Rwanda Girls Initiative


Seattle takes it personally – women and girls | 

Editor’s Note: I have neither the time nor the inclination to engage in the journalistic pretense of objectivity today, which is why I am calling this post an analysis. It’s not really going to be very analytical, but that’s the word journalists use when they actually say what they think.

Yvonne Mutoni Musiime, Rwanda Girls Initiative
Yvonne Mutoni Musiime, Rwanda Girls Initiative


Here at Humanosphere, the world’s leading news resource for global health and the fight against poverty (okay, that’s not true), we frequently pretend to be objective.

Journalistic objectivity is, of course, more an ideal than a practice any individual can achieve in reality. But we do try to be fair and accurate and not engage in too much personal opinion. We strive to give people the whole picture, as we see it.

I don’t have the time and inclination for all that objectivity head-faking today.

I don’t have the time because of two powerful gatherings that took place in Seattle this week, one by Global Washington and the other by the Seattle International Foundation (or SIF, which I need to disclose is one of Humanosphere’s leading financial benefactors). Both of these yearly confabs truly exemplify what’s so special about the local humanitarian scene. And by happening on the same week every year (WTF?) they also annually consume what little free time I have for that week.

I also don’t have the inclination – to engage in the pretense of objectivivity, in case I lost you – because, well, we were all blubbering this morning over our breakfast. It’s hard to report objectively when you’ve got tears in your eyes.

So what was the blubber fest? It was SIF’s annual Women in the World breakfast.

Paula Clapp
Paula Clapp

“The voices of women are often ignored … or punished for speaking out,” said Paula Clapp, co-founder of SIF and one of the region’s leading philanthropists. Clapp has been devoted to empowering (and protecting) women for a long time, but she still choked up speaking this simple truth. So did many in the auditorium at the Four Seasons Hotel. But they were mostly women. I was a guy and damn if I was going to start crying. Continue reading

Rwanda is empowering girls, with a little help from Seattle | 


The first class of the Rwanda Girls Initiative, launched by two Seattle women

It has become a mantra in aid and development circles today to say that empowering girls is the single most effective means of fighting poverty, inequity and any number of ills in poor countries.

This is one of the international community’s top priorities, for good reason.

But saying and doing are two different things. Talk is cheap, they say.

Paul Kagame’s government in Rwanda is clearly walking the talk on girls and women — and a number of Seattle organizations are assisting in the gender revolution happening here. Continue reading

Re:Visiting Rwanda, a closer look at an African success story | 

Flickr, extremeboh

Gorillas in the mist. Mass genocide. The movie ‘Hotel Rwanda’ and maybe coffee.

Those are the things most people say when Ralph Coolman asks them what they know about Rwanda — a tiny central African nation that has had (and is still having) a profound impact on the West’s view of Africa, on the international community’s view of itself and the whole concept of aid and development.

Seattle is connected to Rwanda in a number of ways, beginning with the country’s role as a major producer of high quality coffee beans for Starbucks and Costco. A number of local humanitarian organizations, as well as social enterprise business ventures, are active there.

Coolman, a Seattle man and my neighbor in the Green Lake sub-district of Tangletown, works with a girls’ education project launched there by two exceptional Seattle women, Suzanne Sinegal McGill and Shalisan Foster. It’s called the Rwanda Girls Initiative. I’ll be writing more about that project later.

I’m headed to Rwanda along with a dozen or so other journalists sponsored by the International Reporting Project at Johns Hopkins University. For the next two weeks, I’ll be reporting on the trip and also posting stories on a number of Seattle projects at work there that have helped make Rwanda — despite its horrific recent past history — into what many see as an African success story.

Rwanda, that little red dot in the middle of Africa

Continue reading