Passion for education runs in my family. My parents were both teachers and from a young age they instilled in me a deep love of learning and a strong work ethic. As I grew older, I began to understand the powerful opportunities that education offers those lucky enough to receive it – for me: career choices, financial independence, and a sense of self-empowerment. I also became acutely aware of the uneven distribution of these opportunities around the world, particularly for women.
I left for college with this awareness top of mind. While afterwards I decided to go to business school and pursue a career on Wall Street, I always knew that one day I would work to provide women around the world with the educational opportunities I had had.
Fast-forward to 2011 when, after 24 years working at Merrill Lynch, I decided it was time to make a change. After exploring a range of organizations working towards social good, I came across Indego Africa. A nonprofit that was seeking to empower women in Rwanda through business and education? I was sold.
Three years later, and now as CEO, I have seen firsthand the power of this model to make a deep impact in the lives of women in Rwanda. Today, 64% of our artisan partners are the primary income earners in their families, 77% are able to send all of their children to school, and 90% can afford medical insurance. These are only a few examples of the ways in which these women are lifting themselves out of poverty and creating brighter futures for their families.
Spending time in Rwanda and meeting the incredible women we partner with, I have been deeply moved by their resilience, determination, and sheer ingenuity in the face of trying circumstances. Despite the different contexts in which we live, it is inspiring to be able to relate to one another over what it’s like to provide for a family, be a working mother, or make sacrifices for one’s children. One of the things I am most inspired by is just how far they have come with their educations.