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Therese Mukabera

By Sarah Ann Schultz, Marketing Communications Specialist

When Therese Mukabera received her first loan from Urwego Bank, HOPE’s microfinance institution in Rwanda, she decided to start a business burning bricks, weatherproofing them to withstand Rwanda’s heavy rains.

But as a woman attempting to enter a traditionally male profession, she found herself encountering roadblocks to formally starting her business. Day after day, Therese watched men around her receive the necessary permissions to form their enterprises. And day after day, she was passed over, hampered by the common belief that brick burning was men’s work.

Around the world, life is often harder for women than for their brothers, husbands, and sons. Women are less likely to be formally employed than men—and when they are, women are often paid less. Women shoulder greater responsibility for housework, food preparation, water collection, and childcare. Less than 20 percent of the world’s landowners are women. When natural disasters strike, more women die than men.

But here’s the good news: When women are empowered, things change.

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“I train lots of people, freely, without asking any money,” Moise said, proudly smiling. “What I have, I give.”

Sitting on white plastic chairs at Moise’s home in the Republic of Congo, I looked out at the fields of newly sprouted cabbages as I mulled over Moise’s words. The grey sky overhead mirrored the heaviness of the conversation as Moise described his considerable challenges—his wife’s deteriorating health, the immense cost of her treatment, losing his loan repayment when a fellow group member left it behind in a taxi. And after this string of hardships, he was still willing to give of his time to train farmers in his community?

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