These Numbers Have Faces believes strongly women are the secret weapon to fighting poverty. Today, young women in Africa are poised to lead the continent to a new era of peace and prosperity. Through access to a university education, Leadership Development Workshops, entrepreneurship opportunities, and our women’s mentorship program, we empower Africa’s brightest young women to cultivate thriving communities. We also recognize that, if we are working to empower strong female leaders in a culture where gender roles remain very traditional, we must also work with the young men to learn how to work well with and alongside strong, empowered women.
Without a doubt, the COVID pandemic created unprecendented challenges for our students. Rwanda shut down in March, 2020, much like in the United States. The universities closed and our students were sent back to their home villages. We had to pause our programs and wait. Then we got word that several of our students and their families were really struggliing with food insecurity. So, we provided 22 families with much-needed food. We also used this time to stay in close contact with our students and their families, supprting their emotional needs as well. We continued to emphasize over and over again for key words: patience, persistence, flexibility, and resilience. Thankfully, the univerisities reopened in October, 2020 and we were able to resume our programs, including our Women's Empowerment Program. When we have not been able to offer our workshops in person, we have learned how to offer them via Zoom. All of the young women in our program successfully completed their courses and exams for the 2019/2020 academic year, which didn't end until February, 2021. All of the young women in our program are now in the middle of the the 2020/2021 academic year and doing well. They have dealt with and overcome so many challenges, including all of the COVID-caused challenges.
We asked several of the young women in our program to share what they've learned during this time of pandemic challenge. Their stories of passionate persistence are truly inspiring. Here is Bridget's story:
My name is Bridget. I’m in my first year of studying finance at the University of Rwanda. I’m passionate about helping and supporting people of different age levels. My long-term goal is to impact people’s lives by employing as many people as I can to help them be successful, too.
I was raised by a single mother. She worked hard to be both mother and father. But sometimes the challenges were just too hard. My mother was often unemployed. There just weren’t many jobs available. Sometimes she couldn’t feed us every day. Sometimes she couldn’t pay my school fees. Life at times was just so bitter and harsh. But my mother always kept fighting for us, fighting to make things better. I saw my Mom’s passionate persistence, which made a big difference in my life. The challenges of my childhood are still stacked in my mind today. My experiences growing up have made passionate persistence very important to me. My passion and persistence push me to make my dreams come true and to help others make their dreams come true as well. I’ve been able to raise funds to pay the school fees for kids who face the same challenges I faced growing up. I’ve also helped them buy school materials and other small daily amenities. Also, during the COVID lockdown when we were all home from school, I managed to be a coach for the primary students in my neighborhood, helping them with their studies and supporting them with Gospel stories and songs. This is my mission. And I just couldn’t stop – not even in this time of COVID. As they say, “quitters never win and winners never quit.” I am passionately persistent about supporting people to help them be their best.
I am so thankful to These Numbers Have Faces. They are making it possible for me to make my dreams a reality. What I am learning in our Leadership Development Workshops I then share with those in my neighborhood. I was already someone who was self-motivated, who loves to set goals and accomplish them. These Numbers Have Faces has only made this even more true. I surely don’t want to quit until I have reached the best result I can dream of!
Bridget's story is just one example of what's been happening in the lives of the young women in our Women's Empowerment Initiative. We are so thankful for their patience, flexibilty, resilience, and especially their passionate persistence! Thank you for helping all of these amazing young women make their dreams a reality!