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Making Your Challenges A Catalyst For Transformation

Kigali, Rwanda – August 27, 2013: Women sitting on the ground with umbrella as sun protection

Lydia Busingye is a young woman who was kidnapped and subjected to sexual abuse at the age of thirteen. This tragedy left her with feelings of resentment, self-blame, low self-worth and confidence. As a result she felt discouraged to pursue her dreams of becoming a confident and effective leader someday.

Over the years that she struggled with her experience, Lydia found inspiration to regain her confidence and self-worth by having successful women role models such as Minister Louise Mushikiwabo, the late Minister Aloisea Inyumba, Joyce Meyer and Oprah Winfrey. Their life stories and achievements motivated Lydia to use the negative experiences from her childhood to rebuild her strength and encourage other women and girls to do the same.

She developed an interest in building self-esteem for women and girls through restoring hope, dreams and fighting against sexual and gender based violence (SGBV). Lydia’s passion for women and girls issues encouraged her to look for opportunities that empowered her and other women in various ways.

Lydia describes the Rwanda Women Leadership Institute (RWLI) as one such opportunity that has empowered her to be the woman she is today. As a woman who once dreamt of becoming a leader, she commends the program for reigniting her dream through its training in leadership skills.

One of her most important lessons from the program is from an African proverb that was shared during the training; “if you want to go fast, go alone but if you want to go far, go together.” According to Lydia, the proverb, reinforces “the importance of working together and supporting one another as women in pursuing our dreams,” and the capacity women have to be leaders that can contribute to meaningful change and development in society. She also learnt the importance of self-love, care, protection/safety of women and girls in any environment.

As a RWLI alumni, Lydia has used both personal and professional platforms to share information on women’s key role in decision making, transformational leadership and SGBV. She hopes that in sharing with other women and girls, she can help them protect themselves and address issues of abuse as well as motivate them to be agents of change in their respective communities. Lydia describes RWLI as a programme that has given her the right tools to achieve her dreams; “I am now dreaming to be a woman of integrity, a role model, a source of health and wealth in my country and worldwide.”

RWLI represents one of the projects implemented by Rwanda Women’s Network (RWN) in collaboration with the Ministry of Gender and Family Promotion to empower Rwandan women from all walks of life. The institute’s objectives compliment various national and global campaigns that promote women’s rights and gender parity; such as the Rwanda’s national theme for International Women’s Day; “Preserving the Dignity Regained.”

Rwanda is commended globally for its gender sensitive policies and the highest Parliamentarian representation of women (64%) in the world. The theme outlines the nation’s role in building on these achievements in the empowerment of women. RWN is expanding and contributing to these gains through RWLI and more projects by using holistic approaches to address issues affecting women and girls in Rwanda.

In line with the global movement #BeBoldForChange, the RWLI program encompasses the importance of women’s active role in influencing change that contributes to empowerment of women and gender parity.

RWLI falls under one of the RWN main program areas; Governance and Leadership. It equips women with knowledge and tools to be effective leaders and equal contributors to change and development in their respective sectors and communities. RWLI continues to empower and inspire more women like Lydia to “make their challenges a catalyst for positive transformation,” at a personal, community and national level.

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Rwanda Cso Sdg5 Forum Weigh In On Sdgs 2030 Agenda In Rwanda Post The High-Level Political Forum (HLPF)

In July 2019 at the UN Headquarters, the meeting of the HLPF on sustainable development convened under the auspices of the Economic and Social Council to review the 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), themed “Empowering People and Ensuring Inclusiveness and Equality”.

The SDGs are an urgent call for action by all countries in a global partnership to recognize that ending poverty and other deprivations must go hand in hand with strategies that improve health and education, reduce inequality and spur economic growth- all the while tackling climate change and working to preserve oceans and forests.

As part of Agenda2030 commitments of Leaving No One Behind, Rwanda along with 50 other countries volunteered to present their Voluntary National Review (VNR) reports at the HLPF2019 as per focused SDGs.

Rwanda Women’s Network (RWN) coordinates the Rwanda Civil Society Organization (CSO) SDG5 Forum; a collective of 30 CSOs working on diverse human rights and development issues in Rwanda under the cross-cutting theme of gender and women’s empowerment.

