The Husband-and-Wife Team That Empowers Women in Rwanda [Q&A]

Meet Maria and Anthony Russo, co-founders of Humanity Unified.

Sep 3, 2015
Maria and Anthony Russo, during their travels to Rwanda

Maria and Anthony Russo, during their travels to Rwanda

Maria and Anthony Russo wear many hats. Maria is a widely-published writer and editor, while Anthony’s background is in philanthropy and finance. Since 2011, the husband-and-wife team has been been running The Culture-ist - an online media platform featuring articles about travel, culture and social good (and incidentally a Goodnet partner!). And most recently, the two have put on their humanitarian hats to establish Humanity Unified, a lifestyle brand-slash-organization that empowers women in developing nations. By selling funky clothing items with soulful, inspiring messages, Humanity Unified raises money to fund its humanitarian mission. The organization is currently focusing on Rwanda, promoting education, entrepreneurship and food security programs.

In this week’s 10 Good Questions, Maria speaks to Goodnet about why the social enterprise focuses on empowering women, and how users can get involved.

1. What is your organization’s mission?

Humanity Unified's mission is to build up communities in the developing world by empowering women through education, entrepreneurship and food security programs.

A literacy training program in Rwanda (Humanity Unified)

A literacy training program in Rwanda (Humanity Unified) 

2. What makes you guys different from the rest?

We look at the whole picture. We realize that you cannot alleviate poverty without addressing the issue of food security. When people have enough to eat they can focus on bettering themselves through education and skills trainings and once they possess certain skills they can build small businesses and create a self-sustaining lifestyle. We also realize that women are 10 times more likely than men to invest in their families and communities, so we start by empowering women.

Maria Russo wears one of Humanity Unified's tshirts

Maria Russo, wearing a Humanity Unified tshirt

3. Offices or open work space?

For the most part, our team works remotely, but we are huge fans of laid-back co-working spaces.

4. What three words describe your organization?

Dedicated. Freedom Fighter. Catalyst.

5. What inspires you?

When others come together for a greater cause or to create positive change.

6. What is the best part about your job?

Knowing that every day is ultimately about ending poverty for the families and communities we support.

Anthony Russo sports a Humanity Unified tshirt

Anthony Russo sports a Humanity Unified tshirt

7. Does your team eat lunch together?

When we are in the same place, absolutely.

8. Facebook or Twitter?

Facebook, and who can forget Instagram!

9. What do you want Goodnet users to know about your organization?

We want Goodnet users to know that with their support we can create tremendous change in the lives of the world's poor. We believe strongly in education and we believe that when you give people the dignity of controlling their own destiny through economic empowerment, that's when real change happens. Now their children can go to school healthy with full bellies after a good night's rest. These children will grow up free from the bonds of poverty and their children will have even greater opportunities that will allow them to contribute to the betterment of humanity.

A literacy training class in Rwanda through Aspire (Humanity Unified)

A literacy training class in Rwanda through Aspire (Humanity Unified)

10. How can people get involved?

We would love for people to visit our website to learn more about our mission and to support our current project in Rwanda with their purchase. We will be launching a fundraising campaign next month to support the development of a new education center and income generating projects for Rwandan women living in extreme poverty. People can help by spreading the word to friends or volunteering their time or skills to help raise the necessary funding. We hope that people will continue to support us over the coming months as we look to support this amazing project.