SHE on the Hunt in Gacuriro

November 5, 2010
Gacuriro School, Kigali, Rwanda

If you told me that I'd be preparing to build a factory a few years ago, I think I would've thought you fell off the wagon....and bumped your head. But, that's exactly what we're laying the groundwork for right now in Rwanda.

So how does one go about doing that you ask? Well, as I do with most things, I "googled it".....key words: factory, how-to, build. Hmmm, let me add the word "easy" to that search. Why did the screen go blank?

Our task ahead of us is not exactly easy, but that's part of the reason SHE has taken it on, right? Not being manufacturing gurus ourselves, we've decided to do 3 things: get the right people on board early, do our homework, and come up with a systematic game plan...which is exactly what we are doing now.

Our first homework assignment: check out existing manufacturing sites and potential SHE sites. And that's how we ended up at Gacuriro--Julian (our SHE Chief Operations Wizard), Peggy G (one of our savvy SHE-roes), and I poked around one of the technical schools overseen by the Workforce Development Authority, the division under the Ministry of Education with whom we have a partnership. About 6 different technical skill training modules were ongoing....melding, bricklaying, get it. What were we looking for you ask? Consistent electricity, water access, waste disposal system, light, clean space, a passable road among other things.

What was striking was the range of conditions among the different workshops. For example, the first was dark and dirty, but the second was bright and immaculate. I guess not all workshops are created equal. What was also striking was that in the 6 workshops (about 80 people total), we only saw 1 woman. She was the tailoring teacher. Maybe we should have pulled up a stool and joined her?


And the Campaign Marches On!

November 4, 2010
Gicumbi, Rwanda

Hello SHE Train,
On my last post I mentioned that the "Breaking the Silence" campaign will be kicked off in the northern part of Rwanda (Gicumbi) with distribution of
sanitary pads collected at the kick-off march in March. Well, kick-off we did!

In collaboration with FAWE (Forum for African Women Educationalists) and RAUW (Rwanda Association of University Women), we visited 3 schools with the aim of talking with the students about menstrual issues, raising awareness and
distributing pads among other things.

The team that took the campaign to this area comprised of a woman member of Parliament from this constituency (you know how we are trying to bring this to the attention of Policy makers so they can waive taxes off sanitary pads!), District
Education Officers and many women from different organizations, whose 2 hour bus drive talk was about menstruation and how we can manage.

During the ceremony, we had testimonies from both students and teachers, who confessed this was a pressing problem and now, I quote ‘at least we are going to have a whole term of girls’ presence in school with the pads we just received’. Most notable is the fact that the policy maker in our company promised to take this to the ‘House’.

Watch out for Julian taking the pad and running with it to Parliament!

SHE, Chief Operation Wizard

Cranes, Trains, and Automobiles

November 2, 2010
Kigali, Rwanda

Bond issuance, consumer behavior, interest rates….ahh, love at first sight, or listen. That was my first thought in my first economics course. I know, geek central, or better yet, mild mannered policy wonk! There are a few things I remembered from that class, but a lot more I forgot. One thing that I did remember is Professor Ghilarducci’s “crane index”. It was 1997 and she had just come back from China and remarked that you can tell a country is growing rapidly not only by its GNP per capita, but by how many cranes there are in the sky. Her premise was that cranes signaled new construction which symbolized investor confidence and investment, job creation.

Well, Rwanda may not have cranes, but it does have scaffolding (see picture above of Kigali Institute of Ed with scaffolding)! And the scaffolding index is high these days. I returned to Rwanda recently after a stint in the US, recruiting an international technical partnership and raising venture philanthropic capital. Much has changed—there’s a new beer (Skol), a wider road, and lots of new scaffolding to symbolize what the cranes did in China... But is all growth good? What do you think? To be continued….