The borrowers who I find most inspirational are the ones who go the extra mile to innovate in the hope of achieving a more sustainable income for themselves and their families. However, this commitment usually requires more up front capital than a Rwandan household has available.

That is where Kiva’s field partner Urwego Opportunity Bank comes into play, as it seeks out the innovative women of Rwanda. I had the pleasure of meeting two of their long terms clients – Laetitia and Delianne.

Laetitia invested in a cassava leaf grinder
Laetitia and her new cassava leaf grinder

Laetitia is a remarkable woman. She is a proud mother of eight, including the two orphans she adopted after the horrors of the genocide. Laetitia runs a small vegetable stall at a market place in the suburbs of Kigali to support her family.

Last year she decided to take out a loan and invest in a cassava leaf grinder. She had the idea of not only using the grinder herself but also renting it out to other market vendors so that she can bring in extra income to pay for her children’s school fees.

She says ‘Urwego makes it easier for women to start their own business and they give you support throughout the way’

Delianne now sells electricity from her shop
Delianne showing off her electricity terminal

Delianne has been a neighbourhood grocer for the last five years, selling foodstuff and household products. She also has a small seating area next to her shop where you can rest your feet. I used the opportunity to take a little break and have a muffin and a Fanta, whilst getting to know this entrepreneurial women a bit better.

Delianne’s goal is to be able to sell all the essentials her community needs. With this in mind, she decided to invest in an electricity terminal so that she can sell electricity vouchers. This purchase has increased both the number of customers she has and the amount of money each customer spends in her shop.

Thanks to Delianne, her whole neighbourhood is lit up as the 12 hours of darkness fall upon Kigali every night.

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Comments

Thank you for sharing the stories of these inspirational and courageous women. It is a pleasure to be able to help them in a small way to provide for the needs of their families. They should be proud of their accomplishments and work ethic - they are survivors!!!

It's great to read your post, Sandra! It's interesting for me to compare the types of business activities in Rwanda financed through Kiva loans, to those here in Madagascar. I haven't come across any 'electricity vouchers merchants' here in Antsirabe. I'm curious to find out how that works... Thanks for sharing! Your fellow 29th Class Kiva Fellow, Andie

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Sandra is originally from a small island in Estonia but has made a home for herself in London. She received a BSc in Management and Strategy from Aston University and joined Ernst & Young as a management consultant after graduation. In her five and a half years at EY she has worked with numerous banks and insurance companies, large and small. She believes financial inclusion and access to financial services is key to fostering young entrepreneurs and building thriving communities. As part of her role at EY, Sandra had the privilege to work with a small entrepreneur in South Africa to help them growth their business in the summer of 2015. This terrific experience made it clear to her that she wants her success to have significance. Following this ethos, Sandra is excited to join the Kiva Fellows 29th Class to work with Urwego Opportunity Bank and Kepler Education in Kigali, Rwanda.