The constant struggle of women in the male - dominated business World

Undoubtedly, female business owners face more obstacles compared to those encountered by their male counterparts. But still, as more Rwandan women are moving into business, many others find themselves looking to new, positive role models

Undoubtedly, female business owners face more obstacles compared to those encountered by their male counterparts. But still, as more Rwandan women are moving into business, many others find themselves looking to new, positive role models.

In Rwanda, like in many other developing countries, successful women in both the business and other sectors in the country have started paving the way for their fellow women, especially the unprivileged ones. By sharing their knowledge and experiences, they have contributed substantially towards the economic growth of the country.
For instance, a local organisation of women weavers called Gahaya Links provides financial and skilled support to needy women. The local NGO has also generated small scale projects to help them earn a living.
Gahaya Links offers financial support and vocational training to the women, and as a result, many have benefited a lot.
 “We are taught … skills, which helps us generate a living,” said Amina Uwera, a 30-year-old single mother of four. 
Despite the presence of NGOs like Gahaya Links, women have continued to face challenges. Most of those challenges are compounded by society’s perception of women.
Traditionally, women -- particularly in developing countries -- are portrayed as house servants and are not expected to engage in any form of social development. Women are often denied their rights because of cultural beliefs. Many live in cultural settings where men exclude them from the decision-making process.
In many societies, illiterate or rural women are not the only ones being oppressed. Educated women – even the urban and elite – often have to struggle just as hard to find a meaningful place in society. Many have shied away from politics, opting for business in the hope of finding a middle ground between economic empowerment and tradition.
Charles Kanimba, a lecturer at the School of Finance and Banking, (SFB) says that even getting into a profitable business is a bigger challenge than people may think.
He also notes that, “Women should also learn that timing can be important if they intend to engage into business, and bear in mind that planning and sacrifice would definitely go hand in hand if you are targeting at a successful business.”
“Engaging in business means having to deal with numerous changes in technology as well as the art of balancing multiple demands,” says Claudine Agasaro, owner of an upscale clothing shop in Kigali’s Union Trade Centre.
Umurerwa Jacqueline says lack of opportunities and contacts in the business field are not the only problems women face. A number of businesswomen are restricted by lack of information and access to financial services. This hampers their ability to set up successful businesses.
But despite the above obstacles, many women are more engaged in business fulltime today than they did 30 years ago. So one would be wrong to conclude that Rwandan women are lazy; of late they have proven to themselves and to the world that despite the traditional culture that they have to cope with, they can fairly compete with their male counterparts.
It must be recognized, however, that although women have showed great interest and ability to participate in the social and economic development of Rwanda, there is still a great need for the ministry in charge of Economic Planning and ministry of Gender Equality and Family Promotion to support them.
It is also important that elite businesswomen from the developed world continue to give moral support and confidence to their African counterparts. The lack of power and meaning in our women’s lives is one of the greatest obstacles to general social development.
All Rwandan parliamentarians should embrace the potential of women. As history has it, women have been deprived of their rights and exploited. Women are under-utilized; getting more of them into the workforce is part of the solution to many economic woes, including over-population and poverty.
Some positive steps have been taken, and a number of women have succeeded as a result. Rwanda is becoming a worldwide model for women in politics. Forty-nine per cent of our MPs are women. That’s the highest percentage of women MPs in any world government, according to a 2006 United Nations Development Programme report. And 36 per cent of our Cabinet members are women.
The government of Rwanda, working together with NGOs and legal institutions, has made serious efforts to uphold women’s rights. The social and cultural rights and the committee on the elimination of discrimination against women, the national police, as well as the constitution itself, are signs of progress made in standing up for women, especially their right to freely participate in any field of their choice. The government has also continued to sensitize women about their fundamental and political rights.
Today’s Rwandan businesswomen are striving to build a reputation for being hard working. Most businesses work in small groups to produce more efficiently. Most Rwandan women work tirelessly to develop their skills and earn a better living. This will only continue if the value of women is utilized and highlighted.


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