Today, as we celebrate International Women’s Day, we should take a few moments to not only look back at the gains we have made over the last twenty years but also examine the challenges that still remain.
In just over two decades, Rwanda has enacted women-friendly laws that have ensured sexual health, legal autonomy, combated gender-based violence, protected property and inheritance rights of women and young girls and have guarantee affirmative action in all areas of government.
These huge steps have not only been lauded in the country but also been celebrated internationally.
To say that the plight of the Rwandan woman is forever changed is a moot point.
What we now need as we move forward is to solidify the gains that we’ve made. Financial inclusion and financial independence are, I believe, by far the best guarantors of doing just that.
When women are able to meaningfully participate in the economy the knock-on effects are huge.
I would like to share the story of Annick Musangwineza, one of the thousands of women Tigo Rwanda has worked with.
Seven years ago, the 33-year-old Nyarugenge resident was a simple cloth merchant with a dream of going to university and bettering herself and her young family.
But with earning slightly over Rwf100,000 a month, it seemed that that was all a fantasy. That is, before Tigo Rwanda availed to her a business starter pack worth Rwf 30,000 that consisted of 30 SIM cards in 2009.
From that small financial injection seven years ago and her own business acumen, she is now able to earn up to Rwf 800,000 a month in commissions; that money has allowed her to pay her tuition in ULK, the largest private university in the country and graduate in the degree in computer science.
Not only has she been able to earn a coveted bachelors degree, she has also been able to buy a new house and purchase farmland and livestock.
And while we do not take credit for her success, because that was down to her hard work and business acumen, our partnership with her played a role in unleashing her potential.
At Tigo Rwanda, we believe that women like Musangwineza, who need a bit of support to unleash their potential, hold the key to ensuring a sustainable future for the country.
That is why on 22, February this year at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain, Tigo Rwanda became the only telecom in Africa to sign the Connected Women Commitment Initiative; in it we pledge to increase the number of women using our mobile financial services and internet services from 39 per cent of all users today to 45 per cent of users by 2020.
We understood that unless more women were able to enjoy the advantages of joining the formal financial system, as well as increasing their use of the tool that is the Internet, our dream of becoming a middle-income country in a decade or so would be almost impossible to achieve.
In addition to the Connected Women Initiative, we are also launching the ‘Tigo Women Entrepreneurship Fund’ in partnership with the National Women’s Council today; the Fund will give more than 300 women from around the country startup capital worth Rwf150,000 to operate their own mobile money businesses.
We believe that through these initiatives, we shall, in our small way, do our part in giving opportunities to Rwandan woman to flourish. We are living in an exciting time in our country’s history and we are extremely proud to be a part of this change.
I wish all my fellow women a very Happy Women’s Day.
The writer is the Deputy Chief Executive Officer, Tigo Rwanda