Rwanda : First Lady Backs Women-Owned Businesses

Women continue to face substantial barriers hindering their success in doing business, which when removed, it would not only help women thrive but also bring about inclusive economic growth for communities, the First Lady Jeannette Kagame has said.

Mrs Kagame was speaking at the International Trade Centre’s discussion on “SheTrades,” a session held under the theme, “Empowering Women in World Trade,” in New York, on Tuesday.


The First Lady said the role of women in trade remains “largely undefined and marginalised,” hence the need to promote any initiatives that are women-owned “because they hold the potential to positively impact lives of not just women, but entire communities as research has proven time and again.”

“It is well known that empowering women leads to empowered families, communities and countries, since women invest in the health and education of their loved ones which in turn improves public health, eradicates malnutrition and poverty over the short and medium run. In short, their success is everybody’s success,” Mrs Kagame noted.

In March this year, Rwanda launched SheTrades initiative, bringing together representatives from government, academia and the private sector to commit to actions that support women entrepreneurs and help them overcome barriers, including growing their businesses and accessing global markets.

The ‘SheTrades’ initiative, launched in 2015, aims to connect one million women entrepreneurs to markets by 2020.
The First Lady observed that though women make up 52 per cent of the general population in Rwanda, they only own around 30 per cent of businesses; yet they still manage to contribute up to 30 per cent of the country’s GDP.

“Imagine what their contribution could be once the barriers they are confronted with are removed,” she said. “As a matter of fact, it is now common knowledge that the substantial barriers faced by women in doing business, which include social bias about their abilities, lack of entrepreneurial skills, and support networks, can be resolved with the right will, focus and a range of enabling tools.”

The battle to empower and increase the role of women in trade, according to Mrs Kagame, can be addressed by creating better mechanisms to loans and saving schemes; educating and empowering them to gain much-needed entrepreneurial skills to fairly compete with men; and to help women create solid and reliable networks which would lead them forge working relationships with potential buyers.


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