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July 27, 2010

Rwandan Women are Crucial to Economy — A Story on CNN.com

By Opportunity International

Check out CNN.com where Lisa Desai wrote a piece, accompanied by a video, that highlights the integral role that women play in the growing economy of Rwanda since the genocide in 1994.

Today, women outnumber men in Rwanda and, according to the piece, “there are more women in Rwanda’s parliament than any other country in the world. Laws have been passed so they can own land and wives can legally keep their assets separate from their husbands. All steps the government is taking to help Rwandese [sic] women gain an equal hand at politics and business.”

The key is that women are “thinking like entrepreneurs” now and are not content to sit on the sidelines. One woman highlighted in the piece is Bernadette Ndizigiye, who weaves baskets along with 20 other women in Kigali as part of a government-run cooperative, earning her a steady income and allowing her to open her first savings account. “I can pay school fees for my children. I can buy them clothes and food and when I go out to the street people can see that I am really smart,” Ndizigiye says.

This is why investment in women is so crucial: because when women earn money, it goes towards better health, nutrition and education for their children, families and communities. InOpportunity‘s microfinance bank in Rwanda, 91% of our loan clients are women. And Opportunity’s one millionth client was Clementine Uzabakiriho, who owns a business selling sorghum grain in the village of Rubindi, Rwanda with her husband Andre.  Clementine is an Opportunity loan client and has a savings account, and with the profits from her business, she has built a new house, purchased livestock and enrolled her children in school. Clementine and Andre also give back to their community. They purchased bricks for the foundation and cement for the floor of a new church in Rubindi.

Along with personal economic empowerment, Rwandan women are needed to work in financial institutions. Joy Ndungutse is CEO and founder of Gahaya Links, a for-profit company that encourages Rwandan women’s economic empowerment by selling their fair-trade basketweaving. She says, “When you go to a bank, the man working there looks at you like you can’t do anything. So now we are looking, how can we overcome that problem? We must have women in these financial institutions who can understand these problems.” Opportunity is working to address this need. Through our Emerging Leaders Program, part of Goldman Sachs’ 10,000 Women Initiative, talented women in eight African countries, including Rwanda, are able to receive training in banking and finance to help them establish or advance careers in microfinance as loan officers and bank managers in our banks.

Read more about the growing economic empowerment of Rwandan women at CNN.com.