Over 2,300 new businesses and 1,500 new jobs have been created in two years by Rwandan women entrepreneurs involved in Skilling for Change, a unique collaboration between the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women (http://www.
The project launched in 2014 with the aim of supporting 15,000 rural Rwandan women to secure long-term economic independence by providing them with the skills, knowledge and tools they need to turn their micro enterprises into profitable and sustainable businesses. To date, it has provided financial literacy and investment readiness training to 16,146 women engaged in CARE International’s Village Savings and Loan Associations in the districts of Rulindo and Gicumbi. Through the project, 2,353 women have started new businesses, with over 1,535 new jobs being created
Rwanda has one of the fastest growing economies in Sub-Saharan Africa, and boasts one of the highest levels of financial inclusion in east Africa. But there are still significant gender gaps in economic activity. Research shows that in 2014, 28% of women had access to a bank account, compared to 38% of men – a gap of 10 percentage points. In 2015, this gap had increased to 15 percentage points, with 31% of women having access to a bank account, compared to 46% of men(1).
As the country’s economic development progresses, it is crucial that women are able to access the opportunities afforded by such growth. Skilling for Change aims to address the gender gap in economic activity and puts a special focus on empowering women to access financial services.
To date, Skilling for Change has linked 3,530 women to formal financial services, over 1,145 of whom have accessed a loan. The project has also collaborated with the Kenya Commercial Bank in Rwanda to roll out a range of products to enable women to access savings and loans via mobile phones. A number of women have also been trained to become mobile banking agents, so that they can process financial transactions for others in their local communities.
Cherie Blair, Founder of the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women and wife of former British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, is participating in the World Economic Forum meeting in Kigali. She said, “Women entrepreneurs have the potential to shape Africa’s economic future. The success of my Foundation’s Skilling for Change project in Rwanda has shown that when women are given the skills and tools they need to flourish, entire communities and economies benefit. Unlocking the full potential of women entrepreneurs is crucial to driving growth across Africa, and, indeed, the world.”
Skilling for Change is supported by Accenture’s corporate citizenship initiative (http://www.apo.af/uFi1yo), Skills to Succeed, which is equipping more than three million people around the world with the skills to get a job or build a business.
Laurie Lee, CEO of CARE International, said, “Putting women at the centre of development efforts is a catalyst for fighting poverty. When women are empowered to make and control their own money, the impact on their own lives and the lives of their families can be nothing short of life-changing.”