Sunday, June 04, 2006
The Rwanda Action Team Mission 2006 - From Business to Peace - May 14th through May 27th
Eight members of The Bpeace Rwanda Action Team traveled to Rwanda to work on developing sustainable businesses for women and to help affect peace. If you are new to this blog—begin with the bottom. It is a compilation of the team’s notes. And don’t forget to leave your comments.
Last august we debriefed in Kenya during our 6 hour lay over. This time round we were too tired and did some napping and last minute shopping. Manny got to visit with his brother who is stationed in Nairobi. Loretta left us to catch her flight home on British Airlines. We missed our connection in London (we are rethinking traveling on Virgin Airlines and Kenya Airways). Luckily, Heathrow has many “shoppes” and thankfully the 2 bag rule wasn’t enforced. It was a” hard days night” traveling home, to be sure, but wait till you hear the full story of our trip! It was an honor to travel and work with this dedicated team. Julia, Loretta, Manny, Marla, Sabra, and Selma, thank you for keeping up with the aggressive schedule and using your individual talents, expertise and hearts to make this mission such a success. We have concrete accomplishments to point to and many new initiatives to launch on behalf of the women of Rwanda. Thank you team for a job so well done. Anne
Saturday, May 27
While everyone packed, Anne, Marla and Richard were looking at office space at the Unity Club for Bpeace. The office share situation is ideal ideologically, location wise and reasonable. Associates can now see Richard in his office and attend meetings in the conference room and drop off materials for their respective mentors. Check off another one of the goals for this mission.
At breakfast, there were more than twenty eagles on the hotel roof to bid us farewell. While they may have been there to eat all the beautiful 4 inch grasshoppers that appeared everywhere overnight (tasty grasshoppers Loretta is told), we saw it as a reminder of the natural beauty of Rwanda. Mind you, our hotel is in the city center of Kigali. The birdwatchers--none other then Marla, Cari and Loretta.
It is customary in Rwanda to have big send offs from family and friends. We were greeted by Aurea and her children and many of our associates. Aurea gave us a copy of the proposal for day care for AVEGA (day care center number 3 for Rwanda). Pierrette and her business partner were able to escort us through security as they had on the official identifications of their forwarding business. Jean and her husband, Lenaulda, Jullian, Francoise, Peace, Richard and Geofrey were also there to see us off (with gifts). It was a tearful goodbye as we gave our final hugs and kisses.
Friday, May 26
The morning began when Cari, Marla, Anne, Richard, and Manny met with Felix and Josephine Odette of UNIFEM. Our partnership has been renewed. UNIFEM and USAID were extremely pleased with the success of the training efforts and Bpeace in its support of Rwanda Knits.
A taste of New York - Bagels
Cari visited Mbwirandumva (Speak We Are Listening), a center for older widows, handicapped women and young girls orphaned from the Genocide. Here they learn sewing, beading, embroidery, card-making and, yes, bagel-making. Every Friday they bake amazingly good bagels. Of course, it was just when we were leaving…… But Cari brought a bagel back for everyone to test them on the bona-fide BPeace bagel gourmets.
Road Trip…to Butare
Sabra, Selma, Richard, Susan, Marla and I took a beautiful drive to Butare, the former capitol of Rwanda. It is considered the cultural and intellectual center of Rwanda as the national university and museum are situated there. Unfortunately, we didn't see either but our back road adventure made up for our lack of cultural sights. We met Symphrose Mukamazimpaka at her hotel Le Petit Prince (with a signature statue, a fountain, parking area, garden, restaurant, conference center and outdoor restaurant/bar with traditional looking huts for gathering and eating). All of the above are built but not completed. Symphrose needs a hotel manager and another loan.
