Building hope in Rwanda
Every woman has dreams, some as simple as to put her children through school, to start her own business, to have her voice heard and her vote counted. The organisation Women for Women International (WFWI) focuses on women whose lives have been shattered by conflict and violence and who have faced extreme social and economic marginalisation. In Rwanda, WfWI works to provide 900 women with the knowledge, skills and resources to move from poverty and isolation to social inclusion and economic self-sufficiency. A comprehensive 12-month empowerment programme helps advance women’s entrepreneurship, promotes their financial inclusion, and increases their access to health services and support networks.
In the aftermath of the devastating 1994 genocide, which claimed as many as 1,000,000 lives and tore Rwandan society apart, the challenge of creating a lasting peace depended greatly on the actions of women, who were the majority of survivors.
From rural villages to the national parliament, where women hold two-thirds of the seats – the largest share of any country on the planet – women are leading the rebuilding of their country. Their rights have progressed substantially, and now they have legal rights to inherit land and obtain credit.
Still, many struggle to access the resources and skills to better their lives and contribute fully to Rwanda’s development. Oppressive gender norms continue to limit their freedom and opportunities.
Building upon the successful results of our first 3-years of support, we are funding Women for Women International in Rwanda to enable 900 ultra-poor women to transform their lives and thrive.
For three years, 300 women are going to receive a transformative yearlong training where participants learn how to:
- Earn and save money: Women learn basic business management skills and a vocational skill with earning power in their local markets. Women are encouraged to begin to save and receive support as they establish cooperatives.
- Develop health and wellbeing: Women learn vital information on health and wellness, including reproductive health, hygiene, nutrition and stress management.
- Influence decisions in the home and community: Women learn their fundamental rights, and those guaranteed in their country. They also learn the importance of civic participation and voting, as well as critical skills such as negotiation and conflict management.
- Connect to networks for support and advocacy: Women form close personal bonds with those in their programme class and build strong support networks. They share ideas, resources, and information, and help each other solve problems, protect one another, and build new businesses.
Around 30% of the women who complete the training will have access to advanced business and vocational skills mentorship, further developing their technical and commercial skills targeted at local market opportunities. This 6-month follow-on support that may include:
- Continued business plan development, mentoring and connections to markets.
- Cooperative support (leadership, management and assistance in the legal registration process).
- Providing micro-business capital support to individual women and cooperatives, including an innovation competition to incentivise start-up ideas.
- Continued linking of women entrepreneurs and cooperatives with new technologies, government programmes and financial services.
- 900 women improve their social and economic wellbeing. They improve their agency, well-being and livelihoods. They improve their self-confidence, knowledge of rights and health, influence decision making, increase their ability to earn income and save money, and become economically self-sufficient.
- Around 300 women receive inputs, micro-capital support and additional technical assistance and business mentoring, strengthening their businesses and moving from subsistence to more substantial micro-enterprises.
Women for Women International ensures sustainability through its emphasis on putting women at the centre of intervention and building their capacity for improved livelihoods This programme is designed to help women build viable, market-driven businesses that generate sustainable income for them and their families. It also succeeds in creating an enabling environment for women to be involved in decision making both at household and community levels.