Tag: Rwanda

Ms Geek Africa Competition Rewards Women’s Brains Instead of their Beauty

Niger’s Salissou Hassane Latifa was crowned the 2018 Miss Geek Africa for her innovative new app that promises to help accident victims. (Courtesy of YouTube)

via theguardian.com

After years of women in evening gowns vying for the title of national beauty queen, glamour is giving way to geekery in Rwanda. A group of female tech entrepreneurs decided it was time to ditch Miss Rwanda for a different kind of competition, one that judged women on brilliance rather than beauty. It was time for Ms Geek.

The first Ms Geek Rwanda was crowned in 2014, and the competition has since expanded to include other African countries under the unifying banner of Ms Geek Africa. The event, open to girls and women aged 13 to 25, encourages contestants to use technology to solve everyday problems in their communities. The finalists receive business training and the winner is awarded financial backing to help realise her idea.

This year’s Ms Geek Africa is Salissou Hassane Latifa, 21, from Niger. Her winning design is the Saro app, which helps communication between people caring for accident victims and the emergency services, and allows medical staff to advise on basic first aid before they arrive at the scene.

“Ms Geek has already changed the perception of what girls can do,” says Esther Kunda of the Next Einstein Forum, a founding member of competition organiser Girls in ICT Rwanda.

Salissou Hassane Latifa, the latest Ms Geek Africa winner, has devised an app that promises to help accident victims. (Photograph Courtesy Kigali Today)

The contest was set up as part of a nationwide effort to transform Rwanda from a small agricultural economy into an engine of technological innovation, with women and girls at the forefront of the revolution.

The government has set a target of achieving gender parity in the information communications technology sector by 2020, an ambitious goal in a worldwide industry notorious for its lack of diversity. But through educational campaigns, scholarships and mentorship programmes, Rwanda is determined to become a global leader for women in ICT. “It’s a good place to be a woman in tech right now,” Kunda says of Rwanda.

Before the genocide of 1994, it was uncommon for women in Rwanda to own land, receive a formal education or hold jobs outside of the home. After the atrocity, the country’s surviving population was 60-70% female, according to contemporary accounts.

President Paul Kagame, who has led Rwanda with an iron fist since 2000, realised that advancing women was the only way forward and has championed their rights ever since.

Rwanda now leads the world in female representation in parliament, due in part to a quota system that reserves seats for women. Gender rights are enshrined in the national constitution and laws were changed to give women the right to inherit land and obtain credit.

As a child, Rosine Mwiseneza, who was orphaned during the genocide, recalls watching the women around her stepping into leadership roles in government and civil society. They became police officers, accountants, butchers, shop owners. Girls went to school and competed alongside boys for internships and scholarships.

Mwiseneza was studying business management at Kepler University in Kigali when she entered the Ms Geek contest in 2016. Her idea was for an automated irrigation system that would help farmers cultivate their fields year-round as opposed to just during the rainy season.

Mwiseneza says she was astounded when she won the competition. In that moment, she remembered her parents and all the hardships she had endured. “It was very difficult to believe,” she says. “I started thinking of everything that had passed before that day and I began to cry.”

To read more: https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2018/may/28/brilliance-overtakes-beauty-ms-geek-africa-spotlights-tech-genius-salissou-hassane-latifa

OZY Genius Award Winner Claudine Humure Designs 3-D Printed Prosthetic Socket

OZY Genius Award winner Claudine Humure (photo via blackenterprise.com)

article by Robin White Goode via blackenterprise.com

Claudine Humure, a senior at Wheaton College in Norton, Massachusetts, is one of the 10 young people awarded $10,000 as a winner of one of the OZY Genius Awards distributed by OZY, the news site.

Humure won for her innovative and compassionate 3-D printed adjustable prosthetic socket, which will be used by amputees. “This socket is much cheaper to produce on a 3-D printer,” Humure said. “It cost about $100.” Because of the low production costs, Humure expects her prosthetic socket to be affordable to amputees in developing countries.

Prosthetics now on the market are too expensive for many of them. Humure has a personal interest in prosthetics. After losing both her parents in Rwanda’s genocide, she and her six siblings were raised in an orphanage. At the age of 13, she developed cancer, which led to the amputation of her leg. She first came to the U.S. to get a prosthetic leg in 2004, after which she returned to Rwanda. Later she came back to the U.S. to study after receiving a scholarship to attend high school in Connecticut.