After lunch with Symphrose at the Ibis, we visited her hardware store. The university is one of her institutional customers but there is stiff competition in Butare for other contracts. Next time we come to Butare we hope to stay at her hotel. We then drove to a historic site where she plans on having picnics and overnights in tents. The site was "just a few minutes from town" (sound buzzingly familiar Kate?). Anyway, 45 minutes later we were at the top of a beautiful mountain with spectacular views. Symphrose, by the way, was a great driver but she kept turning around to look us in the eye. Anyway, when we got there, we were told the site was just a few minutes walk away. Then we heard it was 10 minutes each way down a dirt path and while Marla and I were ready to go, Sabra was skeptical. We just didn’t have the time. (Marla had a meeting in Kigali with a potential investor for one of our associates.) I don't know about Marla's car on the way up, but I do know that we were laughing and giggling with Symphrose as we bounced all over the place. Fortunately, only Sabra's bra wire popped out of her shirt when we hit a huge gully in the road. You get the picture.
On the way down, Marla and I tossed balls and candy out the window to the kids because we didn't have time to stop. No injuries--just fabric balls.
When we returned to the hotel we met Jullian (one of our workshop attendees) who had been waiting for Manny. She had gifts for Julia and me and we heard about a lot of kids and orphans. We said good bye to Susan, our translator, my partner in the back seat of the land cruiser. She too had gifts.
We went upstairs and there was Richard and his twin brother Ronald--otherwise referred to by their mom as "ever and forever" (Patty Duke show, for those of you that remember). They are identical in appearance but very different in personalities-both delightful.
Funny that at least two people thought I was Anne and visa versa. It was either the change of hairstyle, big or pulled back or the fact that we all look alike. Sometimes the women would come in with completely different hairstyles or extensions or headscarves and they would look totally different. I never saw as many glamorous women in one room as I say the night of our farewell celebration at Nadia's restaurant in the new, upscale mall. Even though it’s hard to compete with their sense of style, designs and fabrics, bring one nice outfit. (Or buy something in Kigali. At Charlotte's store Julia bought black heels and a shirt that she somehow planned on wearing as a skirt.) -loretta
Village of Hope
Manny and Anne started the morning with a visit to Penina at the Rwandan Women’s Network Village of Hope, also recipients of knitting machines. The village is situated on a ridge surrounded by many beautiful new homes. The village produces many products including hand made cards, sewn clothing, beaded necklaces, and bath mats. They need help with product development and quality control.
Esther and Diana’s Day Care Center-
Next Manny and Anne toured the future site of Esther and Diana’s day care center. Centrally located, with in a block of a big elementary school, the building will be able to serve approximately 25 children to start, ranging in age from 3 months to 5years. They already have a business plan and need mentoring to launch the business.
Girl’s Night Out
Anne and Cari enjoyed a lively dinner with Senator Odette, Angelina Muganza and Charita, truly remarkable women. The talk ranged from building peace, business and knitting to surgery, as Senator Odette is a retired doctor. The Senator is accompanying President Kagame to the US on Sunday. They are meeting with President Bush to discuss Darfur and Human Rights.
May 25th, Thursday
Talk about working together and making strides, USAID, RAP, Rwanda Knits, UNIFEM and BPeace held a knitting machine hand over ceremony and graduation for the 16 associations at the closing of the four-day training of “ Laying the Foundation for a Profitable Co-Op.” Cari never takes credit for “laying the foundation” for hand-loomed knitting in Rwanda and instead always stresses how wonderful the women are (which they are) and how she couldn’t do it without the help of Geoffrey and Bpeace. Congratulations to you Cari!
After a morning of instruction in doing an income statement and balance sheet, the business training came to a conclusion. It was then followed by the “hand-over” ceremony where the 630 knitting machines were handed over to the 16 different associations. Officials from USAID, UNIFEM, RAP, BPeace and Gitarama province were in attendance and spoke, congratulating the women and all involved in making this project such a success. But we’re not done yet – actually, we’re just beginning. Stay tuned for more updates on this……
Staging Peace and Health
Jesse Hawkes, Glenn Hawkes’ son (Glenn is the head of RAP), video taped the ceremony. He runs he own project, RAPSHIDA, an HIV awareness and education program employing theater as it’s medium and student performers. Beautiful AIDS pins are beaded by HIV positive people and sold to support the program. Three pins can be beaded by a person per day. Cari may turn them into necklaces and Anne and I have some (200) for anyone that wants to make a donation to support Jesse's efforts. We are looking into a fundraising co-venture theater event in New York City.
