Amena Brown: Okay, everybody. Welcome back to Season Three of HER with Amena Brown, and I am Amena Brown, your host. You all, I have enjoyed Season Three so much. We are winding down towards the end and I am winding down with some great episodes. This is one of the seasons of this podcast that I just... I don't want it to end. I keep thinking of amazing women of color to talk to, so that makes it challenging for me, but good for all of us, that we get a chance to be inspired by the stories of so many amazing women of color, and today's guest is no different.
Amena Brown: I'm so excited to welcome my guest. She is, I want to say, maybe this season, our guest today might be the furthest away from me, out of all the guests that I've spoken to this season, I think. I'm excited to welcome... I'm going to try to make sure I pronounce her name right because she just told me. Let me see if I could do it, Jeannine Umutoniwase, did I do it, Jeannine?
Jeannine U.: Yeah, you did it. Well done. You did it well.
Amena Brown: Oh, man. We are talking to Jeannine today. She is the CEO of Azizi Life, and Azizi Life is a faith-based social enterprise located in Rwanda, committed to sustainability, collaboration, and putting people first, that's including artisans and customers alike. Everybody, welcome Jeannine Umutoniwase to the podcast. Woo. This is me clapping for you, Jeannine.
Jeannine U.: Thank you so much. Thank you.
Amena Brown: We have been working behind the scenes to have an opportunity for me to connect with Jeannine. I actually had initial interactions with Christi who is one of the founders of Azizi Life, and I have been to Rwanda. Many of you that have been listening to the podcast know that I've been to Rwanda a few times, and almost every time I go, we spend some time in some way connected to Azizi Life.
Amena Brown: We've been able to experience some of the experiences where you get a chance to be with some of the women who are in co-ops with Azizi Life, spending the day with the artisans. These women are amazing. I felt like I needed to go work out in the gym after spending a day with these women. They are amazing and fantastic. Even on the trips where we haven't been able to really spend the day with some of the artisans that partner with Azizi Life, I will at least take teams to buy some of the jewelry and artwork and just amazing things that come out of Azizi Life. So thank you so much for being here, Jeannine.
Jeannine U.: Thank you. It's my pleasure. I've been waiting for this moment. Yeah.
Amena Brown: I always start each episode asking each guest an origin story. I love origin stories because I think our origin stories can take us back to how our early life is helping to show us what we're going to be doing in our future or in our current life. We can look back on our past, look back on our upbringing and some of the experiences we've had, and we can look at that and go, "Oh, man. All those experiences were preparing me for what I was going to do today."
Amena Brown: I want to talk to you about your origin story and how you ended up working with Azizi Life. But before we get to that, before you worked for Azizi Life, before Azizi Life was even an organization or a non-profit or anything, you also worked for another non-profit managing a guest house. I have a little bit of knowledge of this, not from the manager side, but from the guest side, because the times that I have been to Rwanda, I have stayed in a guest house that is owned by Africa New Life Ministries, which is also another non-profit that is there in Rwanda.
Amena Brown: I'm just curious, before we get into your origin story, when you worked as a guesthouse manager for this other non-profit, what are the things that you learned or had to adapt as you were preparing things for Americans and working with Americans? What were some of those lessons that you learned, or I guess I'm hoping you'll give us... I know not everyone that listens to this podcast is American, but quite a few people are. Maybe if you can just share with us what you've learned. You can tell us a few things that Americans shouldn't be doing when we come to Rwanda. Anything you want to share, Jeannine. What have you learned or what are some things that you're like, "Americans please don't do that"?
Jeannine U.: Yeah. Thank you so much. Yeah. If I remember well, I was not even ready or prepared for that job. The lady, she's called Sabine, who was working there, was preparing for her wedding and she only had like a week to prepare. She didn't manage to get a job leave so that she can go back home and prepare for everything. Then she was pushing her bosses to let her go. Then, in that week, she told her boss that, you know what, whether you find someone to stay here or not, I'm going to leave because I don't want to be embarrassed the day of my wedding, and this is the only day that will not come back.
