Women for Women International Celebrates Grand Opening of Women’s Opportunity Centre in Rwanda

By Bidisha ShonarKoli Mamata | July 03, 2013 | Rwanda

This is a post on behalf of Women for Women International, based on their recent press announcement, backed by my endorsement and admiration of their work. I am not affiliated with them or with any of the organisations mentioned.

Last Friday, Women for Women International (WfWI) opened its landmark Women's Opportunity Centre (WOC) in Kayonza district, Rwanda. The WOC will serve as a centre of excellence and innovation supporting women's economic and social development in the region through training, employment, and business opportunities. The founders write:

The Women's Opportunity Centre is the result of a community-led approach that involved many partners to create this permanent resource for the people of Kayonza," said Afshan Khan, President and Chief Executive Officer of Women for Women International. "The WOC will promote future growth and prosperity in the region, and has the potential to reach over 28,000 women, their families, and communities in Kayonza district.

In addition to training for participants of WfWI's programme and support services for graduates, the WOC will rent space for training sessions to partner organisations, create a market and retail space for local small businesses, a storage and workspace for lease, an event space, a demonstration farm, and lodging and restaurant services for tourists. These economic development initiatives will contribute to the Rwandan government's Vision 2020 strategy, which aims to transition the country to a middle-income economy. The Ministry of Gender and Family promotion supported WfWI throughout the WOC construction process as the leading government partner spearheading women's economic empowerment in Rwanda.

The development of the WOC into a sustainable social enterprise will require new partnerships. To this end, WfWI seeks to build on the capacity of organisations present in Rwanda. Through partnerships, WfWI programme graduates will have access to employment and self-employment opportunities at the WOC. As they comment,

We are proud that a network of alliances and partners have committed to creating new economic development opportunities for women in Rwanda," said Ms. Khan. "To create lasting peace and prosperity will require the full engagement of women as economic and social leaders in their community. WfWI is proud to be a part of that national agenda.

The idea for a Women's Opportunity Centre in Kayonza grew out of an initial Bloomberg Philanthropies investment to establish a sustainable farming initiative in the region. Since 2008, Bloomberg Philanthropies has partnered with Women for Women International to create economic opportunities for women in Africa. In the next phase of the partnership with Bloomberg Philanthropies, Women for Women International is working in Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo to train 40,000 women for long-term income and employment opportunities.

Sharon Davis Design, a New York City-based architectural firm, designed the Women's Opportunity Centre and led the four-year construction project. The WOC includes numerous design elements that increase its environmental sustainability, including solar power generation, rainwater collection, biogas fuel for cooking, and composting toilets. The facility was made using nearly half a million clay bricks, each of which was handmade by women in the region who will benefit from the WOC.

The inauguration of the Women's Opportunity Centre is dedicated in memory of Aloisea Inyumba, the former Rwandan Minister of Gender and Family Protection, who was a member of the Advisory Board of WfWI before her passing in 2012. Inyumba was a firm believer in women's roles as leaders in their country. She will be remembered as a champion of women's empowerment.

Since 1997, Women for Women International has served over 56,000 women in Rwanda.

Since 1993, Women for Women International (WfWI) has worked to provide women survivors of war, civil strife, and other conflicts with resources to move from crisis and poverty to stability and self-sufficiency. WfWI delivers these resources through a tiered, yearlong programme that begins with direct financial aid and emotional support. Participants also learn about their legal rights; receive life-skills training such as health awareness, numeracy, budgeting and saving, decision-making and negotiation, and civic participation; learn business and vocational skills; and gain access to income-generating activities where they can apply those skills and begin moving towards economic stability. Along with helping more than 372,000 women in the past 20 years to rebuild their own lives and those of their families and communities after war, WfWI uses its voice to call global attention to the unique role that women play in advancing peace throughout society. WfWI works in Afghanistan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Iraq, Kosovo, Nigeria, Rwanda, and South Sudan.

Bidisha is a 2013 IRP New Media Fellow and a blogger for the Huffington Post, where this was originally published.

View All Posts By Bidisha ShonarKoli Mamata

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