Angelina joined Tech2Empower for 6 days to provide education and resources to women entrepreneurs in Rwanda, as well as professional development work for girls.
While there, Angelina conducted #IamRemarkable trainings for young women at the Akilah Institute for Girls. This training focuses on empowering young women and unrepresented groups to speak openly, and proudly, about their accomplishments in the workplace and beyond. So often we are made to feel ashamed or embarrassed to talk about our own successes, #IamRemarkable works to break these modesty norms and glass ceilings.
This type of workshop is crucial because self-promotion is a large part of what makes the leadership gap so vast. Vocally expressing your accomplishments in a work environment, or any environment for that matter, can be nerve wrecking and even backfire in many instances. #IamRemarkable helps women and underrepresented groups take control of how they are perceived by others and helps them to see the unique contributions they make to their community, inside and outside of the office.
The first day of the trip began with a welcome breakfast and #IamRemarkable icebreaker. Nothing attracts new friends quicker, than telling them why you're so awesome!
Once the ice breaker was done, each woman grabbed one of their new friends and ventured into the city to visit the Nyamirambo Women’s Center and Kigali Genocide Memorial. The Nyamirambo Women’s Center was created by 18 Rwandese women with the goal to provide education and vocational training to women who do not have the means to pay for training on their own. By providing such resources, these 18 women hope that they can help provide better opportunities for female employment. The next stop was the Kigali Genocide Memorial, there is no description that would do justice to this museum. The Kigali Memorial Museum is the final resting place of 250,000 victims of the genocide against Tutsis. This is a place of remembrance and learning, and hopefully the last of its kind.
The following day consisted of dedicated time to consult with the small businesses. Teams were formed to to match the advisor skillsets with the needs of the social entrepreneurship teams. Angelina was paired with Kosmotive, a business dedicated to impriving the lives of women. Their current focus is a new resusable product for menstruation, KosmoPads.
From recent research, 18% of girls and women in Rwanda miss school & work because they cannot afford menstrual pads. These absences result in a potential GDP loss of $115 million annually in Rwanda. Blandine de Jesus has been troubled by this issue since 2017 and this year, she decided to do something about it and create a solution -- KosmoPads. KosmoPads are an eco-friendly, reusable and cost-effective alternative to high cost, potentially irritating, disposable pads. KosmoPads has been prototyped and tested to ensure it effectively meets the needs of menstruating women. She is committed to reducing the shame around menstruation and increasing access for girls and women who can’t otherwise afford them. This solution does not only impact girls and women in need. There are women across the country interested in sustainable and chemical free alternative pads. As they serve them at an affordable price, they also have an opportunity to serve underprivileged girls and women through the “buy one, give one” program.
After a long day of identifying the scope of the consulting project, the advisors took site visits to the companies AKWOS, The PlaygroundHub, RESONATE, Kosmotive and Starlight Ltd.
At Kosmotive, Angelina's advisor team was able to see how the pads are made and the discussed how to make the process more efficient.
Day three had ongoing project work throughout the day, followed by some happy hour fun, as the consulting projects closed.
In the evening, Angelina was able to visit Impano Sports, which is founded by former Davidson track Coach, Allen Simms. Impano Sports is a new player in the active lifestyle apparel industry in Africa. The company is founded by professional athletes that have come together to form a quality brand that represents independence and accomplishment among the sports community in Africa and abroad. Impano Sports provides African inspired quality sports apparel designed specifically for athletes, runners and the active lifestyle community.
What Angelina found most interesting about this visit, was learning that Impano measures customers and makes custom sports gear built for each customer's body. Allen mentioned that traditionally, Rwandans are accustomed to custom fit for anything they buy. So at Impano, don't expect small, medium, large, etc to be your only options. They will tailor any item you want made to your body!
The fourth day of the trip began with a tour of the Women's Bakery and the Urugo Womens Opportunity Center. The rest of the day was spent participating in different demos with women's collective members on how to make the popular local items.
Day five was all about the girls! In partnership with Akilah Institute for Girls, two other schools sent their girl students and the day was filled with numerous sessions for professional development, including #IamRemarkable, coding, elevator pitch and other trainings and small mentoring groups. Angelina co-facilitated 4 trainings for students that day!
The final day of the trip started with a Agahozo-Shalom Youth Village tour and activities. "Through healing, education, and love, the Agahozo-Shalom Youth Village empowers orphaned and vulnerable Rwandan youth to build lives of dignity and contribute to a better world." The tour was an opportunity to learn about the unique model used to integrate healing into the education. The day ended with the advisors leading mentoring circles for students, as well as further coding activities.
After a delicious lunch made by a group from Akilah, everyone was encouraged to have one last trip to the local markets where there were different fabrics and crafts to choose from.
The evening ended with the final group dinner to acknowledge the work of the week and that it was time to say farewell to all of the amazing and awe-inspiring people that were on this journey. Children trained in traditional Rwandan dance (also apart of an NGO group) joined the dinner and displayed their skills!
On Saturday, Angelina spent the morning with Kefa Project. Started in 2009, as Play For Hope, The Kefa Project is all about seeing at-risk youth transformed in every aspect of their lives. Kefa uses sports as an avenue to create families for at-risk youth in Rwanda. Their goal is to help them feel welcomed, no longer alone, to help them re-enter education both formally and informally, learn finance and business skills, be reconciled to their own families, to know God, and change themselves and then their communities. Recently, Kefa also began training the mothers of the youth in skills like basket weaving to enable them to earn a living. Angelina spent her last day in Rwanda leading confidence building activities with the mothers and then joined one of the soccer leagues for some games with youth before departing to the airport.
While Angelina did have to say goodbye with a heavy heart, she has great hope that this will be a "see you later", rather than a goodbye. Until next time Rwanda!