The Rwanda Girls Initiative (RGI) was founded in 2009 by Shalisan "Shal" Foster and Suzanne "Soozi" Sinegal McGill, with the vision of helping children for whom education is not 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 their schooling, but the opportunities were very limited. Even the girls who did continue to secondary school were burdened by household chores and safety concerns – so they tended to drop out at a higher rate than the boys.” Studying the relationship between education and economic development, Shal and Soozi became increasingly confident in the critical role of education in breaking the cycle of poverty.
In 1994, Rwanda suffered one of the greatest atrocities in history – the genocide that took the lives of as many as 1,000,000 men, women, and children in 100 days. In the past 24 years, however, Rwanda has made phoenix-like progress and is now an exemplar of stability and progress in Sub-Saharan Africa.
A land-locked and mineral poor country, Rwanda’s national priority, as expressed in its strategic plan Vision 2020, is to transform the country into a middle class, knowledge-based economy. 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."
In 2009, RGI received authorization from the Ministry of Education (MINEDUC) to open Gashora Girls Academy of Science and Technology (GGAST) – an upper-secondary girls’ boarding school located in Bugesera District an hour south of the capital city of Kigali. GGAST welcomed its first class of 90 girls in February, 2011.