Removing all barriers that block the full participation in the economy will not only empower more women, but will also play a significant role in closing the gender gap and boost the economy, the First Lady, Mrs Jeannette Kagame, has said.
Speaking at the launch of ‘SheTrades’ Initiative at the Kigali Convention Centre, yesterday, Mrs Kagame told participants that to deal with some of the challenges that deter women from advancing, the government of Rwanda has adopted a practical grassroots-based economic solution by introducing pro-poor economic initiatives.
She cited the Girinka, which she hailed for greatly benefiting women living on less than $2 a day, allowing them to afford a home, school fees and renewable energy sources such as biogas.
“In addition to providing a source of livelihood, this programme has enabled women and men in this category, to save and multiply their income, with heartwarming testimonies of families moving from $2 to $200 a day. Thanks to such socio-economic programmes, the Government of Rwanda lifted 1 million people out of poverty between 2000 and 2010,” she said.
Mrs Kagame expressed her optimism that the launch of ‘SheTrades’ Rwanda Chapter will inspire more women to join this initiative, so they too can access the same information, and opportunities, currently benefiting only a few Rwandan women.
The Executive Director of the International Trade Centre, Arancha González, said supporting women to trade shouldn’t only be a women’s issue but a collective effort.
“Today, in the world of instant communication and networking, this is also about the region. When progress is made in one country, it also benefits its neighbors. This is also not just about women, it’s never just about women, and it’s the collective of men, women, youth, private sector, academia, civil society, government, regional and international organisations coming together; making sure that she can trade,” she said.
González congratulated Rwanda for being proactive in this through providing a mix of opportunities, equality and government action which is essential to ensure this translates into benefits on the ground.
The Minister for Trade, Industry and East African Affairs, Francois Kanimba, told participants that the ‘SheTrades’ initiative is perfectly aligned to Rwanda’s desire to empower women in business as a crucial driver of sustainable development and poverty reduction.
“The Ministry I head recognises the important role women play in business especially when it comes to trade with other countries given that more than 70 percent of Rwanda’s cross border traders are women,” he said.
MTN Rwanda chief executive Bart Hofker pledged support to promote SheTrades app throughout the company’s media platforms and activities.
He also promised to provide training for women entrepreneurs on issues ranging from doing business online to using technological applications.
“We aim to harness the potential of Rwandan women entrepreneurs and enhance the growth of women-owned businesses to scale up and access markets. We are committed to connecting 2,000 women to markets by 2020 as we believe this is an urgent necessity for inclusive economic growth,” Hofker said.
Another major commitment made at the SheTrades Rwanda launch came from ‘New Faces, New Voices’, a Pan-African advocacy group for women in finance, which announced that it would establish a new Women Investment Fund and help connect 3,000 women entrepreneurs to markets.
The ‘SheTrades’ initiative, launched in 2015, aims to connect one million women entrepreneurs to market by 2020. The launch of SheTrades Rwanda brings together representatives from government, academia and the private sector to commit to actions that support women entrepreneurs and help them overcome barriers, including growing their businesses and accessing global markets.