After weeks of preparation and building excitement, 18 TechWomen mentors and 10 visiting fellows from Cameroon, Egypt, Jordan, Kenya, Morocco, Nigeria, South Africa and Tunisia landed in Kigali, Rwanda, ready to begin a week of learning and exchange. #twrwanda had officially begun.
Delegation trips serve a vital role in the TechWomen program, sustaining and growing a global network of women in STEM fields. The week’s programming was varied, bringing delegates to community-based initiatives, impact hubs and universities to interact with young students, emerging entrepreneurs, and local women leaders. From day one, mentors and fellows were ready to inspire and to be inspired, to teach and to learn, and to unite in a shared mission to invest in their communities. Once in Kigali, the delegates joined over 30 Rwandan fellows who had been collaborating to create hands-on, interactive programming with mission to educate, activate and inspire.
At the day one program briefing, the first official gathering, mentors and fellows came together– some meeting for the first time, others reuniting with a mentor or mentee — and built excitement for the busy week ahead.
The group started day one at Kigali Genocide Memorial, one of over 200 memorials throughout the country, to learn about the 1994 Genocide Against the Tutsi. The memorial is both a museum exhibit that provides historical and cultural context for the country’s painful past, as well as a burial ground for over 250,000 victims of the Genocide. “It serves a place of remembrance, as well as a warning for the future,” explained our tour guide.
After the group paid their respects at the burial site, they moved on to Nyamirambo Women’s Center, located in the vibrant Nyamirambo neighborhood in Kigali. The center – started by 18 Rwandan women in 2007 – was established to address gender inequality, discrimination and gender based violence. Today, the center brings free classes in handicrafts, English, computer skills and more to women. The delegation learned about the neighborhood’s rich cultural history, stopping by local stores and learning about cassava and sorghum, some of Rwanda’s main crops. They also had a chance to try their hand at crafting, led by staff at the women’s center. Using material made from sisal, a local plant, mentors and fellows created custom necklaces using traditional weaving techniques.
Day one concluded at fellow Rita Clemence Mutabazi’s home, where she generously hosted the entire delegation for a welcome dinner complete with performances of traditional Rwandan dance. Rita, her family and TechWomen Director Katie Zee addressed the group, toasting to a week of skill-sharing, cultural exchange, mentorship, and of course, #twimpact.