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Re-building Rwanda, one strong woman at a time


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    Rwanda's flag, which was changed in 2001. The color green represents hope and prosperity, yellow represents development and blue symbolizes happiness and peace. The Sun and it's rays represent enlightenment.

    - Lisa Desai/Marketplace

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    Cancilde Kazimoto at her farm. Only half of the five acres she owns is being used to cultivate tomatoes.

    - Lisa Desai/Marketplace

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    A handful of tomatoes on a vine at Cancilde Kazimoto's farm will be ready for picking soon.

    - Lisa Desai/Marketplace

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    A tomato farmer spends her day working the land barefoot with traditional farming tools.

    - Lisa Desai/Marketplace

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    Farmer Cancilde Kazimoto's uses a traditional hoe to break up the dirt at her tomato farm.

    - Lisa Desai/Marketplace

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    A basket of Kazimoto's tomatoes sell at a market in Kigali.

    - Lisa Desai/Marketplace

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    A snapshot of Kigali's paved streets which are swept clean every morning

    - Lisa Desai/Marketplace

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    New buildings and constructions sites sprout up throughout Rwanda's capital city of Kigali.

    - Lisa Desai/Marketplace

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    The Bethsaida Family Planning Center is located just a few minutes outside of the capital.

    - Lisa Desai/Marketplace

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    After attending a family planning class, husbands and wives wait at a clinic for their preferred method of birth control.

    - Lisa Desai/Marketplace

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    The director of a family planning clinic near Kigali, Jeanne Kabaayana, teaches a class of Rwandan women about how to use different contraceptives.

    - Lisa Desai/Marketplace

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    A young mother learns about how to use birth control at a family planning clinic near Kigali.

    - Lisa Desai/Marketplace

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    Men and women in the waiting room of a family planning clinic where they will pick up free contraceptives.

    - Lisa Desai/Marketplace

A young mother learns about how to use birth control at a family planning clinic near Kigali.

TEXT OF STORY

Kai Ryssdal: Sixteen years after the horrible genocide in Rwanda, the country is slowly putting itself back together. Almost every citizen can get basic health care. You can access the Internet in most places. Gross domestic product, that is the economy, is growing steadily. All due, in part, to one particular part of the population: Women.

Lisa Desai reports.


Lisa Desai:Take a stroll through the capital city of Kigali and you'll come face-to-face with today's Rwanda. Roads are paved, tall buildings dot the skyline. And workers sweep the streets clean every morning. These are just a few signs of Rwanda's slow but steady fight against poverty. The government has big hopes to triple the size of the economy in just 10 years.

Jeanne d'Arc Mujawamariy: The status of Rwandans in 16 years has never been better.

That's politician Jeanne d'Arc Mujawamariy. She says when the genocide ended, Rwanda was left 70 percent female. So women picked up the pieces and started to rebuild. Today, in almost every sector of Rwandan life, you'll find a woman.

d'Arc Mujawamariy: Because you know they are now in business, they are in social development, they are in economic empowerment.

And they're also in leadership roles. Rwanda's the only country in the world where women outnumber men in Parliament. Just 10 years ago women weren't allowed to own land or keep their assets separate from their husbands. Now they can. And Rwanda now has a special police unit to stop domestic violence. The government is also trying to draw more women out of the house and into the work force. All over this very Catholic country you'll find family planning clinics.

Sound of babies crying

At a clinic near Kigali, there's a full house. About 40 women are learning how to use contraceptives and stocking up free of charge.

Celine Uwayisaba is waiting to pick up her birth control pills. She doesn't want too many kids. She says she'd rather work and earn an income, just like her husband.

Celine Uwayisaba: I enjoy being a businesswoman, because I can buy whatever I want without bothering my husband. Women also need to prosper and contribute to the school fees of their children.

Notice how she focused on education? Many government officials are convinced that women are more likely than men to invest in the household. Give them some money and they'll buy food, clothes and tuition. Even the men agree.

Dr. Jean Ntawukuriryayois the leader in Rwanda's parliament. He says that's how Rwanda will lift itself out of poverty -- one strong woman at a time.

Dr. Jean Ntawukuriryayois: The woman is the heart of the family, the heart of the house. So if your heart is working well, the whole body, I think, is also to benefit.

But there are still challenges. Most Rwandan women can't get loans because of high interest rates and too much red tape.


Sound of Cancilde Kazimoto walking and talking to a worker

One of those women is Cancilde Kazimoto. She bought five acres of land, just outside Kigali for a tomato farm. But she can only make money off half of it. For her business to expand she'll need a greenhouse, good fertilizer...


