Meet the women who beat all odds to make a difference in society

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Women listen to one of the guest speakers. / Nadege K. Imbabazi

DESPITE the voices of skepticism, she believed in her instinct. She set up a book store despite the talk that it would not survive its first birthday in a country with a poor reading culture. But Lydie Hakizimana did not give up on her dream and indeed she stood out of the crowd. Today her book store serves over 3000 schools across the country.

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Lydie Hakizimana shares her experience. / Nadege K. Imbabazi

Three years ago, Hakizimana again started a day care centre, but spent over two weeks with only one client, her one-year-old son. However, today she has two schools and is planning to set up more.

This was the testimony of Lydie Hakizimana, the CEO of Happy Hearts during an event organized by the Development for International Development (DFID) to celebrate the International Women’s Day at the British High Commission in Kacyiru, yesterday.

During the event, Hakizimana was among the women who gave inspirational testimonies on how they defied all odds to succeed.

The two-hour event, attended by men and women, celebrated the day under this year’s Women’s Day theme “Be Bold for Change.”

DFID Women’s Network invited four women who took bold actions to make change as guest speakers.

The ladies shared their experience and how they dealt with the challenges.

Gaudence Mushimiyimana, co-founder and the executive director of a Rwandan organisation of women with disabilities (UNAB), shared her experience and how far UNAB has gone in empowering more than 500 women with disabilities.

“Taking a bold action needs a strong reason to do so, seeing disabled women chasing their goals always motivates me to help disabled women wherever they are because I know behind their disability there is ability. That’s why I started a private company that provides them with skills to succeed. I would like you to take a bold action to help a disabled person as well,” she said.

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Gaudence Mushimiyimana and Amina Bisamaza (in blue) hug. / Nadege K. Imbabazi

Lydie Hakizimana, CEO of Happy Hearts, a preschool chain,has 10-year experience in different fields of education and book publishing.She shared how she took a bold action in starting a book store in Rwanda, even when people told her she would never get clients since Rwanda has a poor reading culture. Today, she serves over 3000 schools.

Hakizimana said that three years ago, she started a day care but spent like two weeks with only one client, her one-year-old son, but now,she has two schools and is planning to set up more.

Benigne Ishimwe Mugwaneza, a trainer at Resonate, a social enterprise that uses storytelling to empower women and girls to build self-confidence and unlock leadership potential, said she realised that even after achieving a goal of becoming an engineer, her need was not to get the degree, but to have a goal and fight for it.

“It wasn’t about my goal, but the need to have a goal and be confident enough to fight for it. And that’s what Resonate does, because I have seen ladies succeed after our trainings,” she said.

Scovia Karangwa, the founder of women’s co-operative, Twitezimbere, and a former illegal trader, managed to gather women who were doing the same thing and they are now trading maize grains, beans and sorghum across borders.

Emmeline Skinner, the organiser of the event, explained why they thought of celebrating the International Women’s Day.

“DFID is very passionate about the rights of women and goals so globally DFID is organising Women’s Day events across the world. So we wanted it to be special in Rwanda and celebrate the work we are already doing and, get to know what we can do to make it better as well.That’s why we invited different speakers so that we could get different experiences and stories from their organisations. Like Gaudence who helps disabled women, we have to add more effort in including disabled women in our programmes.

Sally Waples, the head of DFID Rwanda, added that to make sure DFID achieves its goal in promoting women rights; they have a DFID women network programme where they bring successful women together to share their experiences and stories to inspire other women.

During the event, they also announced the launch of Kigali Gender Network Project by Amina Bisamaza which will take place today. Bisamaza says the project’s aim is to reach communal work meetings and promote discussions about women empowerment and gender issues at large.

Jenny Wilcox, the Deputy High Commissioner and current Chargéed’Affaires, said she believes the event made a positive impact on all who attended because of the inspiring stories that were shared.

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WHAT SHOULD BE DONE TO ENHANCE WOMEN EMPOWERMENT?

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Amina Bisamaza

Since Umuganda has 30 minutes to one hour community discussions, gender-based issues should be given priority so that people can debate about them and get solutions starting from the grassroots level.

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Jenny Wilcox

Young girls should be sensitised on all the great opportunities available in most career fields. This would motivate them to chase their dreams with a clear idea of what awaits them.

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Gaudence Mushimiyimana

The government should follow up on the laws that protect women in order to show those who still live in fear and inferiority that they have support.

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Benigne Mugwaneza

Hopefully the government will embrace Resonate as a tool in helping women explore their potential, be it in leadership or in other professions.

editorial@newtimes.co.rw