Anne, Cari, and Roselyn, one of our interpreters, met with Ange Mukankuranga who operates a photography business from her home. Ange has been taking photos and shooting video for the past 9 years to support herself and her children, which include 9 orphans. She wants to expand her business but needs help in forming a strategy.Eat…Marla, Richard and Loretta met with Francoise Mukarugomwa who owns the Restaurant Amahoro, a restaurant serving traditional Rwandan food. It’s located in the center of city, right next to an express taxi stand. Francoise has invested her profits in expanding her business and opening another restaurant, Amahoro B. Amahoro B is near one of the big hotels in Kigali. Now, Francoise wants to expand her catering services. Francoise needs help in bookkeeping and help in developing her vision to build a hotel.
Anne also met with Angelina Muganza, Minister of State, Public Service and Labor, Senator Odette and other members of the Unity Club, an organization comprised of current and former women government ministers, as well as wives of government ministers. Their mission is to promote and strengthen unity among women leaders, through mentoring, advocacy and networking. They are extremely interested in partnering with us to work towards empowering women to have a bigger voice take leadership roles.
We are FAMILY
Tonight the entire team went to Peace’s house, (Manny’s sister), for dinner with his family in her beautiful house overlooking the city... Manny's parents welcomed us and told us how happy they were that Manny met us. They also said that now we, too, are part of the family. Only last week, Manny’s parents celebrated their 65th wedding anniversary. We shared an incredible Rwandan with his family, including his other siblings and extended family. (Manny has three brothers and four sisters.) It was so nice to be welcomed into a Rwandan home and we did feel like part of the family.
Wednesday, May 24th
Cari and Beth, the translator, arrived in Gitarama midday and caught the end of the financial accounting training for the associations, which focused on keeping manual ledgers. After lunch, it was on to pricing your product, touching on marketing, and an introduction to micro-credit. The women are doing exceptionally well, according to Jane, the instructor, and she's able to advance to other topics.
When it's time for a break, when we mzungus go for coffee, Rwandan women rather have a dance break - including the instructor.
Manny, Marla, Anne, Loretta, Rebecca, Raj, Lady, Man met to discuss the most effective way to partner to support our on the ground efforts and new associates. As KIST has an entrepreneur and business incubator program, it was agreed we could leverage our respective resources and capabilities. First on the list is business planning and computer skill training.
Anne and Manny met with Nadia Musabyeyezu, who owns a restaurant, mini mart and is a distributor for Café de Maraba Coffee. She took us on a short ride to a new mall where she opened a coffee bar. While the bar is wonderful, foot traffic is slow. While we gave her tips on frequent buyer programs and ideas for cross marketing with other retailers in the mall, a more in depth assessment is needed to determine the viability of success at this location.
Marla and Anne met with Solina Mukamana, owner of Saintpaulia landscapes. They offer landscaping, maintenance, gardening, cleaning and flowers. During the visit, Solina received on the spot help with ideas for incremental sales, branding and advertising. In addition to the site we visited, she has land where she grows plants. We discussed the possibilities for contracting with new home builders and expanding her industrial contracts.
Banking on the Future
Marla and Richard continued their research on banks. They visited two commercial banks, Bank of Kigali and Coge Bank, and BRD, Rwandan Development Bank. Since the majority of businesses in Rwanda are small and medium enterprises, most of the commercial banks are serving this population. BRD focuses on businesses with economic and social impact in the development of the country. BRD encouraged some of our women to participate in a World Bank sponsored business plan competition where 10 winners receive a minimum $10,000 loan from BRD. In addition, BRD committed to putting together a panel of bankers to evaluate associates business plans.
REIPA promotes Tourism
As part of the effort to encourage tourism, Sabra, Selma and Loretta traveled to Lake Kivu with other attendees of the REIPA conference. They got to experience the beauty of the countryside as well as Lake Kivu.
