During long hours training for a marathon, mothers and long-time friends Shal and Soozi began to form the vision for the Rwanda Girls Initiative. Discussing the high quality of education available to their own children,
they were inspired to help children for whom education is not so easily accessible.
"Our children are able to receive an education because of where they were born, essentially because they were lucky – but it shouldn’t be a matter of luck. We believe strongly that every child should have the right to an education, no matter where they were born.”
Through months of listening and research, Shal and Soozi formed the vision for the Rwanda Girls Initiative. On a fact-finding trip to Africa, they were struck by the obstacles that stood between the young students and their education. “It broke my heart,” says Shal. “We met so many girls who desperately wanted to continue in their schooling, but the opportunities are very limited today. Even the girls who do continue to secondary school are burdened by household chores and safety concerns – so they tend to drop out at a higher rate than the boys.” Studying the relationship between education and economic development,
they became increasingly confident in the critical role of education in breaking the cycle of poverty.
Convinced that building a school could make a meaningful difference not only in the life of a child, but also a community, they sought out a country with whom they could effectively partner. They were determined to develop a different model for building educational infrastructure, focused on partnerships and strong connections to the local community. Soozi recalls that "after our first visit, we were convinced Rwanda was the ideal location for the first school. It is a beautiful country, brimming with massive potential and hope." The Rwandan government also provides a backdrop of stability and leadership which increased their confidence that the outcome would be successful.
The Rwanda Girls Initiative is now in the process of developing and building the Gashora Girls Academy – an upper-secondary girls’ boarding school. Shal and Soozi hope that the Gashora Girls Academy will serve as a replicable model for educating girls and accelerating economic development in Rwanda.