Violette Uwamutara is the Country Director of Digital Opportunity Trust (DOT) in Rwanda. She is the recipient of the 2013 Anita Borg Institute Change Award for her transformative work in supporting women in ICT in Rwanda. She is passionate about developing economic opportunity for youth and women in Rwanda. Women Today’s Laura Jakobschuk had a word with her.
Briefly introduce yourself?
I grew up in Kenya and moved to Canada in 1991. I’m a graduate of Canada’s Carleton University and Trent University and I hold a Master’s Degree in Public Administration, focusing on International Development.
Previously, I worked as a Diplomat for the Rwandan Embassy in the USA, serving in Washington D.C. where I rose to the position of First Secretary.
I have led DOT Rwanda since its registration in 2010, whereby 30,000, 50%, young women were trained not only in technology but also in 21st Century workforce skills, enabling them to create businesses or secure employment.
Why is international development important to you?
My first experience with development work was in university, where I was fortunate to do a placement in Ecuador. I worked in a local school and at a health centre in a village holding workshops on health issues. It’s my greatest passion to help people become empowered, creating opportunities for them and becoming self-sufficient.
I think any international development approach needs to be locally based. DOT uses local talent in the areas we work in and it’s the local solution that makes it work.
What challenges do you face in your position at DOT?
I have an amazing opportunity, where I get to work and interact with youth and women and understand some of the challenges they face as they work to rebuild their lives.
Knowing this, I am committed to creating innovative programmes and gather resources to enable them to reach their potential. My philosophy is not to focus on challenges but rather to see them as an opportunity for innovation and do my job better.
What is your advice to young people planning to pursue a career in this field?
For those who have decided they want to go into the world of international development, they can major in any field, but the key is you need to be passionate about helping your people and your country advance to the next level. Start by volunteering to have a feel of it with a local organisation where you can meet and network with various people and learn about more opportunities.
What kind of opportunities do young women in Rwanda have today?
I think Rwanda is amazing when you think about the opportunities for women. The key is to have an enabling society that actually understands that empowering women and gender equality is essential in a country’s development. I think that has been realised in our country. We have these amazing, empowered women who can compete for a job position and win.
The key is for women to be role models and mentors for other women. Youth and women should always seize any opportunity that comes their way and experience. And history shows that they always diversify and scale whatever opportunity comes in their direction.
What are your future plans?
I want to continue impacting more people. I love what I’m doing, and I want to continue doing it. At DOT Rwanda we are working to raise more funds so that we can be able to expand our programmes, leading to increased economic opportunity for the youth and the women.
Why are you passionate about helping Rwandans? How did it feel to return to Rwanda, your family’s homeland?
Why not? I am Rwandan, Rwanda runs through my veins, before I can help outsiders; I have to start at home.
Home is always best. Though I wasn’t born in Rwanda, Rwanda has always been in my heart and soul. Credit goes to my father Mzee Rwangombwa for instilling in us the true sense of being a true Rwandan.
Are you married/do you have children?
Yes I’m married to a wonderful man, who is my number one supporter.