“I was motivated by seeing how much prosthetic limbs are really needed. Being an amputee, I know what is needed,” Humure said. A biology major who interned at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology where she was exposed to prosthetic research, Humure graduates this May and intends to spend the rest of the year refining the socket’s design. But she also has goals for the future.

“I want to help amputees in different developing countries, not just Rwanda,” she told me. “I want to visit different countries and see what people are already doing and how I can help.”But eventually, she sees herself going home.“I want to open a prosthetic clinic in Rwanda where amputees are rehabilitated and learn from each other.”

To read more, go to: OZY Genius Award Winner Designs 3-D Printed Prosthetic Socket

World Economic Forum Names Top 5 African Female Innovators

Three of WEF's top five African women innovators (photo via VenturesAfrica.com)
Three of WEF’s top five African women innovators (photo via VenturesAfrica.com)

article by Fumnanya Agbugah via VenturesAfrica.com

On Friday, the World Economic Forum on Africa presented the five winners of the conference’s challenge to find Africa’s top women innovators. The winners, whose innovations were from the areas including mobile health insurance, solar powered vending carts, bio medical materials and IT training as well as food processing, hail from Kenya, Rwanda, South Africa, Tanzania and Uganda.

Currently, Africa has the youngest population in the world and this is expected to double by 2045. In view of this, several global leaders have attested to the fact that Africa’s future lies in the hands of its youthful population. The region’s start-up businesses are gaining confidence and scale with a growing number of innovations achieving recognition beyond the region’s borders. However, a lot still has to be done in order to create an enabling environment that will allow women to flourish. Due to this set back, the World Economic Forum decided to run this competition to find Africa’s top female innovators especially as the potential of women entrepreneurs is far from optimum.

“I strongly believe that the 21st century will be Africa’s century, that its young population has the potential to build a world where they are not only materially better off, but also where things are fairer, more sustainable and more tolerant than at any other time in history. But this will not be achieved unless women are able to make a full contribution. This is why we are showcasing Africa’s best female entrepreneurs in Kigali this week,” said Elsie Kanza, Head of Africa at the World Economic Forum.

Here are Africa’s top female innovators, selected based on the criteria for the WEF Africa challenge. This required entrant companies to be less than three years old, be earning revenue for at least a year and have proven innovation and positive social impact.

Natalie Bitature – Musana Carts, Kampala, Uganda

Natalie Bitature - Musana Carts, Kampala, Uganda

Musana Carts has used frugal innovation to develop environmentally friendly, solar-powered vending carts. With a price point of $400, each Musana Cart saves 3,000 tons of carbon emissions and improves the health of cities by eliminating pollution from charcoal and kerosene stoves.

Audrey Cheng – Moringa School, Nairobi, Kenya


Audrey Cheng established Moringa School to enable an entire generation gain the skills they need to compete in the digital economy. Two years on, graduates work in the top tech companies in the region, earning, on average, 350 percent more than before they completed the course.

Continue reading “World Economic Forum Names Top 5 African Female Innovators”

Justus Uwayesu, Who Lived in a Rwandan Dump after Being Orphaned by Genocide, Earns Full Scholarship at Harvard

Justus Uwayesu, rescued at 9 from the streets of Rwanda, is enrolled as a freshman at Harvard. (IAN THOMAS JANSEN-LONNQUIST FOR THE NEW YORK TIMES)

BOSTON — Nine years old and orphaned by ethnic genocide, he was living in a burned-out car in a Rwandan garbage dump where he scavenged for food and clothes. Daytimes, he was a street beggar. He had not bathed in more than a year.When an American charity worker, Clare Effiong, visited the dump one Sunday, other children scattered. Filthy and hungry, Justus Uwayesu stayed put, and she asked him why.

“I want to go to school,” he replied.

Well, he got his wish.

