As one half of the TechWomen Rwanda delegation explored mobile tech entrepreneurship in a stimulating visit to HeHe Limited, the other half learned about global development efforts at the Millennium Village of Mayange, located 25 miles south of Kigali. Operating in 10 countries across Sub-Saharan Africa, the Millennium Villages Project (MVP) works to lift communities out of poverty by providing efficient technologies in farming, health, and education. The Mayange site is comprised of five villages and serves over 28,000 people. On the last day of the TechWomen delegation trip to Rwanda, members visited schools and workshops, and learned how on-site programs promoted women’s empowerment through STEM.
The Millennium Villages Project is dedicated to developing alternative forms of sustainable income. TechWomen first visited the Craft Center at Mayange, which achieves this mission by using the power of the internet to increase women’s economic independence. In addition to the various items made by community members in the shop area – including desks, headboards, and chairs – women contribute to the shop by using their knitting and weaving skills to create one-of-a-kind baskets. The Craft Center then sells these baskets online, a system that has yielded encouraging results. Before the arrival of the Millennium Village Project, many women had an income of $1/a day working in farming. Now, these same women have a daily income of $4 through this new form of commerce. As a result of this success, a website dedicated to selling these baskets is under development. It was rewarding for delegation members to interact with the women at the Craft Center, and learn how technology has transformed their lives in positive ways.
TechWomen then visited the Millennium Community Development Organization (MCDO). This credit cooperative was developed to help people build independent organizations and small businesses so that they can give back to their own community. This system helps guarantee that the community has a thriving ecosystem to support themselves with so that Mayange continues to develop for years to come. The concept is simple: MCDO offers small/medium business plans and provides seed money for microloans to help launch the business. MCDO also offers the tools and expertise needed to carry out innovative ideas. Fostering the spirit of entrepreneurship, this visit was an exciting concept for the delegation to engage with at Millennium Village.
Lastly, TechWomen visited Connect to Learn, a program powered by a brief yet powerful mantra: “Educate a girl. Change the world.” In sponsorship with Ericsson, Connect to Learn is committed to connecting students to the web, and encourages girls to pursue careers in STEM by providing sponsorship opportunities. The program firmly believes that education is the central way to eradicate poverty, so the selection criterion focuses on helping girls from the most vulnerable families, and those with high academic achievement. Other resources like the “Girls House” helps ensure girls stay enrolled in school by providing specific health resources and modern facilities to use on-site so that they can stay in class the entire day. “Girls House” has dramatically decreased the number of girls who drop out, and now enrollment stands at 98%. While both girls and boys can participate in Connect to Learn, female students outnumber male students 51-49, a change from previous years’ enrollment numbers. For the TechWomen, it was incredibly rewarding to see Connect to Learn in action in Rwanda.
TechWomen learned of many powerful efforts taking place to connect young women to technology in Rwanda, and memories from the trip are still fresh in each delegation member’s mind. As TechWomen prepares for our Morocco delegation trip, these memories energize us to learn more about supporting women in STEM across the globe. Without a doubt, our visit to the Millennium Village remains one of the most inspiring moments of our time in Rwanda.
If you would like to learn more about our delegation trip to Rwanda, please read the following blog posts about the trip:
- Day 1 in Rwanda: Reflections by Heather Ramsey, TechWomen Director
- Day 2 in Rwanda: TechWomen Discuss Gender Gap in STEM
- Day 3 in Rwanda: Mentors Share STEM Career Advice with Students at Innovative Girls’ School
- Day 4 in Rwanda: TechWomen Have Fun with Science and Tech at Science Fair
- Day 5 in Rwanda: Strengthening Communities through Girls’ Empowerment
- Day 6 in Rwanda: TechWomen Visit Two Groundbreaking Companies in Kigali