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Empowering Rwandan Women in Microfinance

By Jeffrey Lee

By Jeffrey Lee, CEO of Urwego Opportunity Bank (UOB) of Rwanda

In Rwanda, gender equality is real. For example, more than 50% of the Rwandan senators are women. The chief justice is a woman. Approximately 40% of the state ministers are women, including the ministers of agriculture, of trade, of foreign affairs. Indeed, women are empowered in Rwanda.

At UOB, we are also empowering women in several ways. To name a couple, more than 90% of our clients are women and 55% of our staff are women.

Recently, Alice Gasatura, Director of Credit Support, was on a three-week tour to the U.S. as part of the fundraising team of Opportunity International-US. She shared her life story as well as the client transformation stories. She visited Washington, D.C.; Chicago; Seattle; Los Angeles; Dallas; Atlanta and more. She is one of the most senior women on staff at UOB and she was the first female staff member to travel to the U.S. as an embassador of UOB.

We have also sent five middle management female staff (pictured at left) to a month-long training session in Nairobi, Kenya. This training was sponsored byGoldman Sachs as part of its campaign to develop10,000 Women entrepreneurs in developing countries. During their training period, they learned 23 managment topics on microfinance.

They will be deployed, along with other staff who have been trained elsewhere, to share their knowledge with their colleagues through the UOB Academy to be established in 2011. I hope to see more women empowered to carry out important tasks in Rwanda going forward, not only at UOB, but also among our clients.


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