The forum provides a platform for CSOs to enhance their engagement with government, various development partners and grassroots communities in order to successfully deliver on the ambitious targets of the SDGs and ensure that no one is left behind.

Under this forum, RWN partnered with Hivos: Women@Work Campaign in implementing the Women Leadership Project in the Horticulture sector in Rwanda. The Campaign aims to promote the advancement of women’s leadership and representation in decision-making processes in the horticulture sector by addressing both strategic and practical issues that hinder women’s progress, contributing to the global agenda on SDGs mainly SDG5 (Gender equality) and SDG8 (Decent Work and Economic Growth).

In respect to the recently concluded HLPF2019, in August 2019, RWN convened a debrief and going forward session with a panel of CSOs and government representatives that participated at the HLPF2019 with the purpose of allowing a learning opportunity for Rwanda CSO SDG5 Forum members and other stakeholders interested in the HLPF process to follow up on the recommendations to Rwanda’s VNR report, as well as hear recommendations on how Rwanda will take forward the ILO convention on Ending Violence and harassment at the workplace.

“Inclusivity is important to everyone who works, the convention sends a powerful message by making the invisible – visible”. Mr. Faustin Mwambari, acting Director-General, Labour and Employment at the Ministry of Public Service and Labour.

Richard Mushabe, National Planning and Research Division Manager at Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning, shared on the Rwanda VNR report and further stressed the need to extract several recommendations and see how to work with different concerned institutions – “there is a need to make use of the existing SDGs taskforce on the overall implementation of SDGs in Rwanda. He said.

Eugene Rwibasira, Executive Secretary of Rwanda Development Organization (RDO) focused on SDG13 (Climate Change)– “We need to talk about agricultural development in terms of increased crop productivity…We need to promote the use of organic fertilization and adopt the fumigation zero plan, using inorganic pesticides.” he said.

Andrews Kananga, Director of Legal Aid Forum (LAF), weighed in on the SDG16 (Peace, Justice & Strong Institutions) in the context of justice. “SDGs major challenge lies in the lack of an indicator on how to measure access to justice. For us to achieve social justice there is a need to have clear measurements in terms of an indicator…we need to be active with global partnerships to achieve SDG16” he said.

Apollinaire Mupiganyi, Executive Director, Transparency International Rwanda (TIR) spoke on SDG16 with a focus on corruption, highlighting the importance of reflecting and coming up with a strategy to domesticate SDGs in the local context – looking beyond our institutions but reflecting citizen engagement. “We need to come up with a joint report to fit the CSOs priorities and state the progress on where the country is in fighting corruption.”

Eli Mugabowishema, Executive Director, Nsindangiza Organization focused on Leaving No One Behind objective with priority on the elderly addressing SDG3. “Rwanda is among the few countries that included elderly people in their VNR report at the HLPF, however, the challenge lies in the data collection. Today we have data on women, children and rural areas but not for elderly people – we need to do more with our policies to be more inclusive of all”.

Ms. Odette Ntambara, Communication & Advocacy Officer at RWN spoke on Decent Work & Economic Growth (SDG8) with a focus on gender concerns and women empowerment particularly to the responsibility CSOs and Government have in promoting the use of digital technologies in promoting the lives of the poor and those marginalized groups.

“It costs the poor to access services; It’s essential that we promote the responsible use of emerging digital technologies in elevating and addressing the needs of the poor by using technologies that improve everyone’s livelihood…SDG8 underpins all SDGs – we need to have a similar understanding of its implementation and it’s inter-linkage with other SDGs”.

Promoting employment and poverty reduction mechanisms through the creation of productive and remunerative jobs is key; therefore, pursuing inclusive strategies in informal work is paramount to ensure the majority of women have decent work.

As part of his closing remarks, Bosco Nyemazi, Executive Director, Rwanda Civil Society Platform (RCSP), believes that for CSOs to contribute effectively to the achievement of SDGs, collaboration is key to achieving success in the national and global commitments “that emanates from the political will to work together as civil society and private sector”.

Ms. Mary Balikungeri, RWN Founder & Director touched on gender gaps and human rights perspective in addressing SDGs, not just looking at the law – even when there is a legal system justice is not necessarily served.

