Representative from the Ministry of Gender and Family Promotion
Vice Chancellor of the KIM University
Representative from the Rwanda Development Board
Representative of the Business Development Fund
Representatives from the Private Sector Federation
Distinguished members of Academia
Students here in attendance
Ladies and gentlemen

All protocol observed

It is my great honor to be here to witness the establishment of the Centre for Gender and Entrepreneurship.

A Center that seeks to empower our young sisters and give them the skills that are adapted to today and tomorrow’s professional world. Young ladies as their male counterparts must leave the classrooms ready to cope with an ever changing professional, technological and economic environment.

First and foremost, I would like to congratulate the KIM for taking an active role in women empowerment through creating a platform for girls to become conscious of and to develop entrepreneurship skills that would allow them to make a major contribution to the development of the country. This is a strong recognition of women and girls right to participate in, contribute to, and fully share the benefits of entrepreneurship, paid work and ultimately economic growth.

Last year McKinsey reported that full gender equality could add $28 trillion to global GDP by 2025. More recently the 2016 Africa Human Development Report estimated the cost of gender inequality in sub-Saharan Africa to an average of $95 billion a year or six percent of the region’s GDP – jeopardising the continent’s efforts for inclusive human development and economic growth.

In this context, we could not be happier to be here, in Rwanda a country that has achieved so much on women’s empowerment and that continues its efforts to sustain and advance the gains made.

Rwanda is the country with the highest number of women in parliament in the world, it is ranked as number 1 on GEWE in Africa and number 6 globally according to the global gender gap report. The country has effectively mainstreamed gender in its vision 2020 and national development frameworks such as the EDPRs to ensure that the commitments made at the highest level are translated into concrete actions that can transform the lives of women and girls, men and boys in urban and in rural settings. Finally, the country is leading the HeforShe campaign globally, with over 200,000 signatures. HeForShe is a solidarity movement for gender equality created by UN Women in September 2014 with a view to provide a systematic approach and a platform on which men and boys can engage and become change agents: our ambition is to mobilize 1 billion men to accelerate the achievement of gender equality.

Gender equality is about equal rights and equal opportunities for all which is only fair because “We cannot win any game with half of the team left outside of the game”; therefore, women as the majority of the world population and as pool of talent must be attracted to the workforce, as employees, as entrepreneurs and simply as citizens so that our economies and our companies can grow in a healthy and sustainable manner. Rwanda is doing very well when it comes to promoting women, but there is still a lot left to be done, especially in terms of WEE.

Large gender gaps in economic opportunities and outcomes continue to exist in almost all countries. In developing countries, 75% of women’s employment is informal and unprotected, that on average women are paid 24% less than men, or that significant obstacles still stand in the way of women entrepreneurs in terms of access to finance, technical capacity, and business opportunities. But on the other side, today’s world offers tremendous opportunities. ICT and the knowledge society are among these key enablers that will enhance the creativity, increase the productivity and unleash the potential of our women and girls.

Yes empowering women and removing barriers that hinder their full accomplishment is important for their development but also and particularly to ensure the sustainable development of the country, of the continent and beyond.

Walk around a major city in Sub-Saharan Africa and you will quickly realize that women are a highly visible part of the economy, selling all manner of products and services. In some ways, women are powering the economies of the continent to a greater degree than anywhere else in the world; Sub-Saharan Africa is the only region where women make up the majority of self-employed individuals.

Yet, if women do not have equal opportunity in education, training, participation in economic and political life, it will certainly be more difficult for them to access the required knowledge and resources to start and grow successful businesses, and, thus, to contribute fully to the socio-economic development of their countries.

This Centre ought to be a catalyst to develop the untapped potential of young women from Rwanda and the region; creating a space to groom inherent talents, equipping young women with necessary entrepreneurship, financial and human skills and creating avenues for them to be the next Lionesses of Africa, to use the term given to these inspirational women entrepreneurs on the continent who managed to put their countries on the Global Business Map.

Education is the right foundation for your careers, but you also need to think beyond the borders, outside the boxes and across the lines, to achieve innovative business ventures and empower your younger sisters and brothers, giving them a model to follow and even surpass.

You must learn to follow your dreams, picture yourself on top of the company you wish to build in five years, and stay focused on that objective, with perseverance and discipline, to see it come to pass. Do not fall in the trap of discouragement, but sustain the commitment to your end goal.

As UN Women we are looking forward to the first batch of KIM Women entrepreneurs that will take over the National, Regional and Global Market with new products and new and innovative business ideas.

I believe this should mark the beginning of a lot of positive changes that we will witness in Rwanda in the coming years and you my sisters and brothers are among the architects of this bright future.

Believe in yourself, study hard, study smart, and add your stories to the History of Rwanda, Africa and the world.

Thank you for your kind attention.
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