Meet the women achievers of 2016

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(L-R) Barbara Demorest, Jolly Mutesi, and Dominic Alonga Uwase.

There are women who have made evident progress over the years, some have demystified stereotypes and joined male-dominated fields, others have chosen to give back to society through humanitarian work, some have made it all the way to the top of the corporate ladder, and some are making it big in business. Donah Mbabazi looks at some of the Rwandan women who stood out this year;

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Peace Ruzage

Peace Ruzage-Founder of Aspire Rwanda:

Ruzage is a down-to-earth woman who has a soft spot for vulnerable women and children. She started her organisation seven years ago, with a purpose of helping disadvantaged women and girls.

The organisation focuses on helping school drop outs, single mothers and widows, plus families living in absolute poverty, this is done through the various trainings offered to the women such as catering, housekeeping, hairdressing, handcraft-making and childcare.

Children are also catered for at the centre by offering them education and a feeding programme. She says that her dream is to see women strive and thrive. “Regardless of one’s education everyone has potential to be successful and this organisation is here to help women with the necessary skills for them to have a brighter future.”

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Iza Irame

Iza Irame- CEO Crystal Telecom:  The newly appointed CEO has proved that women too can actually break the glass ceiling in the corporate field.

She held various managerial positions in a number of companies before joining Crystal Ventures; she was the chief executive officer of African Alliance Rwanda, Group Finance Manager at Horizon Group.

She is also a non-executive director on various boards, including the Rwanda Stock Exchange, African Alliance Rwanda, Zigama CSS and Rwanda Teaching University Hospital.

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Carine Mutoni:

She has been a journalist with Rwanda Broadcasting Agency for years now and this year, she won two awards, Female Journalist of the Year and Journalist of the Year awards.

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Rosine Mwiseneza

Rosine Mwiseneza: She is the reigning Ms Geek and it was her project Ivomerere, a unique automated irrigation system that offers an abundant supply of food even in the dry season using less time and energy, that won her the competition.

Apart from the title, the project saw her win Rwf2 million, a laptop, a Samsung phone and an IPad in prizes.

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Maya Musenga

Maya Musenga:

Musenga, a student from Wellspring Academy emerged the overall best speaker of this year’s National Young Entrepreneur’s Debating Championships, a competition that started in August and ended in September.

Schools that emerged winners at provincial level battled it out for the top spots.

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Diane Hirwa

Diane Hirwa - Artist:

The 30-year-old has not let her disability become an impediment to her success.

She can neither hear nor speak but this has not stopped her from exploiting her artistic talent.

Hirwa possesses magnificent talent that is envied by many, her paintings are remarkable and regardless of the hurdles she faces, she is determined to be more than successful.

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Zouzou Zoulaika Mwenedata

Zouzou Zoulaika Mwenedata- Activist:

She is one of the many Rwandans who have strived to build a happy future for survivors of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, her focus being on women and children.

Mwenedata, also a survivor of the Genocide, founded Women of Will Africa (WOW), a non-profit organisation that aims at boosting women in various aspects of their lives like entrepreneurship and socio-economic emancipation because she believes that this way, a better welfare of women and their families is ensured.

Several vulnerable children have received free education from the organisation and a great number of women have received training in emancipation skills. She says that the pain left in her heart after the Genocide pushed her to do something and help fellow survivors in dealing with the scars.

“I always desired to reach out and help people with a similar experience and that is how this organisation came to life, it really feels good being able to give back to society,” Mwenedata says.

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Dominic Alonga Uwase

Dominic Alonga Uwase- Founder of ‘Imagine We Rwanda’:

At only the age of 23, Alonga has managed to achieve her dream of seeing young people embrace a reading culture because she believes that with this, they can attain their potential and become more informed.

For her dream to become reality, she started her organisation ‘Imagine We Rwanda’ last year and has managed to reach out to over 2,000 children.

The organisation has so far donated books to various schools and also published books with original stories written by Rwandan children.

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Jolly Mutesi

Jolly Mutesi:

She is the brilliant and beautiful 19-year-old who beat 14 other contestants during the Miss Rwanda 2016 beauty pageant.

She has been so active and has for sure put her position to use. The beauty queen has done her part in supporting noble causes. 

She had a trip to Europe in promotion of some of her Miss Rwanda projects for example her ‘Agaciro Kanjye’ campaign that aims at promoting and restoring traditional culture and values among Rwandans and has also been the first Rwandan beauty queen to take part in the prestigious Miss World Competition.

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Women Sitting V-ball squad

Women Sitting V-ball squad:

The girl team got a chance to participate in the Rio Paralympic Games that took place in September in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, the biggest international multi-sport event for athletes with physical disabilities.

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Natasha Teta Semwaga:

She was the best O-Level female student and third overall. Her dream is to become an engineer that’s why she plans on pursuing Mathematics, Physics and Geography in A-Level. Teta attributed her success to hard work and support from her parents.

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Charly and Nina

Charly and Nina:

The girl group has dominated the music scene this year.

They released a string of hits and have done numerous ‘collabos’ with various artistes in and outside Rwanda.

They have the lead in nominations at the 2016 Salax Awards. The duo bagged nominations in six different categories: Best Female Artiste, Best Afrobeat Singer, Best New Artiste, Best Group of the Year, as well as Song of the Year and Video of the Year for their hit Indoro ft Big Fizzo.

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Barbara Demorest

Barbara Demorest:

She is an American activist who mainly focuses on helping women fight breast cancer.

This year, she chose to expand her charity work to Rwanda and has helped patients deal with the trauma and pain they endure with the cancer, more especially those who deal with the discomfort of a mastectomy. She does this by making Knitted Knockers (artificial breasts that can be worn after surgery).

She also took the initiative to train some women on how the knockers are made. Demorest says that her need to offer help to survivors led to her decision to quit her career.

“I was a certified public accountant but I retired to pursue Knitted Knockers full time. We send out up to 1,000 knitted knockers a month all over the country and the world.  It takes a lot of attention so I am working harder than I ever did for a pay check, but the rewards are priceless,” she says.

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Peace Kwizera

Peace Kwizera:

Apart from her grabbing the Miss Rwanda 2016 first runner up slot, the beauty queen made her country proud when she won herself the title of Miss Naïades 2016, a Pan African beauty contest held in Benin.

The 20-year-old is also a runway model, TV personality and an author of children’s books.

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Natasha Muhoza

Natasha Muhoza-Poet:

Natasha is one of Rwanda’s most outstanding poets. 

Empowerment, nationalism and education are some of the topics she mostly bases her poetry on.

The 23-year-old got a chance to showcase her talent at the Law Conference that was held in Kenya this year where she conveyed a powerful message in her poem titled ‘Must We’.