I was recently given the honor of speaking at the African Women’s Entrepreneurship Program at the U.S. Embassy in Kigali, Rwanda. AWEP is a U.S. Department of State initiative started in 2010 to help support women entrepreneurs in sub-Saharan Africa. In front of an audience of 17 women business owners, I spoke of how, despite coming from vastly different perspectives, we each face similar challenges when it comes to being a woman in business.
Although my words needed to be translated, our unspoken language penetrated the room. As each woman stood to introduce themselves and share a bit about their business, it was evident to me how passionate they were about their products and how eager they were to learn. These talented artisans showed off their handmade jewelry, clothing, accessories and home décor items with pride.
I was a bit concerned after seeing their talent that I may not have much to teach these women who had obviously already come so far. But it was my goal to inspire and encourage them and with such an ambitious and enthusiastic audience, this was easy to do.
With a room full of smart, entrepreneurial-minded women, the question and answer session provided a time to share information. I must say though, that I believe I was the one in the room with the most to learn. I gained so much from the experience and left with a much greater understanding of what the women of Rwanda face in starting and growing their own businesses.
I wish to thank the U.S. Department of State for the invitation to speak at such a worthwhile event and can only hope that my presence there helped to shape the future for some of those in attendance.