Collection of handwoven products by Rwandan women coming to Starbucks Reserve locations this summer

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Knitting is part of the culture that Seraphine Mukandamage inherited as a child in Rwanda. About 10 years ago, she started working with all over africaa San Diego-based organization that works with women artisans in sub-Saharan Africa to bring their products to the global marketplace, negotiate fair prices, and help create social and economic impact in their communities.

He has put that relationship to good use, putting electricity in his house, becoming the leader of a local cooperative and paying for his children’s education. Two of her children have graduated from university and another is going to Europe to study veterinary medicine.

“As a mother of seven children, I want them to live a good life in this challenging world,” she said. “To help them achieve that, I have to pay for their education at the (highest) level possible. The second goal is to acquire more land so that my children will inherit enough land for their future homes. For these two goals, I am on (a) good path to achieve them.”

Mukandamage is one of the women behind a new collection of handwoven Starbucks merchandise, available while supplies last at select Starbucks Reserve locations, including Starbucks Reserve Roasteries in Chicago, New York and Seattle, and SoDo Starbucks Reserve Store in Seattle.

The seven-piece collection – vases, bowls, key rings and pom-poms (baskets with lids traditionally used to carry gifts on special occasions such as weddings) – was designed and made by the women who work with All Across Africa. Their stories and photos will appear on hang tags attached to each item.

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“We think our customers will be drawn to the collection because it’s different, colorful and pretty, and when they learn more about it, we hope the story and women behind the collection will speak to them,” said Gretchen Kulesza, senior manager of products. for Starbucks reserve merchandise.

All handwoven products are made from natural fibers and are inspired by the art cards that accompany Starbucks Reserve Rwanda Hingakawa coffee bags, one of the featured coffees at Starbucks Reserve locations and select Starbucks stores this summer.

Starbucks has long sold single-origin whole bean coffee from Rwanda. The group of farmers that produces it belongs to a women-run cooperative called Hingakawa, a mantra that means “let’s grow coffee”. The coffee became the livelihood of more than 500 Rwandan women who came together to form the cooperative after the genocide against the Tutsi people in 1994, which killed more than 800,000 people.

Starbucks believes that specialty coffee is a deeply human endeavor, and nowhere is this more evident than in Rwanda, where Hingakawa farmers had to rebuild their community with resilience and reconciliation. Starbucks is proud to share coffee that is the product of patience, care and love.

For Alicia Wallace, director of operations for All Across Africa, the collaboration with Starbucks is natural and makes “good business sense and social impact.” Both organizations are committed to community, sustainability, and the empowerment of women in leadership. The collection will also carry the Nest seal designationa symbol of assurance that items have been made ethically, fair wages are paid and children are not employed.

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“What these jobs create is dignity, that energy and confidence in the woman, that she is capable, that the world needs her,” Wallace said. “They walk with their heads up, their heads held high.”

All Across Africa arose from the desire to create local jobs in rural areas with extreme poverty. The organization employs more than 6,300 artisans in Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda and Ghana, organized in cooperative structures with elections. Business and leadership decisions are made at the local level.

For Mukandamage, “knitting and creativity is my passion”. She considers herself a skilled and experienced weaver, but the pay was low and inconsistent in local markets. Working with All Across Africa became an opportunity to fulfill larger orders and work on more challenging projects. She learned new techniques and incorporated new colors, materials, and designs. She became a mentor and trainer to about 100 young women in her community.

The chance to earn a living for herself and her family through knitting alone became “serious business,” she said, “a golden opportunity that she couldn’t miss.”

“To be a Rwandan woman today means a lot to me. I have to spread love to everyone, speak truth to power… I have to work hard to help everyone live a better life.”

To learn more about the Hingakawa Cooperative, visit Starbucks Stories: Hingakawa.