In 2014, I traveled to Burundi to work on a project related to the privatization of coffee washing stations with the specific task of adding a gender lens to the process.
I had the opportunity to meet with Christine Ngaruko – a wife, a mother, a professional who has dedicated her time and resources to establishing a flower farm with the goal of exporting flowers for sale on the global market. She saw this as an entrepreneurial opportunity that would benefit her community with employment, skills, and better nutrition. She was threatened with violence and run off of her farm during the political turmoil. It took her 10 years to return. When I met her in 2014, she had re-started the flower growing and acquired an additional plot of land. With the help of a mentor in Uganda, she has managed to improve the quality and consistency of the flowers produced and secured the right to sell at auction in Holland. However, her overwhelming challenge was the lack of financing and the limited resources to optimize production for shipping. Her operation was too small and too risky for most banks and IFIs. This woman’s story—persevering through political conflict and her commitment to benefiting her community—inspired me to join the movement on women’s economic empowerment.