Our new associates held a lively party in our honor. We were treated to an evening of Rwandan food, Music and Dancing! We also received lovely gifts and a moving speech delivered by Constance on behalf of all the new associates. She noted, "Now BPeace came in right time because we can talk and you hear us. We promise that we will also work hard in BPeace building." And we promise to work hard on behalf of the Rwandan women and when they talk we will hear them.
Tuesday, May 23
Sabra, Selma and Manny attended the second day of the REIPA conference. It opened this morning with an address from the president of African Development Bank, who's stated “It is not a shortage of cash that we are faced with; it is allocation of excess cash that is the issue.” As Sabra and Selma clearly see it, the challenge for Bpeace is accessing the “excess cash” for our associates’ businesses.
Loretta, Marla and Richard visited Consolé Mukamuringo. Consolé runs a dairy bar right across the street from one of the largest, modern markets in Kigali. Consolé sells fresh milk, yogurt, juice and muffins. She plans to expand by selling ice cream and cheese using the money she made from her business plus a loan. When Consolé mentioned her desire to have a premium dairy bar in Kigali at the Bpeace training last week, we referred to her as “The Dairy Queen.” She has also opened a party decoration business that sells flowers, and rents chairs and tents for weddings and other functions. In her spare time, she is perfecting her English by attending an English class.
Back to the Future
Anne, Marla, Richard and Loretta visited Pascasie’s beverage distribution center again; but this time with a representative from the African Development Foundation who may help Pascasie secure a grant and is interested in learning more about the other businesses of our new associates.
Association Co-Op Training
Anne joined Cari, who spent the day at the training sessions, for an evening discussion on quality, design and developing markets for the goods they will be knitting. The women are extremely sharp and had many ideas for marketing their future knit products.
Monday, May 22
Association Co-Op Training
Cari, Anne, Loretta, Geoffrey and Jane, the trainer, opened the first day of training for representatives of the associations that received knitting machines. This training is a joint effort of Bpeace, UNIFEM, Rwanda American Partners, IWACU (coop training org.) and the Rwanda Knits Projects (www.fiberandcraft.org/rwanda_blog.html), which was founded by Cari.
President Paul Kagame opened the REIPA conference, addressing over 750 delegates, representing over 30 nations outside of Africa, including our own Sabra, Selma and Manny.
The REIPA Conference’s theme is Investment in Rwanda, focusing on horticulture, energy, tourism, agriculture, and finance. Today’s highlight was the welcome address from President Kagame and the keynote speaker, Ambassador Andrew Young. Leaders from various industries outlined the topics to be covered, including development plans for an airport, hotels and tour packages.
The REIPA Conference is an important connection for Bpeace, affording the opportunity to facilitate connections for our new Rwandan associates, in order to fund and improve their businesses.
Anne met with Senator Odette and Angelina Muganza at The Unity Club. The club is comprised of women who are currently or have been government ministers and wives of government ministers. There mission is to cultivate women to take leadership roles and affect peace. They are very interested in partnering with the Rwanda Team as we share the same goals.
Sunday, May 21, 2006
Sunday May 21 Opportunity Through Beauty
Anne, Marla and Richard visited Brigitte Mukashema who runs a braiding business called Black Salon. Brigitte showed us her new ledger book and tracking system based on what she learned from Sabra and Selma at Bpeace training. Bridgette services her customers at her place of business and at their homes. Marla and Anne saw multiple opportunities for Brigitte to develop her business and increase her income. Anne gave Brigitte some business advice on how to build incremental sales by offering complimentary accessories, i.e. jewelry, hair ornaments, and fabric.
Then, the three moved down the block to New Generation Hair Salon owned by Harriet Uwera. Harriet owns a building with a five storefront rooms devoted to a salon for men, women and children. On Saturdays, Harriet turns away 10 customers on average; she wants to expand her business to increase her capacity.
Both Brigitte and Harriet provide young orphan girls, who are studying at a beauty school, the opportunity to apprentice and gain the practical skills necessary to get a job. They both want business management training as well as help in learning the latest fashion trends.
