Women Entrepreneurs in Rwanda: Overcoming Barriers
In Africa, women entrepreneurs are rare. They struggle to obtain loans from banks and do not receive the same educational opportunities as their male counterparts because of traditional views that the role of women is in the home.

A disproportionate percentage of women applied to the Anzisha Prize this year— only 27%. The Anzisha prize provides young entrepreneurs with funding.

However, Rwanda defied this norm in 2015 as 60% of applicants to the Anzisha prize in Rwanda were women this year.

This reflects Rwanda’s recent efforts to empower women. In 1994, Rwanda experienced a devastating genocide; 70% of the population was female. Today, Rwanda still has a higher percentage of women in their population. For this reason, President Paul Kagame has implemented initiatives to support women in business, education and politics.

Of note, Rwanda’s parliament has more women than men. “It is exciting to see Rwanda take such progressive steps. Women empowerment has considerable benefits for any economy’s growth and development, and we hope that other African countries follow Rwanda’s example,” explained Grace Kalisha, senior program manager at the African Leadership Academy to How We Made it In Africa.

Four outstanding female Rwandan applicants to the Anzisha Prize, including Gisele Iradukunda, Henriette Dukunde, Alice Igiraneza and Nancy Sibo are featured below.

Radio Stations in Bus Stops

Twenty-year-old Gisele Iradukunda founded Radio Gare Project, a company that installs radio speakers in bus stations to communicate important messages to commuters.

Iradukunda realized bus companies would pay to have a radio system installed so they can provide information to bus users. Other companies can advertise their products to a large group of people waiting at a bus stop.

Her first sound system was installed in Nyamata, a town in southeast Rwanda. She obtained a bank loan, then placed speakers in four corners of the bus station. Today people can hear the sound in a 500-meter radius around the speakers.

Since then, Iradukunda has installed speakers at two more bus stations and hopes to put them in every station in Rwanda in the future.

Iradukunda also uses the bus station radios to notify the public about HIV prevention and healthcare issues. “The District also uses our radio to pass on information about events, meetings and all other affairs that they would like the public to attend,” said Iradukunda.

Rice Cooperative to Support Women

In 2013, Henriette Dukunde, a twenty-one-year-old biology student, co-founded the Rice Project. It is located in Huye, southern Rwanda, and supports over fifty women in a farming cooperative.

The Rice Project places the women farmers into four groups. Each group receives a piece of land, seeds, fertilizer, and other farming materials so they can grow and harvest rice in Nyanza marshlands.

65% of profits goes to the cooperative, and the rest supports the sustainability of the Project.

“The Rice Project has improved the lives of poor vulnerable women. It has both created jobs for them and enabled them to afford their basic daily needs,” explained Dukunde.

Health and Nutrition Promotion at University of Rwanda

Alice Igiraneza, a twenty-one-year-old medical student at the University of Rwanda, started the restaurant Kiza. The restaurant promotes healthy eating at her university by providing a section of healthy options for students and staff at the University of Rwanda.

The restaurant’s goal is to educate the public about diet and nutrition and to fight diseases like diabetes. The restaurant currently serves food to around three hundred people, and provides twenty medical students from impoverished families with employment.

“We pay them a salary of $60 a month and provide them with food so that they can continue their studies and become good doctors for the future well-being of the population,” said Igiraneza.

Along with her restaurant, Igiraneza is the head of a consultation center that teaches students and staff about health and nutrition.

Accessories from Recycled Drinking Straws

In 2013, twenty-one-year-old Nancy Sibo founded Miheha Straw Bags. The company is a social enterprise that manufactures purses, earrings, and belts from recycled plastic drinking straws.

“In developing countries like Rwanda, garbage collection and recycling services are often not available or are inadequate. We have decided to turn waste into opportunity for the enterprise, the environment and for the women,” explained Sibo.

Sibo provides training for women so they can make a living through the company. “Suzanne is a young mother who joined Miheha in 2013 when she was extremely poor with no access to some basics of life. But, through the trainings she received from our initiative, she has changed her life and is now training other women at our enterprise,” said Sibo.

