“The greatest cheerleader of a woman should be another woman.”
The delegation had the honor and opportunity on day four to be welcomed warmly by Impinganzima Hostel in Bugesera District, a community for elderly survivors of the Genocide Against the Tutsi. The home, occupied by 64 women and seven men, has created a community where residents feel safe, supported and connected. 2018 fellows of Rwanda coordinated the visit to Impinganzima, introducing the delegates to the community and sharing how they’ve worked to support residents through their TechWomen seed grant-winning initiative, Healing Together.
During a morning tour from Constance, who runs the facility, the delegates learned about the support system that Impinganzima has put in place for all residents: housing, meals, on-site medical care, entertainment, and most of all, a sense of family. “When we reached this home, we found rest and happiness,” said a resident as she addressed the group. “We are not isolated anymore.”
After the delegates were greeted by residents of the hostel, 2018 fellow Noella Nibakuze shared the work and progress of Healing Together, the initiative created by Noella and fellows Vanny Nicole Katabarwa, Pascale Mugwaneza, Christa Munezero, Solange Uwera and Lucie Uwizeye. “We created Healing Together to support, activate, advocate and help create a network of counselors around the country who would help women widows and survivors,” she said. “Techwomen pushed us to think beyond ourselves and think about our communities.” Since the launch of Healing Together, the fellows have worked alongside the coordinators and psychologists at Impinganzima to bring customized training sessions on group therapy and group counseling.
Despite a language barrier, mentors and fellows spent the rest of the morning with the residents playing games, knitting and dancing. Although the women and men have faced unimaginable hardship, the delegates were uplifted by the true sense of community and home that Impinganzima provides.
Women in leadership
In the evening, the delegation gathered with Rwandan women leaders in STEM and guest of honor Paula Ingabire, the Minister of ICT and Innovation, to celebrate women of influence in Rwanda, share best practices and generate momentum to inspire the leaders of tomorrow. Fellows Solange Kalema and Emma Marie Ndoringoma welcomed the group, sharing their TechWomen experiences and ushering in an evening of learning and networking: “TechWomen has been an eye opener, a life changer and an introduction to the world,” said Emma. After, mentor Samantha Raniere delivered remarks on women in leadership based on lessons from her 25 years in business and experience as a coach: “I urge you to be intentional. Think about what you want in your life. Where do you want to go? Make it happen – don’t let it happen to you.”
After, in a panel discussion moderated by Makeda Mahadeo on women in leadership, attendees learned from the CEO of MTN Mitwa Kaemba Ng’ambithe, the founder of Career Women’s Network Kigali Lucy Schalkwijk, TechWomen fellow of Rwanda Rita Clemece Mutabazi, and mentors Maya Bisineer and Jennifer Gieber. During the discussion, the women leaders shared their personal journeys as women in STEM and offered advice for the unique challenges women in leadership face. The panelists encouraged the women in the room to seek out communities of women who support one another, reminding them to listen to their inner voice: leadership is not something somebody gives you, they said — it’s what you feel inside.
After hearing from the U.S. Embassy Public Affairs Officer Marissa Rollens on her advice to the women in the room, the Minister of ICT and Innovation, Paula Ingabire, closed out the evening, challenging the room of women to life each other up and work together to get more girls passionate about STEM fields.
Closing out her speech, Minister Ingabire urged attendees to forget labels, restrictions and societal expectations: “Stop thinking ‘I am a woman.’ Just get the task done,” she said.