Jeannine U.: Then I was a neighbor to that manager. She has seen me growing up as a little girl, very quiet. But I loved so much, her kids. Then she said, "Maybe I'm going to try Jeannine." She called me and asked me if I was free in that week to go and stay there, just to stay there. She didn't vision that I will become a staff there.
Jeannine U.: Then I went there. She introduced me to Sabine, and she said, "This is Jeannine. She's going to come and stay here while you are going in the market to shop and prepare for the wedding. But we expect you to come back, not to leave forever. Then Sabine said, "Yes. Yes. No problem. Let me talk to her a little bit and then I will plan with her how I can leave." When the manager left, Sabine was jumping in air, saying, "Thank you, God. Thank you, God, I found someone who can replace me." And I say, "What? But I don't know anything about managing a guesthouse. It's my first time to even spend time with white people. I don't know what I'm going to do." She said, "Wait. I'm going to show you."
Jeannine U.: We entered in the house. She showed me the kitchen. She showed me all the rooms, and then she showed me where the living room where they will have dinner in the evening. It was like 3:00pm Rwandan time. She said, "Goodbye and here is your invitation to my wedding." And I say, "Don't tell me that you're leaving now." She say, "Yes, I am. I didn't buy anything for my new home, so this is the right time to go there and do shoppings. I'm giving out all these invitations, got to check the hall where the wedding will be, and so on."
Jeannine U.: Almost I was going to cry. Then the first thing that came into my head was to leave and disappear. But then I remembered the lady who brought me there, she had hope and faith that I'll be someone who is going to stay there and manage the situation. Then I told myself, "Jeannine, you have to do it. Yeah. Don't disappoint the lady who brought you here." Yeah. I was new in cooking for international people, talking to them.
Jeannine U.: Personally, I'm a quiet person. I don't like to talk too much. It was like an exile. It was something very, very embarrassing for me. Lucky enough, in that time, all the guests were outside. They were not there. Then I said, "I have to start practicing my English," because has been a while without even using English, because after school, I went back home. We're all Rwandans. We're talking in Kinyarwanda. Even my colleagues from school were talking in Kinyarwanda, so I didn't have really a chance to communicate with people in English or even in French. But I had started it in school, so I said, "Yeah, let me take this time to practice. But the same time, I have to think about meals that I have to prepare for these guests.
Jeannine U.: When they come back from work, they should be hungry, tired, so I don't want them to see me here, a new person, who is not giving them food, who is not talking to them." But honestly, it was embarrassing.
Jeannine U.: Then, like at 6:00pm, the first guest arrived and she was saying, "Where is Sabine? My friend, Sabine, where are you? I missed you a lot." Then I had to go and say quietly, "Sabine has left. I'm new here. I'm going to work as the new Sabine." She said, "What is your name?" I said, "Jeannine." For some reason, she has already realized that I was embarrassed and not prepared, not ready. Then she said, "Don't worry. I'm going to help you every day. I will be here to help you. So ask me any question you have about everyone staying here, about the meals we like, ones we don't like, when we wake up, when we're leaving, when we're supposed to come back." That lady really helped me a lot in that time. Yeah. She even, maybe to open the window, she gave me a pair of earrings as a gift and I still have it.
Amena Brown: Wow.
Jeannine U.: Yeah. I kept it carefully so that I won't forget it, because whenever I look at it, I remember that story. Yeah. That's how I started as a new guesthouse manager. From that day, I was learning a new thing about international people every day, how to communicate with them, how to cook for them. But the first thing I saw in them was helping, and they were also open. They were there for me. They were supporting me. I can't remember a single day when they yelled out of me, saying that you didn't do this correctly. It should have been done like this.
