Add “imanzi” to Terry Lundgren’s list of credentials. Macy’s Inc.’s chairman and chief executive officer was hailed as the “imanzi” [which translates to “hero”] at the store’s party celebrating 10 years of its Rwanda Path to Peace initiative.
Under the decade-long program, Macy’s sells sprightly colored baskets woven by Rhwandan women, providing jobs for thousands who have been impacted by the country’s civil war and genocide.
With African drummers, traditional Rwandan foods, and a crowd of about 100 attending, Lundgren said Macy’s could have taken the traditional route by just issuing a check for the cause but this way, women of Rwanda have a livelihood, earn their dignity, and Macy’s gets something in return — some exclusive, gift-oriented products. The baskets, available exclusively at select Macy’s stores and on macys.com, sell for $30 to $60 and include nine-inch fruit bowls and 16-inch statement pieces.
The Macy’s program has helped transform what was a small cottage trade — women weaving silk baskets — into a legitimate and growing enterprise in the African nation. “It’s grown from a $50,000 business with 15 women weaving baskets in year one to a business in the millions involving thousands of women,” Lundgren said at the event, held on the sixth floor of the Herald Square flagship, where he was presented with a ceremonial shield and pole, symbols of a great protector.
Macy’s started importing the baskets through Fair Winds Trading Co., run by Willa Shalit. She told Lundgren about Rwandan women, many widowed by the nation’s tribal genocide more than a decade ago, weaving elegant baskets to use as barter, sometimes for food. It’s considered a traditional art form.
“Macy’s Rwanda Path to Peace program was one of the first-ever ‘trade-not-aid’ efforts and is the longest-enduring, impacting thousands of women throughout the country of Rwanda,” said Shalit. “This important initiative, in partnership with the Rwandan weavers’ cooperative, Gahaya Links, has enabled women in Rwanda to take care of essential human needs, send their children to school, buy health insurance and malaria nets, and to help rebuild their communities.”
“Through this program, Hutu and Tutsi women, representing both sides of a devastating genocide, have come together to weave baskets of peace,” Lundgren said. “From my first visit to Rwanda, my life was permanently changed by the strength of the weavers I met — knowing what they have endured and all they have taught us about courage, forgiveness and grace.”
Macy’s 10th anniversary celebration of Rwanda Path to Peace.