Young women and girls at Resonate are taking charge of their callings. Their weapon for success is storytelling. With this, they are able to share and mirror their journeys in life without fear of being judged. These stories act as a reflection, and are a source of inspiration to those listening.
By listening to each other’s stories, they understand that no matter their past, they can always rise and achieve something in their lives. They then plan out their future and what they want to accomplish.
One of these exceptional women is Annonciatha Murebwayire, whose life hit rock bottom when she got married to a man who already had a wife. She was the second wife, and so her in-laws did not warm up to her.
Her marriage crumbled, and one day, when she felt she had had enough, Murebwayire made what she calls the very difficult decision to leave her husband, for she was losing her identity and no longer recognised the woman she was becoming.
“I gathered my strength and made a difficult decision. I left my husband and took our three children with me. Although I felt relieved, as a single mother, I didn’t know how I would even feed my children,” she says.
She was constantly worried about how she was going to survive, starting afresh was a daily challenge, but everything changed when she attended a workshop that was organised by Resonate.
Resonate is a social enterprise that provides short leadership workshops that allow women and girls to shift their mind-sets, turn skills into action, and fulfil their potential.
Murebwayire says this encounter transformed her life.
“Before the workshop, I never realised I had anything to be proud of, but as the sessions progressed, I became aware of my accomplishments and I came to value them. It had taken courage to leave my husband and that was a huge achievement. I realised that my difficult past didn’t have to hold me back from securing a bright future. I came to know my self-worth.”
As a woman, she had been afraid to venture into business but after the training, Murebwayire made a conscious decision to renounce everything that was holding her back.
“I realised that I had been underestimating myself. After the training, I set a goal to be a successful example to my children. I recognised that my gender had nothing to do with my abilities. So, I got the courage and confidence to apply for a loan from the bank. Although I started with very little money, I joined a savings group and started doing business,” she narrates.
Today, Murebwayire owns a supermarket, and is soon opening another one. Plus, all her children have joined university.
Chantal Iradukunda, a university student and another beneficiary of this program, says she became a different woman when she participated in a Resonate workshop, delivered in partnership with Imbuto Foundation, an organization founded by the First Lady of Rwanda, Mrs. Jeannette Kagame. The Foundation contributes to the development of a nation of empowered and dignified Rwandans, through youth, education, health and economic empowerment programs.
“I had low self-esteem and though I tried to perform well in school, I really didn’t know who I was or what I was going to be when I was done with school. I was always afraid of the future,” she says.
But she says all this changed after attending sessions with Resonate.
“After I became part of this programme, I realised that what is keeping most girls and women behind is the lack of confidence. Most of us are not aware of our worth or what we are capable of doing,” she says.
The 27-year-old, therefore, encourages young women and girls to stand up and fight for their future.
“I now know my worth and I have made it my goal to inspire fellow women into achieving their dreams. If we have confidence, we can exploit our potential. This is why I advise young girls and women not to be scared, or doubt if they can make it. At times we meet people in life who discourage and want to put us down, but this should not stop us. We can make it as long as we stand and help each other out,” Iradukunda says.
It is smart economics to invest in women
Ayla Schlosser, the co-founder and CEO of Resonate, says it is incredibly powerful when women are empowered to unveil their potential, this is why the organisation focuses on helping women develop self-confidence, and equipping them with leadership skills that help them turn their dreams into reality.
“We have seen the incredible changes that take place when we trust the women we work with to take charge of their lives, and create the changes they want to see in their lives and communities. We have learned again and again that tough problems are best solved by those who are directly impacted by them, and we want this lesson to be reflected in our team,” Schlosser says.
Established in 2013, Resonate has impacted the lives of over 5000 women in Rwanda and in other countries in East Africa.
Their work is through partnership with other organisations where they reach out to beneficiaries to impart them with leadership skills, among other things.
“Our partners are organisations that provide hard skills training, such as vocational skills or entrepreneurship. We amplify the impact of our partners by integrating confidence and leadership into those programmes, and allow participants to take the skills they have learned and put them to use,” Schlosser explains.
Some trainings are usually held for two to three days whereas others run for over six months.
There is the leadership programme which is rooted in storytelling; women learn how to tell their own stories in ways where they see themselves as leaders who are in control of the choices they make in life, and this gives them a sense of ownership.
There is the professional development programme that equips specialists with skills such as team management, motivation and effective communication.
The action leadership is specifically geared towards youth where they learn how to be leaders through designing and implementing community projects.
The facilitators’ training programme which was launched late last year trains staff of other organisations on how to implement programmes designed by Resonate in their respective organisations. Their aim is to empower their partner organisations to deliver their programmes to their participants as this will also help the organisation’s expansion into other countries.
Schlosser notes that with these programmes, women have been able to shift the way they see themselves, with some starting up small businesses, livestock projects, and others getting promotions at work.
Norette Turimuci, the organisation’s country director, says they have been able to complement a lot of existing programmes in Rwanda that are already trying to empower women.
Ensuring that women access leadership opportunities means a lot for women empowerment. This is why we train women on how to weave their destinies, we focus on self-esteem, values, strength and what makes them different, she says.
Turimuci highlights that their aim is to help women have a better understanding of who they are, have a higher sense of confidence so that they can put what they have learned into action.
“Some of the women we work with, for example, in Gahanga, Kicukiro District, are young mothers. These young women wouldn’t probably view themselves as leaders, hence, we use this opportunity to work with them at this stage in their lives and help them understand that they are in control of their lives, and can lead change in their communities,” Turimuci says.
Their goal is to reach 20,000 women and girls by 2020, Turimuci says.
“We are very ambitious because we know that after all these years of doing this, we know it works. We have been able to track our impact and are now working on how to scale and reach more participants; we hope to reach as many women as we can.”
BENEFICIARIES SPEAK OUT
At times we go on living without looking back to see how far we have come. This is very important and at Resonate, we get a chance to reflect on life, this helps one recognize what they have achieved so far, where they are and where they want to be. And as such it encourages us to work even harder and achieve our set goals in life.
Having these skills as a woman helps you to be focused but most importantly have the courage to chase your dreams. Even in the face of challenges you are strong enough to overcome anything because you know you are in charge. I know I can survive in any situation and my dream is to help other women succeed.
Josette Gatimbazi Uwera
Women can be independent if they have such skills. I have faith that I can do just about anything as long as I put my mind to it. I remember after getting training from Resonate, I knew I wanted to own a house. It’s been now two years after the training and I have managed to build my own home. Women and girls should be strong and productive because when equipped with the right skills they can certainly achieve their dreams.
Leadership skills are very important because they help us become self-reliant. Though I am not employed, I managed to start up a small project where I rear pigs and from it, I make some money that helps me survive. I believe that I can do anything absolutely whether its farming or something else as long as I can get means for survival. But having this mindset comes when one is empowered.