Jeannine U.: Every time, whenever I did something in a wrong way, they were there to say, "Don't worry. It was supposed to be done like this. But we understand that you are new here." Yeah. They were really ready to help me, so I really appreciate that.
Amena Brown: I love that story, Jeannine, because I think it's interesting when we think about... I mean, in my own life, I can think about times that I had to go into a job or a position and I didn't have any experience. I was going to have to learn everything on the job. And I remember being nervous doing that, and that was without also needing to practice a language as you had to do. I think that's really good and profound, just your ability to be so resilient and adaptable to say, "Hey, this job opportunity has come to me, and I didn't expect it was going to come to me and I don't feel prepared." But just to be able to jump to it and learn those lessons, just in hearing that and thinking about what you're doing now, it seems like you learned a lot of good leadership lessons as well that were preparing you for what you do now.
Amena Brown: Before we get into what you're doing now with Azizi Life, I just want to ask you. You were born and raised in Rwanda. You were just so proud to be from your home country. I want to know, for people who are not from Rwanda that are coming to your home country to visit, what are some tips, some two or three things that you would say that they should do or consider, or things that you might say they should not do when they come to Rwanda? What are those things you would say, having been someone that for many years has welcomed people from all over the world that have come to Rwanda?
Jeannine U.: Yeah. Whoever planning to come to Rwanda should know that most Rwandans are friendly. So whenever you meet them, they will greet you. They will smile. Yeah, want to talk to you, know more about you. But another thing is that, people who are born in Rwanda, they don't like to talk too much. So if you meet someone and maybe you want to hear more about them, about their family, and they don't like to share, it's not like they really don't want to share. It's in their character. Yeah.
Amena Brown: Let's talk about, you went from being guesthouse manager for another non-profit. You initially started with Azizi Life. Once Azizi Life became an organization, your first official post was being a translator. You have worked yourself up all the way from being a translator to being the CEO of Azizi Life as a company, which is awesome, Jeannine. When you look back at your early life, your upbringing, maybe your time around your family or your community when you were a child, do you see things in your early life that prepared you for what you're doing now as the CEO of Azizi Life?
Jeannine U.: I lost my father when I was only seven. I'm the second born in my family. We are five siblings. Our father died very young, and my mom took immediately that responsibility of raising five small children. I remember our last born was two years old and it was not really easy for a young woman to raise all those five children, and it was not only us. There were other orphans from family members, friends, who were living with us at that time. But every morning, I was looking at my mom's face. She was always smiling. She was very courageous, hardworking, and she had hope that one day we'll be adults who are responsible for other people's life.
Jeannine U.: She always encouraged us to work hard in everything we are involved in, to be examples, and to make sure that people trust us. I remember that she was saying that if you are in someone's house, make sure that you leave there, and all things that you have found there, they're still there. Don't take someone else's things, stuff, money. Don't beg. Please work to get your own food or your own clothes. I don't want you to cry for people to give you food, but work for them so that they will pay you and then you get your own life. So all those things were preparing me to be the person I am today, even if I didn't know.
Jeannine U.: Sometimes I was saying that maybe my mom is harsh, she doesn't want us to be free. She want us to always work hard, wake up very early, study every single time, and not play with other kids. But now when I sit down and look back how she was raising up, I said, "Thank you, mom. You were preparing me to be responsible, to find my own solution, to help others even if I don't have that much, but I can offer what is available now." Yeah. I see that she was preparing me for this.
Amena Brown: I love that. I love that. I love the ways that... I also have that experience with my mom too, that there are so many things that she did. My mom was also a single mom raising my sister and I. So when I just think of the things that she was teaching us along the way, that when you're little, you don't always understand what it is your mom is saying or talking about. You get older and realize how important those lessons are. That's so powerful that your mom was really one of the people to initially help you become a leader and show you what that looks like. I think that's awesome.
