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AWE Rwanda second cohort kicks off in Kigali

By Immaculée Izabayo

The Academy for Women Entrepreneurs (AWE) Rwanda has initiated its second cohort in Kigali, thanks to Igire Rwanda Organization (IRO) and Noble Women, for implementation, with the financial support from the US Embassy in Kigali.

The Academy for Women Entrepreneurs is a program that aims to provide women with skills, competencies and ability they need to start businesses or to scale up their businesses.

According to Jean Jacques Iradukunda, Co-founder & Chief Executive Officer of Igire Rwanda Organization (IRO), through this program women who have business ideas can be able to turn them into practical businesses that can turn into reality; and those who have ongoing businesses can grow them at the bigger scale.

Speaking to Pressbox about the general criteria for the program, Iradukunda said: “Women are eligible for the program, especially those who are younger than 39. So, 39 is the age limit, but when necessary, we can reach up to 42 years; they should be able to speak English, because the program is done using an online platform, so English is very important; having a business idea or a business that is already running in Rwanda, because the program is designed to bring impact to Rwanda specifically.”

Jean Jacques Iradukunda, Co-founder & Chief Executive Officer of Igire Rwanda Organization (IRO). /photo by Fazil Claude

Specifically for the second cohort that kicked off in May 2021, organizers did not focus on all the sectors, but five that are believed to make a bigger impact in the economy, especially during this era of COVID-19. Those sectors include health, ICT, Agriculture, Agribusiness and Hospitality.

“Because of COVID-19, we focused on health sector, as we want to see innovators bringing solutions to all these issues around the pandemic, and then we are also looking at ICT because we know technology is an enabler of a lot of things; and we are also looking at agriculture and agribusiness because we believe in farmers and we want also to see processing plants becoming more and more growing numbers and owned by women; we are looking also at the sector of hospitality because it is one of the sectors that were affected during this pandemic, we want to help women in that sector to grow and recover, ” Explains Jeanne D’Arc Umulisa, Founder & Director of Noble Women, a social enterprise that aims to develop women leaders and women entrepreneurs.

“Our contribution is actually equipping, teaching and training, coaching and mentoring women entrepreneurs based on the projects or the businesses that they have. So, we are in charge of the technical implementation of the program. We select women based on the description of their businesses, because we look at businesses that not only make profits, but also make social impact. It means that, it is not only going to profit the owner, but it is also going to profit the community at a large, even the country at a large,” adds Umulisa.

Participants during the learning program for the second cohort . /photo by Fazil Claude

Clementine Tuyishime is among the participants for the second cohort. She is the Founder & manager of Amara travel and tours. Speaking to Pressbox amid the ongoing training, she expressed her interest and expected outcome.

“I joined this program to gain skills to grow my business at a bigger scale. It is a very important program for women in general, and my passion is to create more opportunities for women to help them develop, as the main aim of my company is to contribute to the tourism industry, especially striving for women involvement.  So, that’s why I joined this program: to gain more skills, to improve the way I am doing business, the way I can help others to gain more knowledge, to empower the local community as well, especially women. I encourage every woman having a vivid business idea that can help the society, to come and join the program,” she said.  

About the first cohort in 2019  

The first cohort was organized in 2019, whereby 400 women had applied for the program, among which 33 were selected to attend. After the training program, there was a business plan completion and six of the graduates won seed money from the USADF – United States Africa Development Foundation, which provided grants worth 25,000USD per each graduate.

Jean Jacques Iradukunda says Igire Rwanda Organization (IRO) is pleased to reach that peak.

“We are glad that apart from the six graduates who received the funding, the other 27 who did not get the funding also got the mentorship to start their businesses or to scale them up and there are positive and visible changes in their businesses, and some already started their businesses from the ideas they had for the program.”

Iradukunda commends Noble Women and the US Embassy in Kigali for a productive partnership.

Igire Rwanda Organization (IRO) is Non Governmental Organization working in Rwanda since 2017, with vision to inspire and support youth and women to build the future they want, through two main programs, namely: the SheCanCODE, which introduces young women to computer programming; and the Academy for Women Entrepreneurs. IRO runs both programs in partnership with the US Embassy.   

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