Every year, on March 8, International Women's Day is celebrated worldwide to honour women's accomplishments. In Rwanda, people gathered at Nyagatare Stadium, in Nyagatare district, to celebrate the national event under the theme: “DigitALL: Innovation and technology for gender equality.” As per this year’s theme, according to Bellancilla Nyirajyimbere, the President of the National Council for Women, International Women's Day should be a day to reflect on the achievements, setbacks and a day to think about forging solutions that address the country’s challenges through embracing technology. She said: “Innovation and technology is the backbone of the future. This year’s theme is a reminder to all women that technology should be an inspiration that will be used by women to forge solutions to the challenges the country faces.” The government is supporting women in the technology sector. It provided opportunities to women in urban and rural areas although officials noted that there is need to double efforts in campaigns aimed at attaining gender equality. Jeannette Mucurire, a member of a cooperative that adds value to pineapples and makes products including juice in Karangazi Sector, said that through training, the youth in her cooperative mastered basic computer knowledge. They are now able to better assess the work of their cooperative. ALSO READ: Girls in STEM: Celebrating gains and tackling challenges She said: “I am now able to know what is going on in our cooperative using a computer, as an uneducated rural woman. I feel that I have so far achieved some good level in embracing technology. “I can now monitor the presence, growth, and gaps be it in orders or human resource management, we have a qualified worker but I can review and assess data, that is an achievement, technology has eased our work loads.” The theme for this year was coined at a time when the country’s phone penetration in women aged 15-49 years stands at 48% according to figures released in 2020. The Minister of ICT and Innovation, Paula Ingabire, noted that by the end of the year, these figures will increase because women have to get included in the technology advancements and owning a telephone is key to achieving this. ALSO READ: Rwanda's technology contest Ms Geek goes continental Ingabire said: “Among others, we are discussing with telecommunication companies to get affordable telephones that can be paid in installments to women. We are reviewing how easy and feasible it can be, so that more women get access to telephones. “We urge parents, mainly the women, to take our young girls to school and encourage them to be involved in STEM [science, technology, engineering, and math] subjects because they are also capable of doing it.” Milestones Annually, female students in Universities and Technical and Vocational training schools, compete in the Ms Geek competition with an aim of inspiring them to think critically and design solutions to issues faced by Rwandans. In this competition, young women compete based on their innovative ideas as well as their ability to develop a certain technology or develop a business idea. The purpose of Ms Geek is to demonstrate that girls and young women can also excel in the technology area as well as build their confidence in competing in the open market. TechKobwa Boot Camp, a one-week boot camp gathering high school girls especially from remote high schools where the access to technology and computers is very limited, is another important initiative. For a week, the girls learn basic programming, internet and other computer skills. They also have access to mentors from various sectors who help them discover the good things about technology. In July, Rwanda is set to host the International World Deliver Conference, the first of its kind on the African continent that will see more than 5,000 participants discuss achievements, gaps, and the way forward towards achieving gender equality, worldwide. ALSO READ: Call to address existing gender gap in STEM fields The UN Women representative in Rwanda, Jeannette Kem, said innovation and technology is shaping the way we live and work and this became so evident with the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic. Technology and innovation are enablers to development, she said. She added: “The International Women Day is a moment to recognize women’s critical role and contribution to society as well as celebrate women and their male gender champions for the grounds covered towards gender equality and women's empowerment.” During the event to celebrate the achievements of women, 20 women received telephones as part of the process towards empowering them. The women also were given 40 cows and 20 gas cylinders to help them practice green cooking.