Amena Brown: I want to talk about Azizi Life, and in particular, I want to ask you some questions about just Azizi Life and women. My first experience with Azizi Life was in 2016. I was in Rwanda with an IF:Gathering team and we spent a day. What's the term for the experience we had where we came and we spent a day with a co-op of women artisans and we went down to where they get water and food, and looked at how they make some of the jewelry of Azizi Life. Is there a term for what that experience is?
Jeannine U.: Yeah. Yeah. We call it A Day In The Life Of An Artisan.
Amena Brown: A Day In The Life Of An Artisan. Okay. Well, I did that in 2016, Jeannine, and I just loved those women so much. Oh my gosh. Just being there and learning from them. We went down to the well where the women were getting water and bless our hearts, Jeannine, myself and most of the women that I have ever traveled with to Rwanda are not as physically strong as our Rwandan sisters, okay? Because we went down to the water. They handed us the water jugs to go down and get water. They were carrying these big jugs, and then they gave us little jugs. At first, I was like, "I wonder why they're giving us these little jugs." Oh my gosh, Jeannine, we went down and got the water. I thought I wasn't going to make it back up that hill. Oh my gosh.
Jeannine U.: Yeah. They're very strong.
Amena Brown: I was like, "I need to exercise. I need to lift some weights."
Jeannine U.: They do that every day.
Amena Brown: Every day, and they were telling us sometimes they have to do that multiple times a day, depending on what their schedule is. I really loved and enjoyed spending time with our Rwandan sisters, learning from them, learning about their families, learning about how they structure their co-ops and just so many things that they were able to teach us and we were able to learn from them and as they were asking us about our lives back in America. How does Azizi Life help women in the villages in Rwanda?
Jeannine U.: The way we help women in Rwanda, a first time, is to be self reliable and yeah, create the dependence so that every single day they don't have to rely on their husband, asking for food crops, and also help the husband to see that they are as a burden but as a support, because women that are working with Azizi Life, they earn money. Then they can contribute to the development of their families by helping their husband to provide for like health insurance, pay school fees for their children, buy crops. But not only that, but also invest in domestic animals, which once they're grown enough, they can be sold and earn more money. That is one way Azizi Life help women that works for it.
Jeannine U.: Also, another thing is that their neighbors consider them as role model because they don't spend time sitting at home, like visiting bars everywhere drinking beer, but they're always concentrating producing handicrafts. So other neighbors learned from them in a way that sometimes they're even jealous but in a positive way, trying to know how they can be involved in their co-operative and then starting make handicrafts and get money as well.
Jeannine U.: Also, they're participating in developing their community, because when they're busy making handicrafts, they don't always have enough time to go and work in their garden, and they decide to hire their neighbors to come and work in their field. Then in return, they get paid. So it means that they're also empowering their neighbors to solve some problems by paying them money to work for them.
Amena Brown: Wow. Okay. I have so many questions because, having been to the Day In The Life Of An Artisan experience, I'm like, this is helping women in certain ways become entrepreneurs, in the sense that they can also help give jobs or work to other people in the community, which is awesome.
Jeannine U.: Yeah, exactly. Yeah.
Amena Brown: That's amazing. How does Azizi Life know when a co-op is... how does that process work as far as when an artisan can become part of a co-op, or how the co-ops form? Can you tell me more about that?
Jeannine U.: Yeah. When we started working with those artisan groups, they were already existing. Some were trained by government entities. Other were trained by their parents and the friends. Then as they were neighbors, they desire to come together and work as a group instead of work one by its own, which was not helping them. Then they decided to come together and work as a group. Azizi Life started with working with them. Yeah, they were already existing, but we helped them to increase the skills, increase the quality of what they were making, and then help also to be strong, because sometimes when they didn't have a market, some members were deciding to leave because they were saying there is no need to stay here. I would rather go and work in my field, stay home, be busy with my children. But now that they knew that there's market coming, this company coming to help them, they started feeling more strong and want to stand alongside each other so that they will keep developing.