This autumn, Mr. Uwayesu enrolled as a freshman at Harvard University on a full-scholarship, studying math, economics and human rights, and aiming for an advanced science degree. Now about 22 — his birthday is unknown — he could be, in jeans, a sweater and sneakers, just another of the 1,667 first-year students here.
Continue reading “Justus Uwayesu, Who Lived in a Rwandan Dump after Being Orphaned by Genocide, Earns Full Scholarship at Harvard”

Rwanda Makes Great Progress in Economic Growth, Life Expectancy 20 Years After Genocide

A young woman stands in a "reconciliation village" in Mybo, Rwanda. In these villages, many who killed their neighbors in the 1994 genocide now live side by side with relatives of the dead. (Chip Somodevilla, Getty Images / April 6, 2014)
A young woman stands in a “reconciliation village” in Mybo, Rwanda. In these villages, many who killed their neighbors in the 1994 genocide now live side by side with relatives of the dead. (Chip Somodevilla, Getty Images / April 6, 2014)

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa — In scattered villages on steep green hillsides, many who killed their neighbors in Rwanda’s genocide 20 years ago now live side by side with relatives of the dead.

Speech that creates ethnic divisions has been outlawed. Local tribunals called gacaca courts have allowed many offenders to be released from prison in return for confessions and expressions of remorse. And a generation of young people who grew up after the mass killings embody the hope of a new breed of Rwandans who identify not by ethnicity but by nationality.

Rwanda has made stunning progress since what was one of the 20th century’s greatest tragedies, when more than 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus were slaughtered by Hutu extremists. Life expectancy has doubled since 1994 to more than 60 years. Economic growth consistently reaches 8% annually. And the number of deaths of children under age 5 has plummeted in the last two decades from 230 per 1,000 to 55.

In the years since the hundred days of bloodletting, in which as many as a million people were killed, the small Central African country has wowed donors and investors, though lately human rights advocates have criticized President Paul Kagame for displaying an increasingly authoritarian approach.

Kagame says that improved education and an end to poverty are the most effective ways to prevent a return of violence. The government spends a quarter of its budget on health and 17% on education, according to the World Bank.  The positive news out of Rwanda stands in sharp contrast to the results of the West’s vows that “never again” would the world stand by as the massacres that occurred in Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia in the mid-1990s unfolded.

In 2002, the Rome statute was established, setting up the International Criminal Court to prosecute individuals on charges including genocide and crimes against humanity. And in 2005, a summit of world leaders adopted the doctrine of the “responsibility to protect,” which obliged the international community to step in when civilians are under attack and their governments fail to protect them.

But unfolding tragedies underscore United Nations failures to protect vulnerable populations when wars break out.  In the Central African Republic, sectarian killings of Muslims have been taking place for months and a proposed U.N. force substantial enough to halt the slaughter has yet to be deployed, even as most of the Muslim population is driven out of the country and its mosques burned.

Elsewhere in Africa, international intervention has shown mixed success. In the Democratic Republic of Congo, to which the perpetrators of the Rwandan genocide fled, U.N. peacekeepers have been criticized for failing to prevent attacks on civilians by armed groups, although last November — with a new mandate to use force — they helped Congolese army forces defeat the Rwandan-backed rebel group M23. In South Sudan, U.N. peacekeepers failed to prevent an estimated 10,000 ethnic killings last December, although the death toll may have been worse without the U.N. presence.

The Rwandan genocide was set off April 7, 1994, when a plane carrying Rwandan President Juvenal Habyarimana and Burundian President Cyprien Ntaryamira, both Hutus, was shot down near the Kigali airport. The source of the attack is disputed, with Kagame’s government saying that Hutu extremists in Habyarimana’s military assassinated him as an excuse to exterminate Tutsis.

Kagame’s Rwandan Patriotic Front had invaded northern Rwanda in 1990 from Uganda in a bid to oust the Habyarimana government, but after nearly three years of civil war, a peace deal known as the Arusha accords was signed, calling for a power-sharing arrangement that was to lead to elections.  The downing of the plane undermined the peace deal and triggered the mass killing of Tutsis and some Hutus by Hutu extremists. Some of the perpetrators were radio hosts, who used their programs to call Tutsis “cockroaches” that should be exterminated.

Neighbors killed neighbors. Entire families were wiped out. Some were killed in Roman Catholic churches where they had sought refuge and several Catholic nuns and priests have been convicted as perpetrators.  The United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda, deployed to implement the Arusha peace deal, did nothing to halt the bloody rampage, blaming a restrictive mandate. Western powers failed to intervene. Then-President Clinton has since apologized, acknowledging last year that as many as 300,000 lives could have been saved had the U.S. acted.