Sound woman with the hoe

Kazimoto's lobbying for women to get easier access to loans. She says just a little bit of money could take her business a long way. And she's not afraid to think big.

Cancilde Kazimoto: Why not start a tomato processing industry? Maybe we could turn the tomatoes into ketchup. There is no such thing in Rwanda.


Sound of a market

At a busy market in Kigali, Kazimoto tries to sell her tomatoes. Every penny she makes will go to her back to family and her business. Kazimoto is determined to see it grow. She compares her tomato business to the women of Rwanda: It's come a long way, she says, and still has a long way to go.

In Kigali, Rwanda I'm Lisa Desai for Marketplace.

Kai Ryssdal: You can see the women you just met. We have photos from Lisa's trip to Rwanda at our website Marketplace.org.

A young mother learns about how to use birth control at a family planning clinic near Kigali.

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Your figure of 70% women is not supported by the CIA Worldfact book data. What is the source of your data?

Even, though they have 70% female population, sadly enough due to the war, the bright side is shown: woman gain control, political power, entrepreneurial force and so on. All are good changes. I am not saying man are bad at all of that, but woman are better. There are just a few reasons: they are pro-creators, they know what it takes to keep peace, balance, budget, ensure that children are fine within the family and nationwide. So, yes, we do have a broader views on business just because we always carry a double responsibilities: work and home. It is commonly known that the most of us helping children with their homework...rarely the father..so we know our next generation better then them. Throughout so many Wars it is Women survival skills saved populations. We are more resourceful then the males are. We work hard and recover without Golf Club memberships ;-). All of the above, and more builds different perception of business, whole country, and your own function in it. When I think "business" I think: "Health", "Whole", "Common Welfare", "Next generation", and I never think "Ego-Career building" to make me feel better about myself. We see things globally better then males...it is just an observation....I wish it would be more balanced but it is not. So Yahoo!!! to the 70% of feminine population in Rwanda...they will do just fine. (If I sound a "Feminist"...may be I am ;-))

A small correction: Karisimbi Business Parters (www.karisimbipartners.com) are working with Sorwatom, the existing tomato processing facility in Rwanda.
I had the pleasure of working with Karisimbi in January in Rwanda to help a start-up real estate business. They are doing great things working with native small and medium enterprises to help grow the Rwandan economy. It was really encouraging to see the potential of Rwanda.

Loved this piece. Thank you for sharing. One way to help the businesswomen of Rwanda is through micro-grants or micro-loans. As the story stated, even a little cash or credit can drastically change these families lives. There are some great organizations that allow you to lend to small businesses of women in Rwanda and other countries. I currently use Kiva.org, but I encourage anyone interested in micro-loans to do their own research on lending organizations first.

Loved this piece. Thank you for sharing. One way to help the businesswomen of Rwanda is through micro-grants or micro-loans. As the story stated, even a little cash or credit can drastically change these families lives. There are some great organizations that allow you to lend to small businesses of women in Rwanda and other countries. I currently use Kiva.org, but I encourage anyone interested in micro-loans to do their own research on lending organizations first.

These women are making great strides. What are the possibilities of investing in Rowandan businesses? What would a green house cost? What does fertilizer cost? Thoughts?

I have always pondered what the world would be like if women were running it. The positive changes happening in Rwanda are but a glimpse of the possibilities.

Your story on Rwanda struck a chord with me. Rwanda deserves to move forward after decades of problems. The fact that it took women in leadership to do it did not surprise me. Women bring a broader and kinder view to the country and bravo to the leaders in Rvanda.

Marketplace is good to focus on the role of women in developing economies, where they form the backbone of social and economic development. However, the efforts of men and women on the ground will only enable developing countries to flourish if true political and economic freedoms are realized - including and especially when political elites relinquish their absolute control of their country's economic resources. Rwanda continues to be a country where these kind of root causes of the awful conflict persist. Marketplace ought to have been savvier in its depiction of Rwanda as a panacea for development. Background research into the country's political economy and/or interviews with members of civil society (who suffer/fear extrajudicial killings and disappearances for even speaking on such matters) would reveal the true state of affairs in the country. To preserve your credibility and do justice to international reporting, please do better research in the future.
Thanks for considering my comment.

I enjoyed your piece on Rwanda and the impact women have on the future success of the country. I was lucky enough to be in Rwanda 5 years ago, and honored to speak to a Mother's Union meeting. I showed photos of my 2 children before speaking on education. The only question asked afterwards was about birth control; how I had only 2 children. It showed what was of uppermost importance in their minds. Rwanda holds a special place in my heart!

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