Jeannine U.: Azizi Life don't necessarily work with a single person because we want the benefit to reach so many people at the same time. Like encouraging the artisan to form groups somehow helps them to get trainings from the government. There are some non-profit that sometimes have funds to help those co-operative to develop and be strong. If you're not working as a group or a a co-operative, you won't be applied to those kind of help. Yeah. So that's why Azizi Life decide to work only with artisans' group.
Jeannine U.: In terms of choosing groups or women that we host, guests, in terms of experience [inaudible 00:27:59], we first of all choose those groups that work well together, that members are supporting each other well, that they like each other. There is no problems or issues going on every time. Another criteria is that we need groups that are located nearby our office so that guests won't spend too much time traveling from their place in Kigali, and then once they're here, they are going also to spend too much time on their way trying to be at the artisan's household.
Jeannine U.: Another thing we check that they have toilets, that their feeds are nearby their house so that guests will be able to cultivate without having to travel a long distance, and talking about, well, we don't need our guests to carry heavy jerricans, having to travel from the household to the well for like 30 minutes or an hour. Yeah. We make sure that all those criteria are well met and then a group that is meeting all those things is qualified to host guests.
Amena Brown: Okay. Can you tell me more about the types of things that the artisans make? I am going to wait and give my commentary after you answer because I get so excited. So can you tell, for people that are just hearing of Azizi Life and have never either been to Rwanda or have been to the online shop as well to see the variety things the artisans make. What are a few things that you would tell someone who's new to Azizi Life are things that the artisans are creating?
Jeannine U.: Okay. Yeah. We're working with over 450 women and men artisans.
Amena Brown: Wow.
Jeannine U.: Yeah. They're located in Rwanda. Most of district, we have presence there. Most men, they focus on producing wooden products like book ends, spoon, nativity set, nativity hats, statues. For women, most of the time they produce baskets, piece basket, earrings, bowls, boxes that you can use to keep your stuff in like clothes or jewelries and so on. We also have other groups that make handbags out of banana leaves. We have Christmas decorations like bells, stars, miniature baskets, yeah. We have so many beautiful handmade crafts.
Amena Brown: You all listen to me. You all listen to what I'm saying right now. Every time that I have been to A Day In The Life Of An Artisan, at the end of the day, after you've gone to the well and realized that you need to lift more weights, and after we cultivated some of the land of the women who were in the coops and we made bracelets together, we danced, and sang together and ate lunch together, I mean, just had a wonderful day, at the end of that day, you go back to the Azizi Life offices.
Amena Brown: Part of the office is I guess in America what we might call a showroom. It's like a store in there that has all of these items and you would think every trip that I've gone on where we've done this day, you would think that people were about to get into a fight over the art that is in there. People were loving each other and hugging until they realized there was only one nativity set, and now they're elbowing each other and somebody got Mary and somebody got Joseph, and somebody got the wise men or whatever. You all need to know that these are amazing, amazing pieces.
Amena Brown: I have earrings from Azizi Life that I wear, and also Azizi Life was kind enough to be a part of my influencer boxes that went out for my last book, How To Fix A Broken Record, so any of the people who were on my influencer list received Azizi Life earrings. I also have Azizi Life baskets and boxes, you all. I'm waiting on an Azizi Life angel. The next time that I'm in Rwanda or on the website, soon as I see one come up, I'm going to order it right away because those angels are beautiful and they're so unique.
Amena Brown: I have Azizi Life book ends also. I have the zebras and the elephants. You all, it's like you were trying to save all your money because quite as it's kept, Rwanda's shopping is amazing. So if anyone listening has not been to Rwanda or is looking to go, you need to save up your money just so you can shop there in Rwanda. But I looked up and everyone was like, "Oh my gosh, I just spend all my money in Azizi Life and I'm happy about it. I'm happy about everything."
Jeannine U.: Thank you.