Margaret Anderson

Sources: Anzisha Prize, How We Made It in Africa
Photo: Venture Burn

Wonder Women Initiative Takes Off in Indonesia
For decades, the iconic comic book superheroine Wonder Woman has been a representation of justice, strength and all that is right in the universe. Today, the spirit of Wonder Woman is as present as it has ever been, but it has been breathed into the organization titled, appropriately, Wonder Women. In 2015, it is this plural variation of the legendary superhero’s name that resonates the most with global change.

The Wonder Women Initiative is a movement to revitalize poverty-stricken areas by teaching the women of these communities to sell new pieces of technology and equipment to their neighbors and members of their towns or villages. The effort has been especially successful in Indonesia over the last few years. Some of the items sold include solar lanterns, clean cook stoves and water filters.

An article by CNBC detailing the Wonder Women program recently said, “Since the program started in 2011, more than 300 women have become ‘micro-social-entrepreneurs,’ selling around 10,000 clean technology products to their communities.” The Wonder Women initiative has been extremely successful because of its grassroots approach to eradicating poverty. This project operates under the umbrella of the large non-government organization Kopernik.

Kopernik was founded on the belief that only a simple piece of technology can drastically turn around poverty situations all over the world. The NGO’s website provides certain statistics such as “780 million people live with dirty water, when a simple filter can provide safe, clean, convenient drinking water” and “1.3 billion people rely on dim, dirty, dangerous kerosene for lighting, when simple solar lanterns can provide clean, bright light at night.” Kopernik receives money directly from donors all over the world and in turn uses these funds to produce cost-effective technology products that can be sent to third world countries and commercialized by an initiative like Wonder Women.

Wonder Women is impacting thousands of lives every year and revitalizing the way nonprofits work. By teaching women how to sell technology at cost-effective prices within their communities, Wonder Women is positively affecting the global economy. Kopernik has a quote on its site that reads, “Our namesake, Nicolaus Copernicus, changed the way people see the world. Like Copernicus, we want Kopernik to be a catalyst for change.” Much like its namesake, Wonder Women is promoting justice and all that is right with the world.

Diego Catala

Sources: CNBC, Kopernik
Photo: Dorkly

whole_planet_foundation
Poverty alleviation through microcredit is the Whole Planet Foundation’s mission. This foundation was created by the Whole Foods Market chain. It provides microcredit to different organizations in areas of Asia, Africa, the Americas and the Middle East. These organizations in turn offer loan programs, training and financial services that provide help to self-employed people living under poor conditions.

According to the Whole Planet Foundation’s website, they are currently supporting more than 1,000,000 micro-entrepreneurs in around 60 countries throughout the world.

Partnerships are an important pillar of the foundation because they help support these micro-entrepreneurs. The foundation has microfinance partners, supplier partners, collaborating partners, custom contributions and musicians for microcredit.

The foundation’s microfinance partners are the ones in the field. These foundations are located across the globe in places such as Honduras and China.

The Adelante Foundation in Honduras, Aga Khan Foundation in Ivory Coast, Association Costa Rica Grameen in Costa Rica, Banco do Povo Credito Solidario in Brazil, Banigualdad in Chile, CASHPOR in India, CAURIE in Senegal, Chamroeun Microfinance Limited in Cambodia, Entrepreneurs du Monde in Togo, INMAA in Morocco, KOMIDA in Israel, Pro Mujer in Argentina, Bolivia, Mexico, Nicaragua and Peru and the Women and Family Development Fund in Laos are some of the microfinance partners that the Whole Planet Foundation works with.

On the other side, the foundation’s supplier partners have donated millions in order to advocate for the Whole Planet Foundation’s mission. These partners support the foundation’s mission through different fund programs: the $100,000 Fund, the Supplier Alliance, the Poverty is Unnecessary Fund, the Ten Thousand Dollar Fund and the Microloan a Month Fund.

The partners supporting the $100,000 Fund are Frontier Co-op, Living On One, Papyrus-Recycled Greeting and Whole Foods Market.

