United Nations Under-Secretary General and UN Women Executive Director Ms. Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka visited Rwanda to participate in the 3rd edition of the Transform Africa Summit which has become a landmark forum on Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) in the continent, gathering around 4,000 participants.
Ms Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, acknowledged that Rwanda is arguably a step forward when it comes to inclusive economy where both men and women are equally involved in impacting the country’s economic progress. As she was addressing the farmers of the Cooperative des Cultivateurs de Mais (COOPCUMA) in Gatsibo District, Eastern Province, she commended the achievements of the cooperative, which is led by a woman, in using the “Buy From Women” platform. The platform is an innovative, data-driven, mobile enabled supply chain system that connects women farmers to information, finance and markets.
Ms Mlambo-Ngcuka hailed Rwanda’s incredible political will which moved the country a step ahead in terms of gender promotion and was impressed of the confidence placed into women in regards to the contribution towards the country’s development.
“Rwanda made outstanding achievements during the Millenium Development Goals and we have no doubt that the country will keep the same pace with the Sustainable Development Goals because of the foresight of the leadership. We have been truly moved by the extent to which not only did we see women in Rwanda take a strong leadership representation in the country but also becoming solution providers to the issues that affect many parts of the world, and having a woman heading such an effective cooperative is yet another example of how women can make a change in the development of a country” she said.
Led by the Minister of Gender and Family Promotion, Ms Esperance Nyirasafari, the Executive Director Ms. Mlambo-Ngcuka, the UN Women Regional Director Ms Izeduwa Derex-Briggs, UN Women country representatives Ann Githuku Shongwe (South Africa), Clara Anyangwe (Malawi) and Fatou Lo (Rwanda) visited the Early Childhood Development (ECD) and Family Center in Nyagatovu, Kayonza District. The centre is a prototype model for community based services that promotes the holistic development of children aged between 3 to 6 years. It is an initiative of the Imbuto Foundation supported by the United Nations in Rwanda.
During her visit to Rwanda, Ms. Mlambo-Ngcuka attended the opening ceremony of the 3rd edition of Transform Africa Summit. In her remarks during the opening panel discussion, she commended H.E Paul Kagame for being among the ten Heads of State who accepted to be HeForShe champions and living up to his commitment of bridging the gender digital divide and attain parity in ICT access. She noted that although progress had been achieved, a lot still needs to be done to close the gender digital gap. “Currently, only 25% of the workforce in the tech industry are women, so clearly there is a bit of way to go, given that projections are that in the near future about 90% of the jobs available will require some form of digital literacy,” noted Ms Mlambo-Ngcuka.
The Executive Director also visited Rwanda’s Isange One Stop Center, a holistic model for supporting victims of gender based violence and child abuse. So far 44 similar centers have been established in various districts in Rwanda. The model - supported by One UN through UN Women with financial support from the Netherlands Embassy to Rwanda – is being implemented through the Ministry of Gender and Family Promotion as the coordinating institution, Ministry of Health, Ministry of Justice for legal assistance and Rwanda National Police for not only investigations but also as an institution which was in the pilot phase (2009-2012).
Ms. Mlambo-Ngcuka was later received by the Speaker of the Chamber of Deputies, Rt. Hon Mukabalisa Donatille, who was accompanied by other parliamentarians and members of various standing committees responsible for gender equality and women’s empowerment. The Executive Director emphasized on the great impact of having a majority of women in the Parliament and how Rwanda could set the tone on the continent and beyond.
The Executive Director also held bilateral meetings with the CEO of ECONET - a privately held diversified telecommunications group with operations and investments offering products and services in the core areas of mobile and fixed telephony services, broadband, internet, satellite and fibre optic networks globally, and the President of Carnegie Mellon University (CMU), Emeritus Jared Cohon. Ms. Lynn Kirabo, a young Software Engineer and Data enthusiast, who is a CMU Alumni and former UN Women Scholarship Recipient also had the opportunity to exchange with the Executive Director on how far the UN Women scholarship made her go as she is currently enrolled in a PhD program related to ICT.
On the last day of her visit to Kigali, Ms. Mlambo-Ngcuka participated in the Smart Africa Women’s Summit led by the First Lady of the Republic of Rwanda, Mrs. Jeanette Kagame. The Summit aimed at highlighting the strategic interventions that are being pursued to empower women and girls in ICT.
At the opening of the Summit, the Executive Director screened a short Ethiopian film, Alem, showing the effect and burden of care work on girls and women and the importance of giving equal opportunities to both boys and girls. In her remarks, she acknowledged the importance of ICT as a critical catalyst in socio-economic development and called for actions to ensure online safety for women and girls. “When we focus on creating Smart Africa, it has to be about creating a safe Africa for women and girls,” said Ms. Mlambo-Ngcuka.
The Summit concluded by awarding the winner of Miss Geek Africa, an inaugural competition designed to inspire African girls to pursue careers in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) fields and to use technology to solve the continent’s challenges.
After the official closing ceremony, the Executive Director had a bilateral meeting with H.E. Paul Kagame, the President of the Republic of Rwanda, as well as Mr. Belay Begashaw, the Director General of the Sustainable Development Goals Centre for Africa. Later that day, she also joined the heads of UN Agencies in laying a wreath of flowers in remembrance of all UN staff who lost their lives during the genocide, and met the representatives of UN Agencies in Rwanda, the Resident Coordinator and UN Women staff.
The Executive Director concluded her mission with a meeting with Rwanda’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation, Ms. Louise Mushikiwabo. They discussed strategies for achieving gender parity by 2030 and fulfilling President Kagame’s HeForShe IMPACT commitments, particularly the goal of tripling girls’ enrollment in technical and vocational training (TVET) to advance women’s employment opportunities.