Remembering Why We Are Here
Saturday, May 20 Mapping Our Way Through Training
Day two of training and we’re back for another full day. Participants included the new associates and many business women – most of whom we had interviewed last year. The morning began with “How to Create a Marketing Map” which was facilitated by Anne and Cari, with the help of Selma and Sabra. The discussion was lively and the women asked lots of questions. For many, it was the first time they viewed their business from a marketing perspective. In the afternoon, Loretta and Marla facilitated an abbreviated version of the “Success Map.” Most of the women have clear visions for where they want their business to be in the future. Now it’s our role to help them get there. We distributed workbooks and DVDs on the training topics; the Kinyarwanda translation was appreciated by all.
While they all belong to associations the idea of networking and pooling resources and cross marketing were new to them and they loved it and came up with little networks while we were there. Some of the women owners of beauty salons decided they would buy supplies together and get a volume discount. These women are quick and capable and resourceful and ready to implement learnings.
At the closing, one of the woman came to the stage and requested to say something to all of us. She said that when we came last August, we gave good advice when we interviewed them, and that they were all so thankful we came back to Rwanda and gave training.
Friday, May 19th First Bpeace Training in Session!
The team opened the first Bpeace business training session to heartwarming applause from our new 19 associates. After an intro to Bpeace Fast Runner Strategy by Anne, Marla told the women about the work Bpeace has been doing in Afghanistan. In Sabra and Selma style, personable and fun, the How to Track Finance Workshop began with laughter and practical advice.
After lunch, Anne spoke of the importance of making the connection of Business to Peace. Manny led an exercise on drawing out the meaning of peace, literary or shall I say “artistically.” Each woman drew a picture of what peace means to them. They were pleased to have the opportunity to share their pictures and thoughts with us as well as each other. Their pictures depicted images of family, thriving communities, flowers and love.
Thursday May 18th Knit One, Money Two
Cari, Geofrey and Julia visited 3 groups that are recipients of knitting machines, including The Village of Hope, which is part of the Rwanda Women’s Network. They’re all up and knitting.
Meanwhile the hunt for the money in Rwanda was on. Marla, Sabra, and Richard met with Dieudonné Murekezi, Technical Director of Banques Populaires – a credit union with 9 banks in Kigali and many more throughout the country. Bank Populaire provides members with business loans as well as building, health, school fees and short term emergency loans. Bank Populaires is special in that it created a branch for women only.
Then, Richard and Marla met with John Taylor, Managing Director of Fina Bank. Fina Bank’s mission is to promote SME(Small and Medium Enterprises) development with a focus on socially conscious business with an impact on development. Our kind of bank. Currently, Fina Bank is stressing leasing for SME development since collateral requirements are less strict. Richard is going to arrange for the head of leasing to make a presentation to the associates. Stay tuned as Marla continues her quest to get an overview of the financial sector in Rwanda.
Selma, Manny and Loretta visited Lenuald (Leiny) Munyakazi's business that sells cleaning products and provides cleaning services to individuals and institutions. Her business, GiEmeJes, is named after her three young children who died in the genocide. Leiny loves her work and teaching her staff how to clean professionally. She recently won a one year contract to clean a big new apartment complex built by a Rwandan insurance company. She will be able to leverage this relationship to increase her corporate cleaning contracts and ultimately make her own cleaning products.
Anne met with Arleen Seed and Louise, her on the ground coordinator, to discuss potential ways to support our respective work in Rwanda and opportunities for grants for our women.
We ended the evening with a team dinner with the US Ambassador to Rwanda, Michael Arietti and the Economic/Commercial Officer Daniel Stoian.
Friday, May 19, 2006
Wednesday, May 17 Bpeace covers Rwanda
Visit to Beauty/Retail Shop owner Charlotte
Anne, Selma, Richard and Julia visited Charlotte Uwanyiringira, who owns Amaryllis, a beauty salon and a clothing boutique. The beauty salon makes up for its lack of size with an excess of energy and color. Even though it is only 10:00 a.m., the salon is already full and all of the customers are eager to pose for beauty shots, even those who are missing half a head of braids. We head over to the boutique, and were so impressed by the merchandise, that a few members purchased shoes and clothes. Charlotte knows she needs help organizing the store as there is much potential in the beauty salon/boutique duo. After consulting with Charlotte and making suggesting for merchandizing, advertising, and even feng-shui, we leave Charlotte feeling satisfied with not only our purchases, but also with the promising future of Charlotte’s business.