Leaving No One Behind requires an understanding of the process, maximizing on education and involving the youth in the implementation of SDGs. “It’s our collective efforts that will bring us closer in the implementation of SDGs and holding government accountable to these commitments”.

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Cooking Against Climate Change

On March 16, 2015, the United Nations issued a first tranche of over 6,500 carbon certificates under its Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) for the Improved cook stoves programme for Rwanda that has, to date, provided over 14,000 households in Rwanda with affordable and energy efficient stoves. Over a period of 28 years, the programme is expected to distribute over 100,000 stoves and reduce over 300,000 tons of carbon dioxide each year.

“This is comparable to carbon emissions released by 75,000 buses making a round trip to Nairobi from Kigali”, said Allan Mubiru, the country manager of Atmosfair in Rwanda.

Rwanda Women’s Network in collaboration with the German organization, Atmosfair, is one of the partners in the Improved cook stoves programme. Other partners include Safer Rwanda, the social business Inyenyeri as well as of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). The partners have been involved in the production and distribution of the innovatively designed and high-quality efficient cook stoves that have already been adopted by thousands of households in Nigeria, Cameroon and Lesotho. Cooking efficiency on traditional fire places in Rwanda is extremely low and hence wastes a great amount of two already scarce and expensive resources in Rwanda: fire wood and charcoal. The stoves promoted in the programme are the Save80 stove sets (which, as the name suggests, requires up to 80% less wood for the same cooking procedure) and the Philips pellets burning stove which is the cleanest wood stove on the market.

Using the improved cook stove helps families to consume less fuel and thus save money: for every sack of charcoal of 7,000RwF replaced by wood at a value of 1000 RwF, each household can save 6,000 RwF! Family health improves since less smoke is emitted by the efficient cook stoves. (The WHO estimates that every year indoor air pollution causes the early death of about 12,500 people, especially of women and children, in Rwanda.) Households save time that would otherwise be spent on collecting wood or long hours of cooking. When using the Save80 in combination with a so-called Wonderbox, a special insulation system for the cook stove, the user can save 2.5 hours for cooking beans and 20 minutes for rice and potatoes.

Over 100 jobs have been created for stove constructors, distributors and project managers.

The reduced demand for fire wood will decrease pressure on forests and reduce deforestation. The programme thus contributes to the country’s vision to reduce the rate of wood use in national energy consumption from 94% to 50% by the year 2020 as well as the Second Economic Development and Poverty Reduction Strategy (EDPRS II) which aims to promote energy efficiency in cooking.

The German non-profit organization atmosfair uses the carbon certificates issued by the cook stove project to compensate carbon emissions generated by air travellers in Europe. atmosfair not only follows the strict UNFCCC guidelines for climate projects, but also the standards set by the Gold Standard Foundation, a global organisation that monitors Sustainable Development aspects of environmental protection projects. The Rwanda Environment Management Authority (REMA) supervises the implementation process.

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Nothing Is Impossible Once Empowered

Countryside in Northwestern Rwanda in 16th of January 2017. Women group playing instruments, singing and dancing. Wearing traditional clothing. Rwandan women entertainers keep up the community spirit, as well as cultural traditions.

UWINGENEYE Aline, is 23 years old, she is the eldest in the family of 5 children. She was born in a modest family but her parents were living in domestic violence where the mother couldn’t leave her alone with her father at home.

When Aline reached in senior 2, she became pregnant and dropped out of school, her father and mother were already separated and she was living with her mother but she was mistreated and harassed for the situation. She later decided to go with her little sister to live with her father. “ life was not easy for me because it was just struggles, losing hope because of staying home, living with stress even if my father had accepted to stay with us.” Saya Aline

At a point Aline was invited to the WSFs and local leaders to attend a meeting at Cell level to select girls to join a community girls’ group in order to follow life skills conversation. She was taught on different topics such as power, gender, GBV, SRH, setting goals in life and VSL methodology. All the topics were important in learning about self, exposed girls to new information that would facilitate them in being more expressive. Aline share that on the topic of power, she started feeling that she too has power despite the life she finds herself in, that has also encouraged her to work hard and realize her dream.