The Supplier Alliance, the Poverty is Unnecessary Fund, the Ten Thousand Dollar Fund and the Microloan a Month Fund are supported by different organizations like Alaffia, Allegro Coffee, Amazing Grass, Blue Avocado, Garden of Life, Hain Celestial, Organic India, Suja Juice, Greyston Bakery, Rainbow Light, Chavez for Charity, Teatulia and Gourmet Guru, among others.

The foundation also has a scan-back program in which Whole Foods Market supplier partners can donate a part of their sales to the Whole Planet Foundation. According to the foundation’s website, they have more than 600 suppliers in this program.

The Whole Planet Foundation’s collaborating partners are organizations that help to increase the foundation’s reach, potency and success. A Glimmer of Hope, Aldea Artisans, My Social Canvas, The Rainforest Alliance and Valley Credit Union are some of the collaborating organizations of the foundation.

The custom contributors collect sources that help the Whole Planet Foundation support poverty alleviation. Some of their contributors are Aurora University, Hand in Hand Soap, Pura Vida Bracelets, Barefoot Wine, Crafted Peru and FedEx Office, among others.

Another way for the Whole Planet Foundation to support poverty alleviation is through the use of music. The foundation partners with musicians that are advocating for poverty alleviation and empowering entrepreneurship around the world.

Musicians like Rocky Dawuni, Aziza & the Cure, Patrick Bradley and Tiffany Parker are donating part of their album sales to the foundation.

If the general public wants to get involved and support the Whole Planet Foundation mission, they should know that fundraising is an option. People can create a fundraising campaign page in order to support entrepreneur communities around the world, and spread the word to their family, friends and colleagues.

Partnerships are an important aspect and pillar of the Whole Planet Foundation. These partnerships have helped the organization to support poverty alleviation throughout the world and use entrepreneurship as a crucial way to target poverty.

Diana Fernanda Leon

Sources: Whole Planet Foundation 1, Whole Planet Foundation 2, Whole Planet Foundation 3, Whole Planet Foundation 4, Whole Planet Foundation 5, Whole Planet Foundation 6, Whole Planet Foundation 7, Whole Planet Foundation 8, Whole Planet Foundation 9
Photo: Whole Planet Foundation

slatecube
This August, MIT will host the 2015 MITx Global Entrepreneur Bootcamp, where students from all around the world are brought together in the spirit of entrepreneurship. Within a week, each student will create a business and pitch their idea to a panel of professionals, giving the visiting students a taste of the fast-paced, competitive MIT atmosphere.

MITx selected 50 candidates from 24 countries to participate in the boot camp. Chris Kwekowe from Nigeria is among the 50 to be accepted at the MIT workshop with his startup, Slatecube.

Chris Kwekowe is from southeastern Nigeria. He comes from a family of five, which are all boys. He currently studies Computer Science at the Nnamdi Azikwi University, Awka. He believes “the average African youth is the driving force for global impact,” which inspired the start of Slatecube.

Slatecube balances current knowledge with skill acquisition in a system of free, cloud-based learning courses. It focuses on “employability and social development”. It enables its users to learn and collaborate with professionals while developing relevant skills to give them an edge in the working world.

Kwekowe explains, “Essentially, what we do at Slatecube is really simple but very important. We help individuals develop new knowledge or build on already existing knowledge and then expose them to industry-relevant skills with hands-on training from real organisations in order to make them more employable and improve their social and economic relevance.”

Slatecube is designed to help students gain skills and obtain experience, both of which will help young, aspiring professionals when applying for a job. The courses are self-paced and the instructors are free-lanced.

With knowledge this accessible to young Nigerian students, Slatecube would empower the workforce and decrease the unemployment rate. In 2015, Nigeria’s unemployment rate is seven point five percent, an astonishing decrease since 2012, when the unemployment rate was 23 percent. Slatecube could further this decline in unemployment while empowering young professionals.

Kwekowe will attend MITx Global Entrepreneur Bootcamp at the end of August, ready and armed with Slatecube. Back with his newfound knowledge from MITx, Kwekowe and Slatecube could have a large impact on young, aspiring professionals around the world.

Hannah Resnick

Sources: IT News Africa, MITx, Slatecube, Trading Economics
Photo: IT News Africa