Hand-woven Banana Leaf Bags are Changing the Lives of Rwandan Women



Meet Jacqueline Musabyimana, a Rwandan woman who was exiled from home during the Rwandan genocide in 1994. Jacqueline says that she lost many family members in the genocide – including her father –and that life was very difficult. Limited funds and resources meant that she, like many other girls her age, could not afford to attend secondary school which made the possibility of finding a job extremely difficult.




In Rwanda, women like Jacqueline Musabyimana are no rarity. But despite devastating financial woes and limitations, these women have found a way of sustaining their families and developing their skills through banana leaf weaving. With the help of a local pastor, Jacqueline and other members of her church began refining their craft and producing jewellery, clothing and accessories made from banana leaves which are abundant in Rwanda.

In 2011, a start-up called Songa Design International visited Jacqueline’s village and took a liking to the project. The U.S-based fashion brand seeks to empower women through the production of sustainable accessories which are typically crafted by artisans in impoverished communities.  Songa’s mission is to create more jobs for women like Jacqueline who live in under-resourced countries.



Jacqueline’s hand-woven handbags and baskets are 100% inimitable and take approximately seven days to make. The income that Jacqueline has earned helped her to buy a plot where she was able to build a house.

Today, Jacqueline is the president of the Twiyubake Banana Leaf Cooperative which means “to rebuild ourselves.” Jacqueline’s dream is to eventually open store of her own, with a showroom and paid employees. She believes that she can help improve the lives of other people in her country by paying her taxes and creating more employment opportunities.

All of her creations are available on the Songa website.