The spirit of generosity is a hallmark of the Rwandan people. Even those in the most difficult of circumstances share what they have with others in need. This spirit is best exemplified by the traditional Rwandan Agaseke basket. The Agaseke is so important to the culture of Rwanda that an image of this basket can be found on the Rwandan national emblem. Often referred to as wedding baskets, the Agaseke is a symbol of generosity, gratitude, and compassion. Whether transporting wedding gifts, offerings to the priests, or bringing food to a friend in need, the process of giving is always the common thread. While in Rwanda this summer, we had the great opportunity to meet with seven HIV + women who are participating in a pilot program aimed at preventing malnutrition amongst HIV-exposed children. We sat as a group to discuss the strengths and weaknesses that were noted over the first year of the project. At the end of our meeting, we were presented with a beautiful Agaseke basket that was filled to the brim with peanuts.
The gift became even more touching when we later visited the homes of each of these women. I was shocked to discover the extreme poverty in which these women live, and even more overwhelmed by their generous expression of gratitude. In a separate program, The Ihangane Project works with two women’s handicraft associations to strengthen their business skills and to improve access to markets for their beautiful crafts. Each group has unique visions for their futures. Association Ihangane, founded by Dusabyemaliya Madeleine, envisions itself to be a teaching institution that specializes in the production of traditional Rwandan crafts. When Madeleine heard of the dire circumstances of the HIV+ women in the pilot nutrition project, she immediately offered to begin training these women in the art of handmade Rwandan crafts at no cost. As we speak, these two groups are now merged together to support one another and to find ways to lift themselves out of extreme poverty. Now, you may wonder how this all relates back to weddings…..and to the wedding basket! These beautiful baskets reflect traditional Rwandan culture, and exemplify the resilience and generosity by which these women live their daily lives. Traditionally sized baskets can be integrated into a marriage ceremony, or miniature baskets can be provided as gifts to wedding guests. The Agaseke symbolizes the generosity and gratitude that each marriage would be blessed to have. These beautiful baskets can be purchased through our online store at http://www.shop.theihanganeproject.com/, or by sending an email to The Ihangane Project at firstname.lastname@example.org