“Disney World” Rwanda Style
On Wednesday afternoon the majority of the team, Anne, Selma, Loretta, Julia, Manny, Marla, Richard and Susan, visited Sylvie Mukamusoni in the center of town, where she runs 3 businesses – a retail gift shop, a salon, and a video store with video rentals and digital video processing. We then traveled twenty miles east of Kigali, where in partnership with 7 other women, Sylvie is building an amusement park on 120 acres (49 hectares). Sylvie and her partners have recently completed the first of a three-phase project to provide Rwandans and tourists, young and old, a destination for recreation, relaxation and education. So far the amusement park includes a theater, swimming pool, restaurant and rides for children. Future plans include a hotel, zoo, souvenir shop and amphitheater. Once Sylvie gets the results of an environmental assessment – a new requirement by the Rwanda government – she can open to the public. Although it was a quiet, peaceful experience walking through the lavish, landscaped gardens, one could easily imagine the laughter of children having the time of their life. Sylvie wants Bpeace to help her to manage the amusement park to ensure its success.
Visit to Women to Women, RIEPA
Next, a meeting with Pierre Claver Uwimana, Deputy Director General for Export Promotion for RIEPA (Rwanda Investment and Export Promotion Agency). Rwanda continues to focus on coffee, ICT and leather. RIEPA recently built Artisan Centers, where craftspeople and craft cooperatives can access business and technical skills training; Rwanda Knits cooperatives will be able to take advantage of it. Sabra updated Pierre on the plans and objectives of Bpeace. He appeared to be very excited and wants to meet further.
Newsflash Bpeace and Bono in Rwanda (Yes we've known)
Even though U2's Bono is due to arrive at our hotel on his mission, the local paper was too busy to notice as it was here to interview Anne Kellett and learn more about the Bpeace Mission in Rwanda (thanks to Manny and his sister Esther). After a group photo, Steven and Dana of the New Times newspaper sat down with Anne, Manny, Sabra and Selma to learn about the mission. It's was an opportunity to spread the word about who we are and what we do.
Sabra and Cari stopped at Janet's store (of Macy basket fame) and Cari purchased 3 journals to bring to Kate to bring to B & N. Janet will be giving red sisal Rwanda baskets to Bono tomorrow at a ceremony. That girl really gets around....... she didn't know who Bono was, but when Cari told her if she got her photo with him, she might end up in People magazine, she made sure she'd be there.
Women Waging Peace
Tuesday, May 16: Not a Moment to Spare
Meeting with CARE
Languida’s Funeral Business
Languida is excited about having a mentor who can help her with creative marketing. She needs more customers, but it is taboo in Rwanda to market funeral services. We left her with some sage advice from Sabra. In addition, Languida wants help to expand her business to include a high quality line in addition to the medium and low range lines she currently provides. Languida is a leader in her community; she is president of a neighborhood women’s association. Her thoughts on how business links to peace….”to have business, one must have life; to have life one must have peace”.
“We believe we are the guarantee,” Emerita Mukayiranga
While Manny went to the airport to pick up Selma, Anne, Richard, Loretta, and Julia met with Emerita Mukayiranga co owner of Mamans Sportifs, a conference center and facility for sewing and training. Mamans Sport was born as the answer to the question women asked themselves after the genocide, “How will I walk”? The idea of getting a place after the genocide where women could come to talk and, do business and projects was the answer. Yet, when they tried to convince banks to loan money for the project, they were told they need a guarantee which they didn’t have. Emerita and her partner decide “We are the guarantee. We believe in ourselves—we believe we are a guarantee,” and they raised the funds themselves.
