All About Impact: Indego Africa on Philanthropic Fashion
Within the past decade there has been a surge in sustainable fashion and consumerism regarding ethical sourcing, production, and employment. This methodology of building awareness and providing consumers with what they want is a solid
Within the past decade there has been a surge in sustainable fashion and consumerism regarding ethical sourcing, production, and employment. This methodology of building awareness and providing consumers with what they want is a solid place to start when exposing a different narrative about underrepresented countries and the treasures they have to showcase.
Indego Africa is dedicated to this cause as a sustainable fashion brand and nonprofit social enterprise that believes in education as the key to long-term empowerment and social change. The ethos behind their mission is to educate and empower female artisans in Rwanda and Ghana to prepare them to be businesswomen who can support themselves and their families.
I had the pleasure of speaking with two women on the path to empowering these African artisans: Rosine Urujeni and Adesina Oyenuga of Indego Africa. Urujeni is Indego’s Country Director based in Rwanda, and Oyenuga is the new Production and Fulfillment Associate based in New York City. As Africans on the continent and in the diaspora, both women offered their perspectives on the organization, its initiatives, and its impact.
When did you first join Indego Africa and how did you hear about the organization? What drew you to the org?
Urujeni: I heard about Indego through a job posting while I was in the US. I was looking for an opportunity since I wanted to come back to Rwanda. I became interested in the company because of the impact, difference they were making in people’s lives, and ultimately in the Rwandan community as a whole. That is what kind of a job and organization I wanted to relate to.
Oyenuga: I first joined Indego Africa as a Sales and Communications Intern and have just recently joined the team in production and fulfillment. I found out about Indego through my dissatisfaction for the superficiality and shallowness of luxury fashion after several internships. I then did extensive research on sustainable fashion and came across Indego Africa after researching ‘conscious fashion.’ What drew me to the org was Indego’s multifaceted mission of supporting the empowerment and self-sufficiency of African artisans, while equipping them to develop as successful entrepreneurs.
What impact do you see Indego Africa’s initiatives having on changing the communities the organization serves?
Oyenuga: The handcrafted products made by Indego Africa’s artisan partners are not only their source of income, but also a major component that funds their education. Initiatives such as, the Indego Africa Leadership Academy—an Institution in Kigali, Rwanda committed to fostering powerful businesswomen, entrepreneurs, and leaders across the country— has made it possible for several of the women we work with to start their own successful and sustainable businesses.
What is the biggest difference between the execution of initiatives, artisans, and industry/community in Rwanda versus Ghana?
Urujeni: In Rwanda, we work easily in groups and understand that working as a team makes us stronger and advances us. Plus, we know and valorize women’s rights—they are at the front of everything we do as individuals, organizations, institutions, and as a nation. Because of this no one gives us a hard time when we work towards women’s empowerment. The government is also there to help us implement our activities toward a common vision set as a nation. We work hand-in-hand with different institutions and organizations in order to avoid duplication, mismanagement, bureaucracy or corruption. We are working towards this same balance with the community in Ghana.
What does being part of an org that touches lives in on the Continent mean to you, personally?
Oyenuga: Being of Nigerian and Trinidadian heritage, coupled with growing up in Asia, South America, and Europe as a child, has created in me a desire to serve internationally. Through working with an organization like Indego Africa, I have been able to combine my personal and professional passion for generating global community change in underserved areas.
What does ‘social impact’ mean to you, and how do you see it manifested in your personal and professional lives?
Oyenuga: To me, social impact is about creating a sustainable community that echoes for generations. I had the opportunity to witness the effects of Indego Africa’s social impact during a trip to Rwanda this past summer. On this trip, I gained a deeper understanding of how great an impact Indego’s work has on the personal and economic empowerment of our female artisan partners.
During my last few days in Rwanda, while visiting the home of Rose, an artisan from Ingenzi Knit Union, she invited outside to take a look at a cow she had just bought for her family. Smiling from ear-to-ear, Rose went on to tell me that she was able to purchase the cow with the money she earned from working with Indego Africa. She is now able sell the cow’s milk for additional income and provide for her family. Moments like these motivate the work I am able to do with Indego each day.
“Education is a catalyst for development and the key source to empowerment in all facets of life: personhood, global, economic, etc. Through this empowerment, one has the ability to activate their gifts and empower others to do the same.”
What is something you would love for the world and Applause Africa readers to know about you, Africa right now, and Indego Africa?
Urujeni: Well, I’d like everyone to understand that as individuals, women, organizations and institutions, we must have a shared goal—that is working toward the common good; when we do this, we put the benefit for all at the forefront of everything we do, so we won’t miss any opportunity that the world gives us for building together a bright future for ourselves, our children, and the communities around us.
Oyenuga: Indego Africa is where I came to understand the importance and impact sustainable fashion has not only on the fashion industry, but also on the lives and communities we serve. I think it’s one thing to simply donate money to communities and see short-term change, but it’s another to invest in individuals and teach them transferable skills. Education is a catalyst for development and the key source to empowerment in all facets of life: personhood, global, economic, etc. Through this empowerment, one has the ability to activate their gifts and empower others to do the same. This cycle of self-realization through education breeds happiness and will create a ripple effect of dynamic change in the world.
If you’re in the NYC area and are looking for a fresh perspective in African fashion, Indego Africa is hosting a Pop Up shop from May 11-15. Click here for more details!
Featured image courtesy of Indego Africa