Remarks by Ambassador Erica Barks-Ruggles at MindLeaps Girls Lead Performance

Mwiriwe! Good Afternoon!

Thank you, ladies, for your beautiful and moving performances and speeches. Let’s give them another round of applause.

And thank you Sifa, Solange, and Hasha for sharing with us your remarkable testimonies. Your ability to overcome the difficulties you have faced, and how you found hope and the resilience to reach for a better future, truly make you role models for other girls—and boys—who are facing similar circumstances.

The U.S. Embassy is proud to partner with MindLeaps-Rwanda on the Girls Lead initiative. This innovative program combines leadership and entrepreneurship training, which will give sixty young girls the tools necessary to start and maintain small businesses while they complete secondary or vocational school. The businesses they start will allow the girls to make positive and healthy life choices and will generate much needed income for their families.

In most cases, these will be the first children to finish school in their families. With the success of these girls, a positive trend in Nyamirambo can take hold as more and more young people find greater hope for their families and community. These young girls will become role models and leaders in one of the most challenging areas of Kigali.

Women and girls make up half the world’s population. Yet, they don’t always have the opportunities for their voices to be heard. Through the MindLeaps program, you have been given valuable tools like team work and conflict resolution, and I want to encourage each of you to continue to find ways to give back to the organization that helped you step firmly on the path to becoming self-sufficient and independent.

Many of you currently volunteer at the MindLeaps center during your academic breaks and help girls who are new to the program become confident, voice their problems, and take advantage of the services available at the center. But we know that not everyone can be part of MindLeaps. Don’t wait for a big venue or performance to share your knowledge. Take the lessons you have learned at the program and share them with girls at your schools, places of worship, and in your neighborhoods.

Finally, I want to recognize Rebecca Davis and the rest of the MindLeaps staff. Your compassion for the young people who unfortunately find themselves homeless and your leadership of this organization have changed the lives of hundreds of young Rwandans. Not only are these children on a better trajectory toward a bright and more secure future, their families are as well. Please continue the great work that you do, and know that the U.S. Embassy will continue to be a proud partner of MindLeaps.