The facility is well situated and has a very peaceful feel. A cool breeze added to the comfortable feeling as we toured the grounds. Emerita recently lost government business, as they now are encouraged to hold their meetings in-house and she needs help in developing new accounts and business for the women who train to sew.
Emerita has been a force in educating women in the rural areas. She started a literacy program which has expanded across the country. Emerita uses profits from her business to pay salaries, hire teachers, materials for classrooms for 36 sites. She wishes to take advantage of an opportunity to purchase a larger, more modern facility in an affluent neighborhood where she can offer conference and event space as well as daycare and hostel accommodations.
Certainly Emerita walks with many women and now we can work to help her be a ‘Fast Runner.”
Angelina Muganza, Minister of Public Service and Labor
Anne, Manny and Loretta met with Angelina Muganza to update her on the progress Bpeace has made since our last mission and to hear about the Five Year Action Plan for the Promotion of Women Employment. It turns out Angelina knows Manny from High school. Loretta, discussed issues of women and violence in relations to her work as a judge.
It's a Small World After All...
The team met for a Chinese dinner with Joy and Janet, the sisters who have been working to supply Macy’s with baskets, sell those woven earrings that are in high demand, and own a furniture store and crafts gallery. They are highly successful women who been able to launch businesses, grow them and employ many women. Also present was Victoria Trabosh , president of Itafari Foundation, a non profit fundraising organization for Rwanda. There were many highlights to the evening, especially the realization that Victoria met our Jita Miller when they both spoke on a panel at the UN which Immaculee Ilibagiza took part in. Victoria told us that Jita’s story has impacted her life. I let her know that Jita had mentioned how her story affected her as well.
Monday, May 15, 2006
Harvesting Peace in Rwanda
With Richard translating, we learned about parties in Rwanda and what it takes to throw them, while discussing ideas for the future. We were touched when Speciose shared with us one of the loveliest local wedding customs. It involves the Rwandan baskets. They are used as gifts for newlyweds, whose friends fill it with beans and give it to the couple who plants and later harvest the seeds (Speciose’s business of course has these baskets in ready supply). We could not help but sense the symbolism translates for marriage and for Rwanda. We wrapped up the visit with a discussion of how the business will further peace in Rwanda.
Speciose and Alphonsine believe that there is hardly time for "thinking to do bad and" and people "won't join conflict" when you have opportunity for business and education. The partners would like to use their business to teach skills to younger girls who will be able to set up shops elsewhere and teach their trade to "tomorrow's mothers." Not only will the shop provide jobs for many people (think of how many people are involved in planning a great party!) but the very concept of a party planning business will also officially proclaim that Rwanda is a place of celebration.
Meanwhile, Marla, Cari and Manny met with Georges Mupenzi, Coordinator of Centre IAWCU (Center of Research and Training Cooperatives) to finalize preparations and agenda for the 4-day cooperative training with representatives of the 16 associations from all over the country who are participating in the Rwanda Knits project. This training will be the ingredient which allows the knitting machines to turn into true business opportunities for the participating co-operatives (some of which have several hundred members). Bpeace and Rwanda Knits are anxious to meet the representatives and get the training started!
Marla, Sabra, Loretta, Julia and Richard's next stop: Jean's beauty salon where she has visions of a beauty salon school for 20 female, adolescent orphans. This entreprenuer is also developing a concept of healthy snacks for schools and has cultivated land for the nutritious ingredients. What most impressed us was how eloquently Jean expressed her understanding of the peace component of her work. She stated that she has employed 30 people to prepare the soil of her land for planting. She gave 30 people jobs but also in choosing those individuals, she made sure to hire women of different ethnic groups. She paid them well and they bought food for their families. They were focusing on their economic success rather than on their differences. As a business leader, she wants to be an advocate for women and pass on the seeds of peace. Sound like a Bpeace associate to you?
Anne and Manny met with the Exective Secretary of Pro Femmes, the umbrella organization for 83 peace building and development associations helping Rwandan women since 1993. Their initiative is is to help women have a strong voice in government. Their motto is "Women Can Do It!" They are looking to mentor leaders. It appears we have common goals for the women of Rwanda in terms of building sustainable businesses and cultivating women to have a stronger voice. We will be further discussing partnering opportunities on this trip.