As a result for joining the group, she has been encouraged to save some money in the community girls’ saving group. “Started saving in the group wasn’t easy for me, but as someone who have settled a goal, I found a solution by weaving and selling mats in the community. I have been able to buy a goat with the money I have got from the share-out of the group.” The community girls Saving group is continuing well and she has plans to buy a pig soon, but still, with the ultimate goal to buy my own cow in 2020 and learn about tailoring. “I feel confident and open when am with my fellow girls and WSFs. I am able to stand in front of them by conducting a session. In addition to that, my fellow community girls have believed and appointed me to be a girl champion at Women space because one of the girl champion from our cell have dropped out, she went to live in other district.”

“I would like to thank RWN and Kvinna Till Kvinna for bringing this important program to us, as it has empowered young girls in the way they weren’t expecting it in our lives, for believing in a better future.”
UWINGENEYE Aline, is 23 years old, she is the eldest in the family of 5 children. She was born in a modest family but her parents were living in domestic violence where the mother couldn’t leave her alone with her father at home.

When Aline reached in senior 2, she became pregnant and dropped out of school, her father and mother were already separated and she was living with her mother but she was mistreated and harassed for the situation. She later decided to go with her little sister to live with her father. “ life was not easy for me because it was just struggles, losing hope because of staying home, living with stress even if my father had accepted to stay with us.” Saya Aline

At a point Aline was invited to the WSFs and local leaders to attend a meeting at Cell level to select girls to join a community girls’ group in order to follow life skills conversation. She was taught on different topics such as power, gender, GBV, SRH, setting goals in life and VSL methodology. All the topics were important in learning about self, exposed girls to new information that would facilitate them in being more expressive. Aline share that on the topic of power, she started feeling that she too has power despite the life she finds herself in, that has also encouraged her to work hard and realize her dream.

As a result for joining the group, she has been encouraged to save some money in the community girls’ saving group. “Started saving in the group wasn’t easy for me, but as someone who have settled a goal, I found a solution by weaving and selling mats in the community. I have been able to buy a goat with the money I have got from the share-out of the group.” The community girls Saving group is continuing well and she has plans to buy a pig soon, but still, with the ultimate goal to buy my own cow in 2020 and learn about tailoring. “I feel confident and open when am with my fellow girls and WSFs. I am able to stand in front of them by conducting a session. In addition to that, my fellow community girls have believed and appointed me to be a girl champion at Women space because one of the girl champion from our cell have dropped out, she went to live in other district.”

“I would like to thank RWN and Kvinna Till Kvinna for bringing this important program to us, as it has empowered young girls in the way they weren’t expecting it in our lives, for believing in a better future.”

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Men And Women Are Equal

Cyangugu, Rwamda – August 11, 2008: A group of five young boys are standing in front of a green tea plantation and are having a good time together. Location: Cyangugu in Rwanda, directly at the border to the Democratic Republic of Congo.

GATETE Faustin, is 46 years old, married and father of 7 children; he is a Village Leader living in Munyiginya Sector, Nkomangwa Cell, Karubisha Village. Gatete was born in a family of 3 children, 2 sisters and him.

“I used to be in kitchen with my mom, sweep at home but my father was unhappy to find me doing it and I was beaten because of that and there was always arguments and fights between my mother and my father; my father was telling me that I will not be a real man because men are not supposed to do these activities, so I was only tasked to be in charge of cows.” Says Faustin.

Faustin goes on to say that before joining the Rwanda Women’s Network (RWN) program, I had continued to behave like the way I was raised by my father where I wasn’t doing anything at home because in my understanding only women were supposed to be in charge of household activities. I was taking all decisions as the head of family without my wife’s consent, prohibiting boys from doing some activities at home and all these misunderstanding were generating everyday quarrels in the family and everyone was aware of our situation in the community.”

Faustin was invited to the WSFs in the community to participate in a positive masculinity conversation where he went with other men, he says he learnt that the most memorable topic for him was on Power and GBV. He learnt to be aware and developed a clear understanding on GBV and the use of power but found he also found himself using power over at home and doing mainly practicing what he calls economic violence towards his wife. For example, he was the one feeling responsibilities on deciding on everything at home and on the use of family properties.

