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Women Leading Women in Rwanda.

The 1994 genocide in Rwanda left behind a population comprised of mostly women — approximately 80% of the survivors.  Historically a patriarchal culture, out of necessity, women stepped up in many ways to keep the country going forward.  

Women were granted rights that were completely unimaginable before the war:  the right to inherit property, the right to use the land as collateral to get loans, the right to have their own bank accounts, etc.  Due to the aftermath of the war, economic independence for women was fast-tracked. Institutions and political processes were revised to mandate 30% of government positions held by women.  Although the country’s framework changed rather swiftly, society has been slower to accept the new reality. For example, the gender stereotypes that ran strongly in Rwandan culture pre-1994 are still very much prevalent despite the systemic changes.  Although women hold more positions in government, they are still expected to serve as the primary caregiver at home. In this post-genocide context, the mindset of the culture still has ways to go to catch up with the system.  

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Despite the obstacles to achieving gender equity, there are bold Rwandan women taking risks and constantly challenging conventional thinking.  Catalystas associate Tiffany Sprague had the privilege to travel to Kigali with WAKE International last May to meet with some of these amazing changemakers. She along with women from Google and the US Navy made up the consulting team for social enterprise Starlight Rwanda whose mission is to inspire Rwandan youth to innovate through fun, engaging DIY kits powered by renewable energy sources.  Starlight Rwanda wanted advice on how to expand their services further into the EdTech space. After a thorough needs assessment was conducted, the advisors visited one of their pilot sites in Kigali to see the programs in action.  They interviewed students participating in a series of science, technology, engineering and math classes aimed to expose the children to different disciplines and careers through hands-on projects. In subsequent work sessions, through careful listening and understanding of their specific needs and cultural context, the advisors completed three tailor-made deliverables:  pitch deck for prospective investors, social media communications plan and strategy for collecting data to show impact.  

Integral to Catalystas values and beliefs, there is no one-size-fits-all solution.  The goal is to utilize our expertise while representing the client’s needs, the local market and technological capabilities.  For more information on this case or about our methodologies, please contact Tiffany at [email protected].

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