Mothers everywhere struggle with the age-old question regarding the balance of work and kids. More recently, mothers have been speaking truth to the theory of having it all. Women’s determination to be all and do all in the juggling act of balancing life often results in feeling inadequate. In reality, the trick is to live it all and let go of expectations, while also expecting the unexpected.
Working mothers are now the rule rather than the exception, especially in countries like Rwanda that were torn apart by genocide. So many men perished, escaped for their lives, or were incarcerated. It was up to women to put things back together. Today, Rwanda serves as a benchmark for women in both elected and appointed political positions, for the percentage of women with an education, and for women in business. Two PEACE THROUGH BUSINESS® Class of 2021 graduates who vowed to do it all decided the best way to raise their children and have a career was to start a home-based business of their own. Sharon Akanyana and Faith Nziza were raised as refugees in Rwanda’s neighboring countries. Different languages and being outsiders taught them inner strength and determination. Poverty was rampant and an education meant walking miles to and from school each day. After returning to Rwanda to rebuild and heal, both landed scholarships at the University of Rwanda.
Faith earned her degree in marketing and married a wonderful husband. They have four children that range in age from six to thirteen, the three boys being very athletic. Determined to be an entrepreneur, Faith took a local bank job to gain experience. In 2014, Faith made the decision to follow her dream and start her own company that she could run from home, a supply chain serving hotels and guest houses with consumable items. Ivy’s Company Ltd later acquired a partner and transitioned into a retail grocery store. Like the majority of entrepreneurs that join the PEACE THROUGH BUSINESS® program and adhere to the tenent of paying it forward, Sharon was adamant about uplifting less privileged young girls through the business she began by providing disposable sanitary towels and supplies to help improve their lifestyle.
“I am an enterprising human being whose life altering refugee experiences uncommonly unraveled into the confidence builder I am today in a society that was ravaged by genocide and poverty. My greatest passion is bringing hope and satisfying a need.” (Nziza Faith)
Taking a different path, Sharon graduated with a degree in agriculture and then went on to receive a masters degree in developmental studies. Agriculture was not her original dream. She wanted to be a doctor. Sharon married and started a family. Raising her two children, she continued to look for work in her field. After four frustrating years, she decided the best way forward was to create her own business. The agricultural degree paid off. With her love of cooking, knowledge of agriculture and developmental assistance, combined with hard work and determination leading to her business becoming what it is today, Ishyo Foods Ltd was born in Sharon’s home kitchen. What began as an experiment canning jams and making yoghurt is now a full-fledged processing facility where locally grown produce and dairy products are transformed into prepared foods that Rwandans no longer have to import.
“I now have a family that I adore, a business that is running, and a country that I not only call ‘home’, but that also supports women and their dreams and aspirations. My business is at a stage where it is very demanding and like all mothers I at times feel guilty. With good planning, dedication, and prioritization, I have learnt to juggle both family and business. Anyway, it’s not always a straight path, but as long as you dare to dream, the rest is history!” (Sharon Akanyana)