Empowering women entrepreneurs across Rwanda

Staff Writer

Wide high angle shot of businesswoman leading project meeting at conference table in office. Image Courtesy: Getty Images

MTN Rwanda has just wrapped up its 5th edition of its “Connect Women in Business” program, an initiative we have been running since 2019 through which we provide capacity building for, and award monetary prizes to, women led saving groups in partnership with African Evangelistic Enterprise (AEE) Rwanda, Alight Rwanda, National Women’s Council, National Union of Disabilities’ Organisations of Rwanda (Nudor), National Council of Persons with Disabilities (NCPD) and the Ministry of Gender and Family Promotion.

In doing so, we are privileged to witness the work that is being done by these entities in empowering women across Rwanda to be self-sufficient through entrepreneurship. We have seen firsthand how providing business skills development for the women participants and providing financial support removes some of the long-existing barriers for women to start and grow their own businesses.

Recognizing the immense potential and resilience of women entrepreneurs, initiatives such as “Connect Women in Business” aimed at empowering businesswomen have become imperative for fostering inclusive economic growth and sustainable development. Investing in women is not just a moral imperative; it is also a smart economic strategy.

It has been shown that when women are economically empowered, they reinvest a significant portion of their income into their families and communities, leading to broader societal benefits. Empowering women entrepreneurs yields significant returns on investment, leading to increased productivity, improved livelihoods, and poverty reduction.

According to the UN Women report published in March 2023, titled Women’s Economic Empowerment by Advancing Gender Responsive Law, Frameworks, Policies, and Partnerships, businesses owned by women have demonstrated remarkable resilience and sustainability globally, playing a crucial role in strengthening economic stability on a national scale.

In realizing the large-scale impact of empowering women entrepreneurs, the question then becomes what role the private sector plays and what more can be done in ensuring opportunities are provided for more women entrepreneurs across Rwanda.

Many corporates are engaging in social impact initiatives that align with their core values, business objectives, and areas of expertise. These initiatives often focus on issues such as education, healthcare, environmental sustainability, and poverty eradication.

Within those categories lies support for women. Several Corporate Social Investment (CSI) initiatives are geared towards empowering women, educating them on becoming independent, and paving their own way to development.

What becomes key, is ensuring that the CSI initiatives aimed at empowering women are sustainable and can be easily assessed to ensure the support provided does not only yield short term benefits.

What was key for MTN Rwanda was partnering with entities such as AEE, Alight and Nudor who are able to stay close to the women who participate in the program and ensure the financial support the winners receive is reinvested into their businesses so sustainable growth can be realized for these women entrepreneurs.

MTN conducts an annual assessment of the previous participants in the “Connect Women in Business” to get a view of the changes they have been able to implement in their business using the newly acquired business skills and prize money won during the Connect Women in Business Awards event that occurs every March.

In this way, “Connect Women in Business” aims to transcend traditional charity models, representing a deep commitment to fostering sustainable socio-economic development by harnessing the untapped potential of women entrepreneurs.

To date, as we conclude the fifth season of “Connect Women in Business”, this initiative has successfully supported over 150 women savings, benefiting more than 2,000 individuals.

Through “Connecting Women in Business”, MTN Rwanda identifies and supports women savings groups that have defied the odds to establish and grow their businesses. These women represent the backbone of their communities, demonstrating remarkable resilience, creativity, and entrepreneurial spirit.

By providing financial assistance and resources, MTN Rwanda empowers these women to scale up their businesses, create employment opportunities, and contribute significantly to economic development in their respective communities. MTN Rwanda prioritizes a diverse range of women across multiple sectors, including agriculture, arts, entrepreneurship, digital, and individuals with disabilities.

As we celebrate the achievements of women entrepreneurs and recognize the vital role they play in driving economic growth, we believe it is essential to create platforms for connecting and supporting women in business. By fostering networks, providing mentorship, and facilitating access to markets and resources, we can empower women entrepreneurs to thrive and succeed in their ventures.

MTN Rwanda’s “Connect Women in Business” is just one of the many examples of how private sector entities can contribute to women’s empowerment and inclusive economic development.

By partnering with stakeholders across sectors, we can build a more equitable and prosperous future where every woman can unleash her full potential and contribute to the prosperity of her community and nation.

In conclusion, empowering women in business is not just the right thing to do; it is also the smart thing to do. By investing in women entrepreneurs, we can unlock a powerful engine of economic growth, drive innovation, and build more resilient and inclusive societies. Let us continue to support and champion women in business, recognizing them as catalysts for positive change and progress.

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