40 young Aspiring Social Entrepreneurs (31 women and 9 men) from 20 districts were awarded a prototyping fund with Digital Opportunity Trust (DOT) Rwanda, which is expected to help them to unlock new opportunities before joining the market. The opportunities include materials to build the first prototypes for market testing, to procure materials and supplies required in the prototyping phase, among others. DOT Rwanda is a youth-led movement of daring social innovators who have the tools, knowledge, and networks to create opportunities and transform their communities. For YOUTH, By YOUTH, With YOUTH. The 40 aspiring social entrepreneurs who are awarded the funds are in ICT, Agriculture, Food Processing, Arts, Fashion & Designs, and Community Empowerment sectors. In March 2021, DOT Rwanda launched the Daring to Shift (D2S); a four-year project that places young women at the center of inclusive growth. The project will see 7,650 youth (70% young women) between the ages of 18 and 35 leading development initiatives in their own communities across three thematic pillars: (1) Business improvement through the integration of new digital tools and technologies, (2) Employability through Digital Champion and Community Leadership and (3) Social Entrepreneurship. 70% is an intentional effort to address the barriers young women face in accessing opportunities. Violette Uwamutara, Digital Opportunity Trust (DOT) African Regional Advisor and DOT Rwanda Country Director said “Youth have experience, passion & first-hand knowledge of the needs and challenges of their communities, hence they are best positioned to develop locally relevant solutions”. “Rwandan youth don’t lament, they find solutions. Our largest resource is the Youth, they are Patriotic, Passionate, Energetic, Resilient, Creative, Tech savvy, Purpose driven and Action-oriented. They identify problems, build solutions, and create sustainable change and opportunities”, she said Violette said that Gender equality is a core DOT value and gender is mainstreamed throughout the Daring To Shift’s management and activities – including in planning, design, recruitment, implementation, and monitoring and evaluation – to ensure both gender equity and women’s empowerment. “When young women are supported as Innovators and leaders in their communities they become role models and accelerate equity and inclusion. They identify and build solutions that work for other young women and the community as a whole”, she said. Solange Tetero, Director General of Youth Empowerment at the Ministry of Youth and Culture urged the youth to be passionate and keep on pushing for what they want to achieve. “It is possible for us to have more entrepreneurs, but we also needed those who are hardworking because it is the key to achieving your goals, you will face different challenges in this journey but never give up,” she said She added that youth are the solution to the challenge of unemployment by creating their own jobs without waiting for others to employ them and benefit the community in general. The aspiring social entrepreneurs who were awarded walked away with a total of 20,000,000 million Rwandan francs. Beneficiaries speak out Youth Speaking on behalf of fellow aspiring social innovators, commended for opportunities of training in social entrepreneurship, virtual coaching during COVID-19, and financial support. Gisele Umuhire, the awarded youth in the agriculture sector said that this fund and training will help her project of producing fruit trees to be tested on the market before officially launching it and growing it as per her vision. “The prices of fruits are still high due to the shortage of it and with the skills and funds I’ve got from DOT Rwanda I hope to reach my goal of fighting malnutrition and high prices issue as well as protecting environments,” she said Adding that these prototyping funds will also help them to meet their potential customers, to get ready for the market and fulfill their customer needs. King Tuyishime is also another beneficiary based in art and his project is in line with protecting the environment and he is happy that he got both skills and money from DOT Rwanda Adding that he is going to use the fund he got in growing his existing products and expecting to get more support from DOT Rwanda, which will help him to launch his business. Way forward Following the prototype awarding, the youth will be linked to Incubators and Accelerators through mentorship and coaching and will be supported to launch and grow sustainable enterprises. In 2022, among these 40 aspiring young entrepreneurs, 10 will be selected and awarded funding to launch their Minimum Viable Products. Then those 10 young entrepreneurs will also compete, and 5 winners will be awarded seed funds. From left to right: Digital Opportunity Trust (DOT) African Regional Advisor and DOT Rwanda Country Director, Violette Uwamutara and Director General of Youth Empowerment at the Ministry of Youth and Culture, Solange Tetero.