After three months of fighting, Kagame’s forces reached the capital, Kigali, and drove the Rwandan army and government-backed militias from power.

The rebel movement Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda, which includes some of the perpetrators of the genocide, continues to operate in eastern Congo, launching cross-border raids. But Rwanda has faced international criticism for its backing of M23 rebels, accused of using child soldiers and carrying out atrocities. Rwanda has denied the accusations, but the U.S. froze military aid to the country in 2012 over its support for the group.

Kagame speaks scathingly about the U.N. peacekeeping mission in eastern Congo, the largest in the world. “You have a [U.N. peacekeeping] mission in Congo spending $1.5 billion every year for the past 12 years,” he said in an interview last year. “Nobody ever asks, ‘What do we get out of this?'”

For Kagame, lectures about human rights abuses are the West’s way of trying to exert control in Africa.

“For the past century, including the last 50 years of independence, Africa lost immense opportunities largely due to unbalanced relationships within the global community that were often predatory and even abusive in nature,” he said in a 2012 speech marking Rwanda’s 50th anniversary of independence. “Today, new ways of perpetuating the old order have emerged in a subtle manner, often disguised as the defense of human rights, free speech and international justice.”

Kagame frequently exhorts his fellow citizens to work hard, remember the genocide, but to move forward. He extols the virtue of Rwandan democracy and self-reliance.

Rwanda is ranked by the World Bank as one of the easiest places to do business in Africa. Though the most densely populated country in Africa, the nation of 11 million is self-sufficient in staple crops, according to the World Food Program, and acute malnutrition among children ages 6 months to 5 years is 3.6%.

Monthly work details, in which all citizens are required to participate in Saturday cleanups, have something of a Soviet feel to them — but the country is as neat as a pin.

“We must work hard because if we wait for others to develop our country, we will not make progress,” Kagame said last month. “Any external help must only come as an addition to our own efforts to better ourselves.”

article by Robyn Dixon via latimes.com

Rwanda to Receive Free Access to Online Education via edX and Facebook SocialEDU Initiative

Image via Compassion.com

Learning nonprofit edX is partnering with Facebook to help bridge the digital divide and bring online education to the unconnected world.  The new pilot initiative, named SocialEDU, was revealed Monday at the Barcelona-based Mobile World Congress, and will provide students in Rwanda with free access to “a collaborative online education experience,” according to a statement fresh from the Facebook newsroom. The program is being released under the umbrella of Internet.org, a global partnership focused on bringing Internet to the two-thirds of the world’s population living without it.

The social media giant will be working with the Harvard-and MIT-founded platform to build a mobile app that is integrated with Facebook. Through SocialEDU, students will receive free data plans for accessing edX’s massive open online courses, which stem from 32 of the world’s leading universities, including Dartmouth, U.C. Berkeley, TU Delft, Australian National University and the University of Hong Kong.  The platform will allow students to ask questions, interact with teachers, participate in group discussions and engage with their peers. What’s more, the Rwandan government will work with edX to adapt the course materials, thereby creating more locally-relevant content, as well as expand its free Wi-Fi in campuses throughout the East African country.

As part of SocialEDU, Facebook is also partnering with telecommunications company Airtel and Nokia. The former is providing a year’s worth of free educational data to registrants, while the latter is offering discounted smartphones to all those participating in the program.  If the pilot is deemed successful, SocialEDU will expand beyond Rwanda.

Continue reading “Rwanda to Receive Free Access to Online Education via edX and Facebook SocialEDU Initiative”

Rwandan Teen Leonard Kwitonda Overcomes Obstacles And Will Graduate With Honors


Leonard Kwitonda’s life definitely hasn’t been a crystal stair. In 1994, his father was killed in the Rwanda genocide and he was left with just his mother and siblings. At 12-years-old, he traveled with the Rwanda Jr. Basketball Team, but while traveling in California. with the team, his uncle was killed and his family fled to Uganda. He was told to stay in the U.S because of safety issues.

When he was just 15-years-old, not able to speak English, he took a two day ride to Kentucky from California. He’s already lived with two foster families, but that hasn’t deterred him.  Leonard excels not only academically, but is also a star athlete on the basketball team and soccer team. This year, he will graduate with honors.

