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Friday Five Questions: Salha Kaitesi, from Beauty of Rwanda

Salha Kaitesi, owner of Beauty of Rwanda.
Salha Kaitesi is the founder of the UK-based online business Beauty of Rwanda. Being of Rwandese extraction, she decided in late 2010 to start a business that provides an online platform for her compatriots to sell traditional crafts to the wider world in a way that rewards the artists and craftswomen fairly in the process.

Recently, she has commenced the 'Only One Basket' campaign (see #onlyonebasket on Twitter) and is preparing to formally launch the campaign in London and East Africa.

Salha took time out of her busy day to answer the first ever Friday Five Questions for Ayohcee.

Ayohcee: Something that you’ve mentioned a lot during our conversations is this expression “fair trade, not aid”. Why is it so important to focus the world’s attention on the fact that your project is not just another aid project?

Salha Kaitesi: I think it’s because every time Africa is mentioned, especially here in the West, everyone just concludes that we are asking for aid. I want the world to know that Rwandans and the rest of the African continent can actually sustain themselves! In most cases they just lack a platform from which to do it. I do, however, appreciate that there are organisations that are working in Africa, and for Africans, that could not go on if it wasn’t for the aid that they receive.

AÓC: The main beneficiaries of your work are the Rwandan females who make the craftwork that you are selling. Why is it the females that you have chosen to focus you attention on?

SK: I stumbled upon the weavers. I saw what they did and how they lived and just knew that this was where I wanted to help the most. The art of basket weaving was and still is being taught to girls in each family. I don’t know about male weavers, but there must be some. I just haven’t met any yet. Also, women are the majority when it comes to heads of households in Rwanda. Most men got killed during the 1994 Genocide or are in prison for crimes they committed during the Genocide.

AÓC: Your online business Beauty of Rwanda is gaining more and more momentum, thanks in part to your Twitter presence – Klout.com has your Klout score at 60 and considers you a ‘specialist’ in your field – have you always been a tweeter?

SK: Ha-ha. Is that so? You don’t know what you have just done to my ego! A specialist in tweeting? I don’t think so.

Over the past couple of months I have decided to have a go at tweeting. My account had been open for some time, but I had never used it much. I hated Twitter because I didn’t get it. Now it is one of the best things that I have ever been involved in or joined. It has opened up so many connections that I never thought I would get in such a short time. Twitter comes highly recommended for all businesses!

AÓC: With the recession and continuing economic uncertainty in everyday life for many Britons at the moment, why should your average man or woman in the UK want to help those many miles away in Rwanda?

SK: This is how I look at it: you can choose to walk into any shop and buy anything and you get a "thank you"; or you can buy one of our crafts and also know that you have made a difference to someone’s life - someone less fortunate than you. Helping us cuts back on aid dependency which to most people is a better option! I think it is up to the individual's decision and conscience. We should all help out whenever we can and I don’t think location should matter

AÓC: On March 11th Beauty of Rwanda has a launch event planned to take place at the Rwandan High Commission in London, before you move on to Kigali on 26th March and Kampala on 2nd April. What are these events all about and what does the future have in store for your business?

SK: We currently have a campaign going on called 'Only One Basket'. This is where we get to ask each and every one of you to buy at least one of our crafts in support of our mission to end poverty in rural Rwanda - this shouldn’t stop those who want to buy more than one from doing so!

We will officially be launching the campaign on the 11th in London and then take it to Kigali, Rwanda. I believe Rwandans should take part and lead by example. They should be the first people to support our campaign as charity begins at home. This is a chance for every Rwandan to help their fellow Rwandan and thus help Rwanda as a whole. The next part of our campaign will be in Kampala, Uganda. We have a huge fan base and lots of Rwandans still live there. 

In the future, we hope to introduce new lines and design new crafts. The future has a lot in store for Beauty of Rwanda and everyone who loves our work. All we ask is that you all continue to stay with us on this eye opening journey.

Ayohcee would like to thank Salha for her time. You can follow her on Twitter (@BeautyofRwanda), explore the shop at http://www.beautyofrwanda.com and 'like' Beauty of Rwanda on Facebook.

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