First Lady Jeannette Kagame (seated C) and Graca Machel (seated 2ndR) and other participants in a group photo at the launch of the initiative in Kigali yesterday. (Courtesy)

First Lady Jeannette Kagame (seated C) and Graca Machel (seated 2ndR) and other participants in a group photo at the launch of the initiative in Kigali yesterday. (Courtesy)

First Lady Jeannette Kagame, together with former South African First Lady Gra?a Machel, launched the Pan-African advocacy group that focuses on expanding the role and influence of women in the financial sector in Kigali yesterday.

But there is more to just being a movement, since Rwanda?s chapter of ?New Faces, New Voices? will work as a registered company limited by shares and will attract as many shareholders as possible.

According to the group?s chairperson in Rwanda, Dr Monique Nsanzabaganwa, the initiative has targeted to raise about $4 million in two years from about 300,000 shareholders in the country.

The group?s leaders will approach the government and other stakeholders for additional funds to achieve between $16 million to $20 million investment fund to help in facilitating women?s access to financial services.

?Rwanda is developing in many areas but there is still a gap in women?s access to finance. There needs to be measures to change that. Women have money but we need to pool it together so that it can bring more money to them,? Nsanzabaganwa, also and the vice-governor of the National Bank of Rwanda, said.

It is hoped that the initiative will help to lift about a million women out of poverty in five years.

While a recent study by FinScope shows that overall financial inclusion in Rwanda improved significantly, from 48 per cent in 2008 to 72 per cent in 2012, women?s access to formal financial services stands at 36 per cent, with men at 42 per cent.

At the launch of the initiative, Mrs Kagame told hundreds of prominent women, government officials and women entrepreneurs that women?s access to finance is about dignity, the security of a family and that of a generation.

?The empowerment of women must begin with the empowerment of girls as a way of nipping the vicious cycle of inequality and insecurity in the bud. We must not reproduce financially-insecure women and girls across generations,? she said.

The First Lady said she was pleased to learn that one of the cornerstones of the ?New Faces New Voices? initiative was to propose ways to equip women with tools that can shape up their financial acumen, including better access to financial information and resources, thus helping women make better choices with their incomes.

She also reminded the audience that ?Rwanda?s policy and commitment towards financial inclusion and entrepreneurship is not by accident but by design.?

?Once women are financially-literate, they have access to the much-needed financial resources, the overall growth of the economy and development become the natural outcome,? she added.

Former South African First Lady Gra?a Machel founded the New Faces, New Voices movement in 2010 in partnership with the African Development Bank and other global institutions to help change the financial status of women.

At yesterday?s launch, she paid tribute to Rwanda?s recovery from the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, describing the progress made ?profound transformation.?

Citing Rwanda?s progress on women empowerment, Machel said such ?relevant examples? can be replicated in other African countries.

?It is unacceptable that women die when giving birth,? she said, adding that she ?will contribute to lay the foundation of seeing women represented at all sectors of economic decision making.?

?We want to be at the centre of the attention of the financial sector,? Machel said.

She said before Africa could become the food basket of the world, it must first be the food basket of millions of Africans.

Machel urged women not to be satisfied by what they have achieved but rather ?think and act big.?

?Take the advantages of a conducive environment Rwanda is giving you,? she advised Rwandan women. ?Every person with a sense of dignity will take much pride in who they are.?


About initiative

New Faces, New Voices initiative actively engages key stakeholders in the financial sector in order to achieve its goals of increasing women?s access to finance and a variety of financial products. With its head office in South Africa, the organisation has chapters in fourteen other countries, including Cameroon, Ivory Coast, DR Congo, Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, Mozambique, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia.

Eugene Kwibuka, The New Times


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