to Rwanda was to visit two of my best friends, one of which is currently living in Kigali.  Katie's been living in Rwanda's capital since the beginning of the year and is interning at a non-profit organisation called Indego Africa.  Indego is based in New York, but partners with several women cooperatives {co-ops} in Rwanda with the aim of assisting women in furthering their skills, bettering their long-term circumstances, generating a sustainable income, and cultivating feelings of hope, optimism, and empowerment.

Aside from the obvious, what makes this organisation so incredible is that the products these women make are sold by designers throughout the United States with 100% of the profits made on products being re-invested in local co-op training programs.  Currently their merchandise can be found in stores such as JCrewDannijo, Nicole Miller and Madewell {click links to see Indego products}.  How amazing is that!?

On the morning of our second day in Kigali, Katie took us to two of the cooperatives that Indego currently partners with, the first one being Ejo Hazaza and the second one being Cocoki.  It was such a blessing to be able to witness first-hand how Indego partners with these co-ops, and even more of a blessing to be able to meet the amazing women behind the products.  They were so friendly, courteous, and welcoming, I can't remember when last I've see so many smiles in one room!  And their clothes.... don't even get me started... the patterns they wear are bright and colorful and absolutely stunning.  It was just an overall great experience and one that I will not soon be forgetting.

The first co-op we visited was Ejo Hazaza.  They are Indego Africa's most recent partnership and are currently working on their first batch of beaded bracelets for JCrew {keep your eyes peeled!} and have also just completed a bracelet order for Nicole Miller.  On the day we were there Katie and Yves were testing the womens' eyesight for glasses.  It was great to see their faces light up when they tried on a pair that suited them well :)

Again, LOVE the patterns of their dresses!
The women were asked to look at this paper and indicate the direction that each of the symbols were facing.
As a test they then had to poke a needle through the hole of a small bead.

The week after I left Rwanda, Katie returned to Ejo Hazaza and distributed glasses to each woman that was found to be in need of a pair.  She forwarded me this picture she took of Epiphanie {the co-op's president} proudly sporting a new pair of her own:

Smiles are contagious :)

The second co-op we visited was Cocoki.  Cocoki specializes in sewing and currently has products being sold at JCrewDannijo {I want need this bag!}, and Nicole Miller.  Katie teaches English at Cocoki two times a week and as we arrived all the women greeted her with "Hello teacher!" and then quickly turned to inform Amber and I that Katie was, indeed, their teacher and a good teacher at that :)  Their products were amazing and I walked away with no less than four headbands and a wine bag.  If I would have been there longer I would have also had them custom make me a pair of shorts {in a vibrant, colorful African print of course} and a pair of yoga pants.      

Meet Emelienne {Cocoki's founder and treasurer, right} and Therese {Cocoki's vice-president, left}.  They are just about as inspirational as they come and were invited to New York and Washington DC by Indego Africa in 2011 where they spoke on different topics such as social enterprise, development, and their experience of Cocoki in Rwanda.  You can find a more in-depth video about their time in the United States here.  Emelienne also has an amazing story {she lost her three brothers and father in the genocide} which has been turned into a short biography.  If you're interested contact me and I will send it to you :)  

The women of Cocoki busy at work.
Some of Cocoki's products.
2 of the headbands I bought... and literally wear all.the.time.
Katie getting her custom-made dress tailored

The morning we spent at these two cooperatives may easily have been the highlight of my entire Rwanda/Uganda trip.  If I ever make it back to Kigali you can bet that I will try and revisit both Ejo Hazaza and Cocoki and maybe even some of the other co-ops Indego partners with that I didn't get a chance to see this time around.  I think what they are doing is amazing and I would be absolutely thrilled if there was some way I could work for or work with Indego Africa in the future.  They are truly an incredible company.  Having witnessed their work first hand, if you're looking for a social enterprise to support,  I can confidently say look no further.

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You can find Indego Africa's website here and their facebook page here.

Cocoki also had their own facebook page, which can be found here.


  1. Jenna this is so amazing!! First off, I had pretty much no idea how to say the name of your post title! haha. But regardless, this was so neat to learn about. I have heard of groups like this selling merchandise to bigger US labels but so cool that you actually got to go visit and see!!

    And I love that your friend gave glasses to all those women - what a life-changer! This is awesome!

  2. Wow, just, wow! What an experience for you, and those items are gorgeous!! I'm busy clicking the links now- I just wish I could shop in person like you did! I just love programs like this, and when the products are so gorgeous it's twice as great!

  3. Very cool and inspiring and hopeful. This is such a positive story to share and I'd be so interested in how those yoga pants would have turned out...maybe on your next visit ;)

  4. you're so lucky that you get to have these experiences! can you even imagine life without them now? You might be a totally different person otherwise. I would LOVE to go to Mozambique someday. That is my dream. But anywhere in Africa would suffice! Until then, I'll just read your blog :)

  5. Awesome. I'm so envious of your trip :)

  6. What an incredible experience!!!!! Ahhhh I would have left with a suitcase full of stuff, it's all so beautiful!

  7. This is SO SO awesome!! I love that they are giving back 100% of the profits! The fact that you get to travel and experience all this is so inspiring!!

  8. wow, these images are so beautiful and so inspiring! what an amazing opportunity!
    xo TJ

  9. Wow...what an incredible and rewarding experience! So so neat!

  10. i really admire you!
    it an amazing experience <3


  11. That is so awesome, what a great cause! And how lucky for you that you could be a part of it?! Those headbands are amazing...as well as everything else, but, the headbands...obsessed!

  12. Jenna this almost made me cry! What a beautiful thing for you to do.

  13. I love your posts about your trip! It sounds incredible!
    and those fabrics are stunning that the women wear!

  14. Wow that is such an amazing thing!It's awesome that these women will be equipped for the rest of their lives not only a short amount of time. Good job!

  15. That must have been such a special experience, would love to visit Rwanda some day. I love the patterns as well, so beautiful!

  16. Awesome organization. While living in Uganda, I hope to make a few trips to Kigali because I have heard nothing but great things. Do you know if you're able to visit and bring cloth to purchase handmade clothing?


Thanks for the love!