Rwanda will be in a firm position to achieve Vision 2020 agenda of attaining a middle income status in the next six years if women are empowered to participate from the driving seat.
Claire Akamanzi, the Rwanda Development Board chief operations officer, who was speaking at the Women in Technology Executive Seminar in Kigali on Monday, said more than 50 per cent of the country’s population are women.
The event, under the theme “Closing the gap in Stem fields in Rwanda,” was attended by women representatives from Silicon Valley-based tech companies such as Twitter, Cisco, Intel, EMC and Symantec, among others.
Akamanzi said government recognises that to double the per capita income by 2020, the country requires a knowledge-based economy that drives innovation, create entrepreneurship and economic growth.
“We have tripled our per capita income in the past 10 years; our vision is to double it in the next six years,” she said.
“We recognise that more than 50 per cent of the population we are to rely on are women, there is no way we can achieve our vision if we do not empower the largest percentage of our ‘resources.’”
Akamanzi said the women’s population factor explains why government is keen on women and girls empowerment.
The groundwork, she said, has been done to support women empowerment; a policy framework was developed to ensure women participate in economic growth.
There has been a deliberate effort to include women in economic and other development activities, including the legal framework that stipulates that at least 30 per cent of public office holders should be women.
The event, which also served as the launchpad for a mentorship programme, TechGirls Mentorship (TGM), a new initiative of Tech Women and the ICT chamber of the Private Sector Federation.
The initiative is aimed at reaching out to school-going girls to bridge the gender gap in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (Stem) fields.
Explaining the model, Alex Ntale, ICT chamber director at PSF, said the programme will create interest among school-going girls by placing them in Stem environments under the guidance of mentors.
“The programme is a brainchild of Tech Women alumni who participated in industrial training and internship at Silicon Valley last year. They sought to use knowledge acquired to assist other girls and develop the country not only to be a regional ICT hub, but also a centre of innovation. To achieve that, we have to focus on Stem fields,” Ntale said.
The programme, he added, will require inputs from Stem professionals and firms in the country and urged them to get involved as they would in turn benefit in various ways.
“We are approaching Stem firms around the country to host school-going girls, match them with mentors who will pass on insights on various careers in Stem,” Ntale said.
Women achievers in Stem fields urged participants to reach out to school-going girls and to be role models.
“We need to change the way Stem is projected for it to look appealing to young women for them to take interest. Rwanda has already put in place necessary measures for women participation, the rest is up to professions to play their role,” said Jill Von Berg, the vice president of Information Technology at Calix, a Silicon Valley-based firm engaged in the supply of telecommunication access equipment.