From the Toronto Star:
But the secret to success here has had far less to do with the idyllic climate and volcanic soil than with a group of people who have emerged as Maraba's – and Rwanda's – most potent economic force: women. In the 14 years since the genocide, when 800,000 people died during three months of violence, this country has become perhaps the world's leading example of how empowering women can transform post-conflict economies and fight the cycle of poverty
The march of female entrepreneurialism, playing out here and across Rwanda in industries from agribusiness to tourism, has proved to be a windfall for efforts to rebuild the nation and fight poverty. Women more than men invest profits in the family, renovate homes, improve nutrition, increase savings rates and spend on children's education, officials here said.
Officials at Vision Finance, the microloan arm of World Vision International that launched a program in 2005 in this town of 40,000, said that while women make up the majority of borrowers, four out of five defaulters are men.
As important was an acceptance at the highest levels of government that women would need new legal status to help rebuild the nation. By 1999, reforms were passed enabling women to inherit property – something that would prove vitally important to female farmers. At the same time, women began rising to higher ranks of political power. Today, women hold about 48 per cent of the seats in Rwanda's parliament, the highest percentage in the world. They also account for 36 per cent of President Paul Kagame's cabinet, holding the top jobs in the ministries of commerce, agriculture, infrastructure, foreign affairs and information.
Success in economics mirrored the rise of women in politics. Today, 41 per cent of Rwandan businesses are owned by women – compared, say, with 18 per cent in Congo. Rwanda has the second-highest ratio of female entrepreneurs in Africa, behind Ghana with 44 per cent, according to the World Bank.