As part of the celebrations of International Women’s Day, Access Bank Rwanda has provided a platform for women-owned small and medium businesses from across the country to exhibit their products and be able to reach markets. The exhibition, taking place at the car-free zone in Kigali's central business centre, began on Thursday, March 9 and will close on Friday. It followed a breast cancer screening exercise on Wednesday which was also organized by Access Bank, to give women a chance to be tested for the life-threatening disease. The exhibition is also an opportunity for businesswomen, who work with Access Bank in different ways, to network and learn from one another. “At Access Bank we value women. There are many initiatives that we have established for women and they have always been there. For this year, in particular, we want to enable them to access the market and be closer to their clients,” Prossie Kalisa, Executive Director of Retail and Digital Banking at the Bank, said “We want our customers to know that we not only give them loans, and other banking services, but we also go beyond that. And that is why we gave them this special platform for them to showcase their products and services. The exhibitors include women-led cooperatives and companies that are in the apparel industry, publishers and booksellers, and restaurants, among other businesses, all from the provinces and the City of Kigali. The businesswomen said the exhibition was an opportunity any business would want to have. “This exhibition has been an important platform for our businesses because we normally have products but sometimes we lack visibility,” Mutesi Gasana, a publisher and bookseller, said. Gasana has previously participated in Access Bank’s Womenpreneur Pitch-A-Ton programme which is designed to provide women-owned businesses across Africa with access to finance, world-class business training and mentorship opportunities. “One of the challenges facing businesswomen is access to finance due to the fact that banks require collateral for loans and long processes. But we appreciate that Access Bank has been a good partner to businesswomen with its low-interest loans tailored for women-owned businesses,” she said. Through its W Initiative, the bank supports women businesses to access finance, capacity-building seminars to improve their business skills as well as career development workshops and advisory services. The programme also includes campaigns and exhibitions for women-owned businesses.