Rwanda has a significant number of women entrepreneurs, who now play a major role in the development of the country especially through their active involvement in Rwanda’s private sector.
Women head 42 per cent of enterprises. They comprise 58 per cent of enterprises in the formal sector, which accounts for 30 percent of GDP. The majority are engaged in the retail sector (82 percent). With the rest focusing on services (16 to17 percent) and manufacturing (1to2 percent) sectors many women’s businesses are huge and large. Rwandan women are increasingly branching out into non-traditional sectors such as information and communication technology.
Most women say that they have benefited from training programs provided by the government and various organizations operating in Rwanda, thus indicating that such initiatives fill existing gaps and enhance the skills of women in business.
What inspires is the strong force they feel of wanting to make a difference in society, wanting to prove that they can be better than the male counterparts. Women mostly venture into business so as to be financially independent and gain respect from the society.
‘How do I balance business and domestic chores?’ is the big question more from women than men. Female entrepreneurs still have a tougher time with more home domestic responsibilities than their male counterparts.
Their disproportionate burden inside the home means that many women may have less time to devote to their business.
Women work, on average 49 hours per week, compared with 41 for men. While men spend more hours on economic work than women (35 hours per week compared with 28 hours per week), women spend a larger share of their time on domestic work (21 hours per week compared with 7 hours per week)
Some Rwandan women may start a business, rather than working for someone else, so as to manage more easily their responsibilities in the home.
While precise data on the reasons for Rwandan women to enter business are lacking, data from the U.S, for example, indicate that ‘work and life balance’ were the primary motivating reasons for women to start a business.
In addition to having less free time, busy working women have to struggle with the lack of childcare options.
In a survey in preparation of the Draft Master Plan for Kigali, citizens were asked to rank their land use and infrastructure needs in order of priority. “Child care facilities” was voted as the second highest priority.
Addressing this issue might help ease women’s work burdens and might therefore help facilitate women’s business success.
What helps Rwanda women entrepreneur to develop
Rwanda women are assisted in development by the strong support from the government and its stakeholder’s especially Non-governmental organizations and UN organs. The government, through the National Bank and other Microfinance institutions, has set aside special loans for women initiatives or projects and provides security for the loans acquired to start up a business or support a specific project run by women.
The government has inserted more efforts in promoting women initiatives especially in entrepreneurship, and this makes more women join business sector and feel empowered due to the existing policies and most of them are visible in the current competitive stage in entrepreneurship.
One of the many women, who have benefited from the government policy of promoting women in entrepreneurship, is Josette Komezusenge, the proprietor of Maza dreadlock saloons in Kigali city.
As a young girl child, Josette was born and raised in Brussels Belgium- where she studied accounts and lived for 30 years with her parents.
While in Brussels, she loved to work with hair dressing, beautification companies and cosmetics. One thing that kept her moving was to focus on love of African cultural aspects and features.
She worked for various saloons and cosmetic companies as a professional. She also ran a private business in Brussels known as ‘Maza House cosmetics’. Apparently, Josette won’t reveal the meaning behind this label name-Maza. She says that it is her secret and she only reveals it to a few close friends.
However, when time came for her to return home, Komezusenge was particularly encouraged to become an entrepreneur because of the government policy of promoting job creation- which locally said as “twihangire imirimo”. This mobilization program was very appealing.
“At this time, I realized that I had always wanted to do something for my country, and it was through creating a special job or career, that I would make a difference. Something that I loved so much was dreadlocks,” says Komezusenge.
Maza saloon started as a home-based business. She used to get special orders from friends who had known her from back then in Brussels. She started with the help of one young Rwandan lady- whom she had trained. As the demand dreadlocks increased, clients and friends requesting her to go professional. Komezusenge raised two million Rwandan francs and started up the pioneer Maza saloon, in the middle of Kigali city- located opposite the BCR bank on the main road to Serena Hotel.
She used the minimal funds to rent the expensive saloon premises and the rest of the funds to purchase saloon equipment.
“It was not an easy beginning for a woman like me- everybody thought that I had a lot of money since I had just come from abroad. However, two things kept me moving amidst all sorts of discouragement- I wanted to make a difference for my country as woman and I sought advice from old and good friends- who encouraged me, not to give up,” Komezusenge narrates.
Today, Komezusenge is considered the pioneer of dreadlock saloon business because of her special skills and methodology of making dreadlocks without using biz wax gel. She employs over 30 young women, and has trained over 60 women –who have either started up the same business or general beauty saloons.
“The culture and mentality of Rwandans has changed over the years. It was not easy to conceive a person having dreadlocks and I literally had to educate my clients that dreadlocks were a modern aspect of treating hair and an African beauty style,” says Komezusenge.
The National Institute of Statistic (NISR) and the Gender Monitoring Office (GMO) launched a new Gender Statistics Framework (GSF), which will be useful in gathering information and indicators on gender in Rwanda.
Director General of NISR, Yousuf Murangwa, said the framework will enable institute to gather information on gender statistics about the progress of promoting gender and women empowerment.
Policies surrounding women entrepreneurship
The Government of Rwanda’s general policy has a view to, and with a view to establish a law where all forms of discrimination are suppressed. Rwanda defined and adopted a national gender policy mainly aimed at giving women a significant place in the participation in the country’s development in all areas.
Rwanda has continued to design various policies which are aimed at encouraging women entrepreneurship. Some of the policies include:
Policy of savings and access to finance and bank loan services, policy on women empowerment through the Rwandan Small and Medium Enterprise (SME) Policy – which is designed to complement a set of existing policies/strategies that aim to increase non-farm employment, develop business and technical skills in the Rwandan workforce, support targeted value-added clusters, strengthen the financial sector, grow the tax base and facilitate investment finance to generate industrial growth.
Policy on Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on 18 December 1979, and ratified by Rwanda. Policies on promoting cooperatives, and transforming associations to co-operatives. This is a way, to promote income generation among women.
The Rwanda’s National Cooperatives Promotion Policy aims at orienting and ensuring that cooperatives become a viable tool for social-economic development in Rwanda.