Faustin says that from these conversations, “I have started changing my mindset and actions at home where I have started giving value to my wife and liberty to sell bananas, so the money gained in selling goods she could use it in whatever she wants; after harvesting we were discussing and planning together about the usage of the money; started to give equal responsibility to my children whether girl or boy and when I am home I can do any household activities”.

“The program have changed a lot of good things in my home like having dialogues between me and my family members, harmony and prosperity although the most thing I am happy with is to be invited with my wife in families living in domestic violence for testimonies and advice.”

Faustin had since committed to sensitize other men in the community to attend conversations on positive masculinity because he has seen the impact and how it can positively change a whole family’s life.

GATETE Faustin, is 46 years old, married and father of 7 children; he is a Village Leader living in Munyiginya Sector, Nkomangwa Cell, Karubisha Village. Gatete was born in a family of 3 children, 2 sisters and him.

“I used to be in kitchen with my mom, sweep at home but my father was unhappy to find me doing it and I was beaten because of that and there was always arguments and fights between my mother and my father; my father was telling me that I will not be a real man because men are not supposed to do these activities, so I was only tasked to be in charge of cows.” Says Faustin.

Faustin goes on to say that before joining the Rwanda Women’s Network (RWN) program, I had continued to behave like the way I was raised by my father where I wasn’t doing anything at home because in my understanding only women were supposed to be in charge of household activities. I was taking all decisions as the head of family without my wife’s consent, prohibiting boys from doing some activities at home and all these misunderstanding were generating everyday quarrels in the family and everyone was aware of our situation in the community.”

Faustin was invited to the WSFs in the community to participate in a positive masculinity conversation where he went with other men, he says he learnt that the most memorable topic for him was on Power and GBV. He learnt to be aware and developed a clear understanding on GBV and the use of power but found he also found himself using power over at home and doing mainly practicing what he calls economic violence towards his wife. For example, he was the one feeling responsibilities on deciding on everything at home and on the use of family properties.

Faustin says that from these conversations, “I have started changing my mindset and actions at home where I have started giving value to my wife and liberty to sell bananas, so the money gained in selling goods she could use it in whatever she wants; after harvesting we were discussing and planning together about the usage of the money; started to give equal responsibility to my children whether girl or boy and when I am home I can do any household activities”.

“The program have changed a lot of good things in my home like having dialogues between me and my family members, harmony and prosperity although the most thing I am happy with is to be invited with my wife in families living in domestic violence for testimonies and advice.”

Faustin had since committed to sensitize other men in the community to attend conversations on positive masculinity because he has seen the impact and how it can positively change a whole family’s life.

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‘You don’t need a title to be a leader’

Alphonsine Murebwayire lives in Kagitumba, Nyagatare district with her husband and six children. She has been working in the shed department at Garden Fresh Rwanda – a farm in Nyagatare District, Eastern Province which produces and exports fresh French beans— for the past two years as a cleaner. Currently, she is one of two advisors for the Gender Committee at the farm: a committee that was formed after a training on leadership.

Under the Women Leadership Project, Rwanda Women’s Network (RWN) partnered with the farm with an aim to promote a safe and secure environment that provides decent work conditions and equal opportunities for women farm workers. RWN introduced the project to the farm in February 2018, with a selection of eight farm workers (six women and two men) to lead the farm level engagements.

IMPACT OF THE TRAINING

Alphonsine is among the women who have undergone training through the Leadership Project. Prior to the training Alphonsine doubted her skills as a leader, which limited her engagements with her coworkers. This she says was due to a lack of self-confidence and a concern for job security; ‘people in the community talk and any negative comments towards you can easily lead back to your employer, which may put your job in jeopardy’. Farm level workers are mostly employed on a casual basis and do not receive a letter of appointment or contractual agreements. Subsequently, there is no job security which affects the workers livelihood.

Though Garden Fresh established a workers’ committee, most workers did not seem to understand its role or function. Alphonsine was inquisitive and wanted the opportunity to change her livelihood, her way of thinking and realize her rights as a worker. In the beginning she did not understand the modules, as activities brought on new concepts that she was unaware of. But slowly by receiving constructive feedback and encouragement from the RWN team, fellow trainees and support staff, she increased her self-confidence. “I liked the session on taking care of yourself, setting goals and learning about rights at the work place.” Alphonsine said.