Amena Brown: So wonderful. I wanted everyone to know that because there are so many artisans and artisans who specialize in different things, that's one of the things that makes Azizi Life so great, because when you go there to think about buying gifts or buying décor for your home or décor for yourself, you have so many things to choose from, which is awesome. And just to know, after spending the day with these amazing enterprising women, you know that everything that you buy there, you are supporting these entrepreneurial women and men who are making these amazing things. I'm here for all of it, Jeannine. I'm here for everything.
Jeannine U.: Thank you. Thank you so much. In fact, I have your picture wearing one of the Azizi Life earrings. I really like it. You were so beautiful.
Amena Brown: Thank you, Jeannine. I'm wearing the earrings all the time. I'm surprised I don't have them on today. I just had them on yesterday. Every color that they make of the earrings, I try to buy it. Every shape, I'm here for everything. I'm obviously an Azizi Life fan. That's why I was so excited to have you on here.
Jeannine U.: Thank you.
Amena Brown: I want to ask you another question because I had a chance to ask this of a young woman in Rwanda. She was a high school student. One of my trips, which is one of my favorite trips to take to Rwanda, I take with a team of all black women from America. Our time with the women and artisans of Azizi Life was really, really special because our Rwandan sisters that we spent the day with were telling us how they don't get a chance often to be with black women from America.
Amena Brown: I have to send these pictures to you, Jeannine, so that you can see and show to your team because the moments where when you are beginning The Day In The Life, and our Rwandan sisters took Rwandan fabric, and they wrapped it around our waists and wrapped it around our heads as head scarfs, I mean, a lot of us from my black woman team, a lot of us were in tears during that part because it felt so emotional to us to just be connected to our sisters, even though we are from different countries and have different cultures, in certain ways, there are other ways that our cultures are the same. And there are other ways that we got a chance to connect. I mean, we just sang songs and we were crying, and we had to leave them, Jeannine. Crying. There's video footage of us just hugging each other and crying. We just did not want to leave each other.
Jeannine U.: That is so touching.
Amena Brown: Yes. I mean, just they were singing us Rwandan songs and showing us Rwandan dances. Then we sang them some of our traditional songs that we sing in some of our black churches here growing up. We danced together. I mean, there's a video. Thankfully it's not on the internet yet. But there's a video of me ugly crying. I loved being with them so much that I was just weeping. We had such a great time.
Amena Brown: One of the things we did while we were in Rwanda, we spent some time at one of African New Life's boarding schools, and we spent some time with some high school students. I asked one of the young women there a question that I want to ask you. I asked her what made her proud to be a Rwandan woman. She stood up and just really inspired us all. It was just so wonderful for us to hear what she loves about her Rwandan culture and language and what makes her proud to, in her case, be the future of her country. I would love to hear you share with us, what makes you proud to be a Rwandan woman? What do you love about it?
Jeannine U.: Yeah. I love being respected as a woman in Rwanda. Then know that I'm part of the people and the journey of rebuilding our Rwanda. That my ideas, my work, my energy can contribute towards that journey. Yeah, the way that I'm not ignored or left behind, in that it's like, "Oh," like fighting to rebuild our Rwanda. Whenever I remember that I'm part of that war, that fighting, I really appreciate it, to be recognized as a Rwandan woman who can contribute to build her nation and make sure that the future generation will live in a better Rwanda, where there is peace, there is development, and know that I'm working hard so that everyone around the world is happy to come to Rwanda, see what we are working on as women, and yeah, be proud of what we're doing. Yeah. I really like that.
Amena Brown: If you could give any advice or tips to other women that are CEOs, that are also leading businesses... I know that there are quite a few listeners of this podcast that are leading their own business and are the head of a business just like you are. What tips would you give other women or other people who are leading businesses? What would you encourage them to do?
