Monday, November 23, 2015

What SAIS Event Did You Attend This Week, Jahanara?

One of the great things about being at SAIS is the events. Not a day goes by when we don't have 3-4 events happening around campus, ranging from small intimate gatherings to large auditorium-filled lecture series. Last week I was lucky enough to attend an event, cosponsored by Indego Africa and SAIS Global Women Lead, which showcased a short screening of an upcoming film, Mama Rwanda, followed by a panel discussion. The event focused on women's entrepreneurship as a solution to global poverty and, specifically in the case of Rwanda, discussed the role of women in rebuilding a community torn apart by genocide.

The event was kicked off by a representative from the Rwandan embassy, who emphasized the important role Rwandan women have played in rebuilding the economy and social fabric of the country. Women are incredibly involved in public life and make up 64% of the legislature and approximately 40% of the cabinet. He commended the resilience of Rwandan women and hoped that Rwanda’s experiences could provide important lessons for other countries emerging from conflict. Later, the director, Laura Waters Hinson, discussed how women are closing the economic gender gap. She emphasized that by becoming entrepreneurs, women are creating a new approach to sustainable poverty alleviation. The film itself follows the stories of two women, Christine and Drocella, and the challenges they face in their endeavors to raise themselves and their families. Christine, a single mother, owns a banana wine making company, while Drocella is working towards starting an agricultural cooperative with both survivors and perpetrators of the genocide.

The panel included:

  • Laura Waters Hinson, filmmaker, Mama Rwanda 
  • Semhar Araia, Founder and Executive Director of the Diaspora African Women's Network (DAWN) 
  • Wade Channell, Senior Economic Growth Advisor for Gender, Office of Gender Empowerment and Women's Equality, USAID 
  • Natalie Elwell, Senior Gender Advisor, World Resources Institute 
  • Moderated by Florence Navarro, CEO, Empowered Women International 

The conversation focused predominantly on the importance of aggregating the voices of women and, in this case, the voices of African women, in telling their own stories. It also touched upon how women can be agents of change, as opposed to just the subjects of change. The question and answer session emphasized the need to tell these stories from an African and Rwandan perspective, and not just a Western one, and it helped provide further insight into the topic.

Representative from Embassy of Rwanda opens the event
Filmmaker Laura Waters Hinson discusses her upcoming project Mama Rwanda 
L-R: Wade Channell, USAID; Natalie Elwell, World Resources institute; Semhar Araia, DAWN; Laura Waters Hinson, filmmaker, Mama Rwanda, Florence Navarro, Empowered Women International

Thanks for reading!

- Jahanara