FINANCIAL LITERACY

Rwanda currently does not have a minimum wage which has impacted the wages and salaries across different sectors, including the horticulture sector. As part of the Women Leadership Curriculum a financial literacy module was introduced to encourage a savings culture, overall money management and investment for the farm workers. Alphonsine and her fellow trainees were encouraged to start savings groups at the farm which has empowered the group to inspire others and improve their living and working conditions. Alphonsine has since bought land and built a new house through the funds collected in the savings group. She has a better working relationship with her coworkers too. “I appreciate the savings groups a lot because I am now able to save and support myself in ways I was unable to do before. I am more outspoken and not afraid to speak and encourage others in the community” she said.

WOMEN LEADERSHIP PROJECT

From 2017 to date, Rwanda Women’s Network has implemented the Women Leadership Project in the Horticulture sector in Rwanda through the Hivos Women@Work Campaign.

The Campaign aims to contribute to decent work for women who earn their living through global production chains, most notably flowers, vegetable and fruits in Eastern Africa countries.

The goal of the Women Leadership Project is to promote advancement of women’s leadership and representation in decision-making processes in the horticulture sector by addressing both strategic and practical issues that hinder women’s progress. The project contributes to the global agenda on Sustainable Development Goals mainly the SDG5 (Gender equality) and SDG8 (Decent work and Economic Growth).

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She Matters – Inspire And Promote Her Potential

Nyirabashumba Letitia is the second born in her family and she is 19 years old, she belongs to a family of 6 members, father, mother, 3 girls and 1 boy. She stays in Kayonza District, Kabarondo sector and Kabura cell, she completed senior three and had a training of tailoring.

The women space facilitator shared about the project and the selection criteria, good enough she was fitting the criteria set for selection and she was selected as a girl champion at Kabarondo women space. Relatives and neighbours would tell Letitia’s parents that girls are of no importance and this would affect also parents because they felt of less value in the community.

Letitia and her sisters grew up feeling that they are of less value, the only valued children in the family and society are boys. Letitia and her fellow sisters would try their best to do the chores and activities that were commonly done by boys in the society like riding a bicycle, using the axe to get fire wood (kwasa)so that they can be understood by the society and reduce being undermined by the parents, neighbours and entire community. “We have been struggling with how we were born since childhood trying to convince people that we can also make it”. Letitia said.

After joining the Rwanda Women Network in May 2018, she had a five days training on life skills which unpacked power, gender, GBV, SRH and VSLA methodology, the most interesting topics were power and gender where Letitia understood that she has power within herself that can change her life, the tree of life session where everyone got time to share her life story also helped a lot, the session on gender helped her to understand that the inequality differences between boys and girls on roles and characters is shaped by society they belong in except the biological difference, this session gave her courage and determination that she can do anything that the boys can do.

This training removed on her back the burden that was on for years. This helped her not to give value to the mirror the society surrounding her was looking her through. In the program we are encouraged to do group savings which is done monthly during monthly coordination meetings and Letitia also saves in the cell group for girls where she facilitates dialogues on life skills but she says that the good thing in this program is that we first set goals for our savings and we save towards achieving the goal. Letitia has bought a hen from the savings made which after some time had chicks and when they grew up she sold them and topped up then bought a pig. So far she has a hen and pig from the saving she is made and has gone on to believe she can achieve her goals, be in control of where her life is going, collaborate with others and develop meaningful friendships.

The Kvinna Kvinna supported program has improved relationship in the family between parents and children, no more harassment from parents like before where any slight mistake we would be abused and told that we are useless, if our parents would see any misconduct of the girls around we would be abused and told that we will end up like that but now things have changed because they are seeing the progress in the work we are doing.

The parent’s conversations on positive parenting facilitated by women space facilitators have contributed to improve the relationship at the family as we now also have conversations with the parents. At the moment Letitia is now reaching out to facilitate conversations of 30 community girls at the cell level on life skills which is different from when she joined the program, before she wouldn’t manage to stand in front of 30 people and share anything and now she is confident and able to speak her mind. She is very thankful to the Girl champions project and having the opportunity to join others in the women space initiatives.