Jeannine U.: If you're working in a business, you must know your vision, why you are involved in that business, then work towards the vision. Why you created or you want to start the business, there was a vision. For example, for Azizi Life, we want to make sure that the people we're working for will have an excellent life as our name means.
Jeannine U.: Every day when I go to work, I remember that the purpose of my work is to make sure that every single artisan in Rwanda that we are working with will have a better life from the work we do. I always work towards that vision. Then whatever they're doing as women, they must know that it's true their business has to be strong, develop and be sustainable, but always not run after money. They must work for people. I think that is the first thing that will drive you and reach you to your vision, because if you are only working for money, sometimes you forget your values, you forget people that you're working for, and yeah. Most of attention is towards money. Then at the end of the day, when you have money, sometimes you don't know how to spend it wisely, and it can disappear. But if you build people, they grow with you and your business grows strong.
Jeannine U.: Most of the time, I like to tell people, "Work towards your vision. That is the only thing that will help you to reach all your targets and your goals."
Amena Brown: Come on and give this great advice, Jeannine. People, listen up, because that is a lot of wisdom in there, right here. We are waiting of Jeannine to release these courses where she's going to be educating us on how to handle our businesses better because that was really, really great advice, Jeannine.
Amena Brown: If people are listening and they want to support the work of Azizi Life, if they are listening and they need these earrings, they need this art as well, what are some ways that people can support the work of Azizi Life, support these amazing artisans?
Jeannine U.: Yeah. There are so many ways people can help Azizi Life. But I'm going to say maybe four main ones. The first one is to pray for us, for our work, that we be always determined to do what we aimed, and pray for our artisans, that there will be always work for them to do, that Rwanda we have peace. Everyone will continue to build themselves. We always send monthly prayer updates that people can subscribe for and they can join us in our prayers so that this work will continue to exist, be sustainable, and always help people, be there for people, like artisans, clients, so that everyone will benefit from this work.
Jeannine U.: The second thing that people can help is to be like advocates for Azizi Life. Another one is that people can help by purchasing our product. By buying our products, you are helping an artisan to pay school fees for their children, to pay health insurance, to provide for their families in terms of food crops and so on. Yeah.
Jeannine U.: People also can help us by volunteering. Sometimes we run some shows selling handicrafts overseas, especially in America. And as we don't have enough funds to run, all those, shows by our own, sometime people can volunteer and that will be a big help for Azizi Life. Also, they can help by hosting those bazaar, home bazaar, or arranging them. That would be a great help for Azizi Life.
Jeannine U.: For more information about how they can be involved in Azizi Life, please feel free to visit our website. It's www.azizilife.com. By visiting that website, you will see and get more information about our work in Rwanda, see people that we work with. There are so many great pictures of our artisans, their work, where they are located, information about their groups, and so on.
Amena Brown: You all, go to there. Go to azizilife.com, that's A-Z-I-Z-I L-I-F-E.com. Go there. Just go there right now, just get yourself a pair of earrings. You're going to need them. You can give them to someone. Just go there and get yourself a basket. Just go there. There are things there that will be great for you.
Amena Brown: Jeannine, I want to ask you the three questions that I'm asking each guest this season. Question one, is what inspires you to create.
Jeannine U.: Yeah. What inspired me to create is living a better life behind every single action I do, because whenever there is a bad situation, I want to contribute and create a new situation that will me help both me and the person living in that situation to get a better life and move on.
Jeannine U.: Whenever I'm creating something, whether it's job or helping someone in her life, I always think about a better life. That is what really motivates me in this [inaudible 00:47:25].
Amena Brown: Question two, Jeannine, is what is one thing you've made that you are really proud of?
Jeannine U.: Yeah. I managed to build my own house, and that is going to be a permanent home for my children. Now I can sleep without saying that the landlord is increasing the rent. We have to move. We have to find another location. Yeah. Whenever I think about that, I feel proud of myself. I can even welcome other people to come, who don't know where to sleep, to come and stay with me when they're trying to find their own home, because that is, I can call it my home. Yeah. I'm very proud of having a house, having a home where everyone feels free to come and stay.