Leornard says, “I think I’ve come a long way. I don’t like to think of myself as a person who has a lot of issues. There is a lot of people who have more than myself, than I have.”  Jeffersonville Coach Matt Pait says Leonard’s story is inspirational, a teen who has overcome so many obstacles and adversity and is still successful.  Pait says, “He brings a lot of energy, he’s always smiling. Immediately when he’s in the game, it’s constant energy and effort. He’s the kid who gives 100 percent at everything he does.”

Audrey Baines, his current foster mother couldn’t be more proud of Leonard. “Leonard, if you meet him once or you meet him a million times, he’s always going to have a smile on his face, something positive to say. He’s as much a part of Jeff. as anybody who has been here forever and he’s so much a part of my family, I can’t imagine not having him in my life.”

Leonard is planning to go to college and study international business.  To see video of this inspirational teen, click here.

article via clutchmagonline.com

MOVIE REVIEW: In “Sweet Dreams” Documentary, Rwandan Women Build Ice Cream Business

“Sweet Dreams” tracks the complicated creation of an ice cream shop in Rwanda. (Lisa Fruchtman/International Film Circuit)
Sweet Dreams, a documentary about efforts by the Brooklyn-based Blue Marble Ice Cream company to help a group of Rwandan women open their own shop, could have come off as insensitive or twee. And in the first 10 minutes, I worried that it was, indeed, about how artisanal food could save Africa.

When viewers are facing the aftermath of genocide in Rwanda, in which hundreds of thousands of Tutsis were slaughtered in 1994, it’s easy to think that ice cream is a comparatively petty concern. But, thankfully, the sibling directors Lisa and Rob Fruchtman have made a nuanced and deftly edited film about a complex issue. It’s fascinating to see the natural resources in this “land of milk and honey” transformed into novelty and development through a soft-serve machine. And, as one man says, “If you are bringing development to the woman, you are bringing it to the whole family.” It is rare to see a movie present such weighty problems and offer nonsimplistic, practical solutions in story form.

Ms. Fruchtman’s background as an editor (Apocalypse Now and Heaven’s Gate) may have helped guide the skillful narrative structure here. The initial focus on the struggles and successes of a small business may be familiar to Western audiences. But then the individual past horrors endured by these women are revealed in subtle and dramatic ways, until we realize the weight of trauma in this nation. “Can someone just see you and start guessing your story?” one subject wonders.

article by Miriam Bale via nytimes.com

Rwandan Doctoral Student Wins Award for Work in Plant Genetics

Gerardine Mukeshimana, a doctoral student in plant breeding, genetics, and biotechnology at Michigan State University, received the 2012 Award for Scientific Excellence from the Board for International Food and Agricultural Development. Mukeshimana is being honored for her work in the breeding of the Phaseolus vulgaris L. bean in her home country of Rwanda. Her work has made the bean more resistant to disease and better able to withstand drought.

Mukeshimana’s research is supported by the Dry Grain Pulses Collaborative Research Support Program. This project, managed at Michigan State, is a partnership between U.S. universities, developing country institutions and the U.S. Agency for International Development. The research program addresses issues of hunger and poverty through science and technology.

article via jbhe.com

Dylan Penningroth and Dinaw Mengestu Win 2012 MacArthur Fellowships

Dylan C. Pennigroth (left) and Dinaw Mengestu (right)

Penningroth received a B.A. (1993) from Yale University and an M.A. (1996) and a Ph.D. (2000) from Johns Hopkins University. He was affiliated with the University of Virginia (1999–2002) prior to his appointment as associate professor in the Department of History at Northwestern University in 2003. Since 2007, he has also been an American Bar Foundation research professor. Northwestern University Professor Dylan C. Penningroth and writer Dinaw Mengestu are among this year’s recipients of the prestigious MacArthur Foundation Fellowship, commonly known as the “genius grant.”  The MacArthur Fellowship is a “no strings attached” award bestowed annually to encourage people of outstanding talent to pursue their own creative, intellectual, and professional inclinations.  Continue reading “Dylan Penningroth and Dinaw Mengestu Win 2012 MacArthur Fellowships”