A Message from Our Board Chair

IEEW Board Chair, Cathy Cruzan, with PTB students and graduates.

Earlier this month, I had the opportunity to travel to Kigali, Rwanda to meet with PEACE THROUGH BUSINESS® (PTB) graduates. I have been serving with the Institute for Economic Empowerment of Women (IEEW) for the past three years, and this was my first time getting to see their work firsthand. 

While in Kigali, I visited several businesses owned and operated by women entrepreneurs who have graduated from the PTB program over the past 14 years, including: 4ever Bloom-RW a florist shop owned by Sandra Mutezimana; Ian Collection Boutique, a bridal shop owned by Kayirangwa Clarisse; Rupari Fashion Design owned by Cynthia Rupert; Esta Cafe owned by Rachel Uwimana; Kaju Fashion Design owned by Cynthia Gaju; Amazing African Eco Tour owned by Judith Mutamba; DDC Beauty & Care owned by Denise Claire Dusabe; M&U Nimda LTD owned by Clarisse Umuhoza; and St. Theresa Clinic owned and managed by Ahayo Marie Anita. In 2019, I served as Anita’s PTB mentor, helping her on the business plan strategy for the clinic.  Today, the clinic serves approximately 100 patients per day. It was truly amazing to see the impact the clinic has in offering quality healthcare to the community.  

IEEW’s Rwanda In-Country Facilitator, Chantal Munanayire, hosted a dinner so I could enjoy the taste of authentic Rwandan cuisine and meet the 2021 PTB class and alumni from prior years. Each woman introduced herself, described her business, and took a moment to share how PTB has positively impacted her business. Some shared how, prior to the program, they had been operational but did not have sufficient business acumen to create a strategic plan and manage finances. Learning these valuable business skills helped them scale their respective businesses, develop financial management techniques, and plan for the future of the business.  

Many of the women also shared how COVID-19 had impacted their business. Some had to downsize or consolidate what they offered, and many were forced to pivot to remain operational. Businesses where revenue depended on tourism were some of the most negatively impacted during the pandemic. In addition, any business that required storefront activity faced struggles. Businesses in food delivery or preparation managed to maintain operations, and those in medical care found their services in desperate need. All the PTB women entrepreneurs are hopeful that the new year will return business to areas where revenue has declined due to the pandemic. 

The City of Kigali has partnered with IEEW for the past 14 years and supports the PTB program by providing space for the women to meet for class each year. During this visit, I had the honor of meeting with the Mayor, Prudence Rubingisa, and visiting the new business center where the 2022 PTB classes will be offered. 

Being able to witness the impact of the PTB program firsthand was truly inspirational. The program has impacted so many Rwandan women business owners, and in turn positively impacted the communities where each operates. All the women who graduate from the program give back to their community in some manner, which expands IEEW’s impact even further. I am excited to see what the future has in store for the graduates, the PTB program, and for Rwanda. 

-Cathy Cruzan, IEEW Board Chair