Path to Peace..proud owner of such a wonderful basket


It has been said that Rwanda was one of the most intensive killing campaigns ever in human history! Mainly an overwhelming amount of Tutsi men and just a moderate amount of Hutu men were the targets of the mass slaughter that occurred in 1994. In a space of just 100 days between April and June of 1994 it is estimated that 800,000 Rwandans were killed.

The genocide was started by the death of Hutu native Rwandan President Juvenal Habyarimana when his plane was shot down April 6,1994. It was never confirmed who was responsible for the assassination of Habyarimana but Hutu extremists are believed to be responsible. Within 24 hours of the assassination, roadblocks were set up around Kigali by Interahmwe militia...the name means "those who attack together".
Tutis were separated from Hutus and were inhumanly hacked to death with machetes on the side of the road. Death squads went from neighborhood to neighborhood in Kigali, murdering not only Tutis but also some Hutus as well. They even murdered the Prime Minister who was being guarded by Belgian soldiers. The soldiers were disarmed, tortured and murdered prompting Belgian to withdraw the remainder of its UN troops.
The genocide expanded from Kigali to the country side. The Government radio encouraged the Tutis to congregate and meet at churches, schools and stadiums promising that these places would be safe and a place to seek refuge. Helpless civilians started to gather at these places, only to be easy targets and exterminated with machine guns and grenades. By April 21 a quarter million Tutis and some Hutus had been violently murdered..slaughtered.

This was the worst act of genocide in human history, the dead of Rwanda accumulated to nearly three times that of the the Jewish Holocaust. The killing rate was atleast five times that of Nazi death camps. By the end of April according to Human Right Watch, this was the worst massacre ever in human history finishing off half of the population of Tutsis. This genocide is one of the greatest ever, the worst ever in human history, yet its the least known and least investigated.
The Tutsi men were the primary target, yet were not just confined to adults but to young boys as well. Large numbers of women also lost their lives. Another large number of women were victims of such horrific acts such as rape and mutilation. Those women who survived, many were left with AIDS. Some women were raped individually or gang raped after witnessing the killing of their relatives and destruction of their homes. Many that were allowed to live were told they were allowed to live so could die of sadness. The horrific acts some women had to endure are way to graphic for me to type and even more way too graphic for me to imagine.
One woman who lived said "I was raped by so many interahamwe and soldiers that i lost count."
It is said that 25,000 Tutsi women are widows of the genocide and two thirds of them are HIV positive. It is believed there will be tens of thousands of children who have lost their fathers to machetes will one day lose their mothers to AIDS.

800,000 violently murdered, slaughtered, mutilated because of the chaotic nature of genocide, 750,00 Tutis and 50,000 Hutus who did not support the genocide.
Needless to say the scars of the genocide will remain with Rwandans for many years!
In the aftermath of this brutal genocide the population of Rwanda is around 70 percent women. The majority of women shared homes made out of mud with each other and often sharing with several orphans along with their own children. They had no income. No cash to buy clothes, none to pay for schooling, none to survive off of.

Willa Shalit became involved with Rwanda during 2002 during a United Nations Development Fund for Women. She saw the conditions these women and children were living in. She saw a way for the women to earn a living for themselves rather than charity. She helped them import their amazingly beautiful baskets and founded the Path to Peace Baskets.
Path to Peace baskets are hand woven by Rwandan women in the village. Woven out of sweet grass and sisal in many different designs and patterns. It normally takes these women between 1 to 3 days to make these beautiful hand crafted baskets.
In 2003 the baskets were first imported and within a year they became Rwandas largest non agriculture export. The lives of these Rwandan women were changed forever, this time in a more positive way. They now live in clean homes with tin roofs. They now have livestock, and gardens, and the children now attend school.
In 2008, 40,000 baskets were imported to the United States.
Currently 4,000 women now make these awesome baskets.
My mother gave me an after Christmas gift...a unique, one of a kind, handwoven basket, from the Path of Peace project which sparked my interest in the Rwanda genocide.
I feel honored to have such a beautiful peace of art hanging in my kitchen, especially knowing how it originated!
If you are interested in one of the baskets, you can purchase them through Macy's or go to this website for more baskets made by these women!
Not only do I admire my basket, but each time I look it, I'm honored to have a basket made from one strong individual who endured such a hell we could never possibly imagine!





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