I chose vulnerable women over law – Rosine Urujeni

Rosine Urugeni is the Rwanda country director of Indego Africa, an American non-profit social enterprise that creates economic and educational opportunities for African artisan women.
Rosine Urugeni  during the interview at her office in Kacyiru. (S. Kantengwa)
Rosine Urugeni during the interview at her office in Kacyiru. (S. Kantengwa)

Rosine Urujeni is the Rwanda country director of Indego Africa, an American non-profit social enterprise that creates economic and educational opportunities for African artisan women. With a successful law career to her name, Urujeni chose to follow her true passion, helping vulnerable women in society.

She spoke to Women Today’s Sharon Kantengwa about her transition from prosecution to facilitating less fortunate women in society.

Tell us about yourself

I am Rwandan though I wasn’t born here. We came back to the country after the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi and I pursued my studies here. I am the second born out of six children and I am single. I am a lawyer by profession, working in the development field although I also do some legal research, especially on genocide. I have a Bachelor’s degree in Law from Kigali Independent University, and a Master’s degree from the Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights. I’m currently the country director of Indego Africa.

How did you get to Indego Africa?

When I was still in high school, I was part of the national youth council in 1998 at Kigali level where I got interested in volunteering in social welfare, economic development and working with the youth, women and vulnerable people in general. After I completed my law course, I became a prosecutor but then I went to Geneva to study international law. At that time, I wasn’t fluent in English and so I went to America for an English course, after which I was able to do another Masters course in leadership. Although I love being a lawyer, I think prosecution wasn’t meant for me because I was only 25 years old and I was just sending people to jail which was really difficult for me; I was young and did not enjoy it. Indego Africa was the kind of work that I could relate to as a member of the National Youth Council, by going to the field and making a direct impact in society. So I applied and they took me up as an operations manager.

So how did you end up as the country director?

I didn’t set out to be the country director but when I started working as an operations manager, I showed interest in revamping and nurturing our programme activities. I concentrated on capacity building and vocational training, which is more of maintenance. Within a couple of months, I became the programme manager. My managers saw the potential in me and so when the country director left, I became the acting country director for four months and during that time, everything went well; we did a good job as a team. I later took on the position full time and I’m sure that three years down the road, they haven’t regretted the decision.

Urujeni (front row in jeans) with the women beneficiaries of Indego Africa. (S. Kantengwa)

What have you achieved so far?

We have built a good relationship with our partners, who make sure that our business is good and our orders are right on time and that we meet the desired standard. Another achievement is the leadership academy that we started last year. It is a six months training programme in business management; we bring 25 women from different cooperatives together to learn about the chain in America, cooperative management, leadership, and conflict resolution. They are now able to use computers, despite being illiterate, and we have made a curriculum that is tolerant for their daily lives and businesses. We are currently training the second cohort and it’s steadily growing.

What challenges have you faced?

Indego Africa looks like a big organisation but we are a small team that works endlessly and tirelessly, which is good, but I believe we could do better if we were a bigger team and had enough resources. Another challenge is the ignorance of the vulnerable women that we work with because there is a certain level that they cannot attain quickly, it takes time. If we had young girls who have at least finished high school, they could go much faster. The problem is that girls with this education background cannot come out and exploit the opportunity available to them.

Any future plans?

Luckily enough, we got grants a couple of months ago to expand our livelihood programmes. Next year, we hope to have 90 young girls join our vocational school for our basic business training and we hope that at the end of the training, they will join our cooperative partners, or at least create their own, to help us improve our export activities. Also, as an organisation that is about the social impact, we are planning to include the refugee community. We want to help refugees who are living in camps with income generating activities. We want to help them earn a living and reduce crime rates. As Indego Africa, this is something that we are compelled to do and we hope to get grants for that.

What is your philosophy in life?

Always be consistent in what you say and what you do and it will make you valuable. This will give you a chance to see many opportunities available in life. This is what has helped me succeed in life.

What advice do you give to women?

They should not let anyone define who they are and they should endeavour to always be honest. They should work hard and never settle for anything less than what they want; go for what you think you are worth. They should also believe in themselves because every dream is attainable.



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