Amena Brown: The third question is about a SHE DID THAT award, and you deserve a SHE DID THAT award for building this house, first of all.
Jeannine U.: Thank you.
Amena Brown: You need to give an award to yourself. But the question that I ask every guest every season is if you could give another woman a SHE DID THAT award, who would it be and why? A SHE DID THAT award is a phrase that a lot of Black women here in America say to each other... it's like if your friend got a new job and you're like, "She did that." It's a big congratulations. So if you could give another woman a SHE DID THAT award, besides yourself, building the house because you deserve a SHE DID THAT award for you, who would It be and why?
Jeannine U.: Yeah. That woman would be my mother. The fact that she managed to raise five children plus other six orphans that we were living together, and she was only earning 30,000 Rwandan francs, which is about maybe 45 USD per month. Yeah. Earning that money every month and you have to feed on 11 children, sending them to school, providing crops to them, and she never gave up. Every single day sh was working hard, encouraging us, and making sure that everything is working out. She tried to provide whatever we needed in the means she had in that period. All of us, all my siblings, have...
Jeannine U.: Four of us have finished university studies. One followed the career of... he is a technician. But I can say that we all have a life and that we're able to even support other people. Yeah, my mom would be that woman.
Amena Brown: You momma deserves a SHE DID THAT award. I love it. If people want to follow Azizi Life on social media, they want to know learn more about Azizi Life, where should they go?
Jeannine U.: They simply have to go to hashtag Azizi Life. That will be on Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest.
Amena Brown: Oh, and Pinterest.
Jeannine U.: Yeah.
Amena Brown: Yes, Azizi Life Pinterest. Yes.
Jeannine U.: Yeah, yeah.
Amena Brown: Oh, I love that. Go there everyone and go to the website. Let me tell you all something. Leigh Kramer who is an amazing part of my team, HER with Amena Brown would not be a thing without Leigh Kramer. Leigh Kramer is doing these amazing show notes on AmenaBrown.com for each of my podcasts, but in particular for this one, because this is my podcast that really goes on on a regular basis. But you can go to the show notes there and we will have links for all of the Azizi Life things. Or you can go check it out. You can go to social media and give them a follow.
Amena Brown: Jeannine, thank you not only for sharing your story with us, but also sharing your leadership with us, sharing with us the lessons that you've learned as a leader, as a CEO. You used so many powerful and empowering words and phrases with us today, so many things that I know are going to stick with me, and are going to stick with our listeners here. So thank you so much, Jeannine. You did that.
Jeannine U.: Thank you so much. It was my pleasure also to talk to you, to share my experience, my life, and show that people who will be listening to that will also be visiting our website, see our work, and be able to help us and yeah, make this work more sustainable and they reach so many people, because we want to grow and keep employing more artisans. Yeah. We don't want to stay here at 450 artisans. My dream is that maybe we even have more than 5,000 artisans that we can, yeah, give work, change their lives.
Amena Brown: I love it, Jeannine. Hey, HER with Amena listeners, first of all, thank you so much for listening. Second of all, I hope you enjoyed this episode and hearing more about one of my favorite brands, Azizi Life. As a plus, shout out to the Azizi Life team. They are offering our listener community, for HER with Amena, they're offering us a discount code on their websites. You can go there and look at the amazing things the artisans are making and get a little discount for yourself.
Amena Brown: Use the discount code FOR HER, that's F-O-R-H-E-R. This will also be available in the show notes and on social media as well. Check it out to be sure to support Azizi Life in the amazing work of our Rwandan brothers and sisters.
Amena Brown: HER with Amena Brown is produced by DJ OPdiggy for Sol Graffiti Productions. Don't forget to subscribe, rate, write a review, and share the podcast. Thanks for listening.