Anne and Manny also visited with Therese Bibono, the director of AFER, one of the associations where we identified some of the entrepreneur members for training and mentoring. We discussed AFER's current initiatives, which include forming a Chamber of Women Entrepreneurs and a Chamber of Young Women Entrepreneurs and new programs for ICT and eCommerce. Needless to say there doesn't seem to be enough hours in the day to discuss all the initiatives and possibilities for partnership. So, we will be meeting with Therese again.
We ended the evening with dinner with Mary, Peter and Penina of the Rwanda Women's Network at Hotel Mille Colline.
So much information to process and this is just Day 1!
Warm Welcome in Kigali
We were greeted at the Kigali Airport by Bpeace friends and family, including Manny's family, with gifts of orange roses, lots of hugs and three kisses on the cheek. It's an amazing feeling to be met by so many people at the airport--individuals who have taken the time to welcome us on a beautiful Sunday afternoon. Names were exchanged for the newcomers, cameras were pulled out, and the Rwanda mission was off to a heartwarming start. The countryside is a lush green as the rainy season has just about ended. On our way to the hotel, we passed a peace marathon which was incredible to see in these rolling hills. After reviewing the agenda with Richard and Geofrey at the Intercontinental, we prepared for tomorrow's visits to some of the associates' places of business.
AMAHORO! ITORO RYIZA! (Peace and Goodnight)
Saturday, May 13, 2006
Part of the May 2006 Bpeace Rwanda Mission Team in London waiting for our connecting flight to Kenya and then on to Kigali, Rwanda. From left: Marla, Cari, Manny. Rear: Anne and Sabra. Not pictured yet: Julia, Loretta and Selma.
Saturday, May 06, 2006
On May 11, 2006, the Rwandan team begins its journey. The Bpeace team includes return visitors Anne Killett (Rwanda's Team Chair), Marla Gitterman (Bpeace Program Director) and Cari Clement of Rwanda Knits as well as Manny Ruranga who will be visiting his many family members. First time visitors include Sabra Richardson, Selma Jackson, Loretta Davis and her daughter Julia. We have a lot to accomplish if we are to surpass the achievements of the first mission!
* In August 2005, the first team to Rwanda interviewed 57 businesswomen and learned essential facts about their businesses.
* Bpeace hired its first on the ground program manager, Richard Niwenshuti, who by the way has become an invaluable asset to the program.
* Cari Clement provided a knitting training program to several cooperatives that had previously received knitting machines, enabling them to make their beautiful products and finalized selection of the 16 cooperatives to receive knitting machines in Spring 2006.
Our big objective this mission is to finalize selection of the Bpeace Fast Runners. Richard has been conducting on site visits of the businesses of the potential candidates. Richard's reports and profiles as well as the observations and assessments of the women by the August team, clearly point to 18 potential associates who meet the fast runner criteria. (The assessments use Bpeace criteria to analyze the information we have collected about the women and their businesses. For more details of the intense questions asked and the selection process, consult the Rwanda Mission Report.)
Now that we know who our potential fast runners are, the goals of the mission are to:
1. Learn more about the businesses, their assets, vision and needs through first hand viewing of the businesses and further discussions with the women;
2. Provide comprehensive business training to all 57 interviewees and more tailored training workshops to the fast runners (all training facilitated by live presentation, distribution of workbooks and videos);
3. Conduct a 4 day training program for 16 associations in Rwanda Knits Project and help establish sustainable profit cooperatives (with Unifem and Cooperative Research & Information Center); and
4. Research financial partners and network with existing stakeholders (ministers, banks, organizations)(attending 3rd Annual International Investment Conference of Rwanda Investment and Export Promotion Agency, hereafter "Reipa").
As a result of meetings, weekly phone conferences, and Richard's ongoing work, the project is moving fast and furious. We are eager to begin the training and accomplish our goals. Stay tuned for our reports from the field.