Meet one of Rwanda’s women building her country for the next generation

By Veronica Houser
On 21 May 2019 at 11:24

Leading her team of civil engineers, Donata is a new UNICEF-supported early childhood development centres.

Standing stoic among her fellow masons and civil engineers on a sunny day, Donata watches her employees pour a new layer of cement. She does not speak often, but she is clearly in charge of the construction bustling around her.

She watches the work silently, the other masons moving aside when she kneels to smooth a rough edge or guide an unsteady hand.

In her white helmet and dark blue uniform, Donata is overseeing construction of Rwanda’s newest early childhood development centre in Bugesera District.

The centre will enroll 80 children between the ages of 3 and 6, providing the community’s first pre-primary infrastructure.

Donata, lead civil engineer in the construction of Rwanda's newest ECD centre, guides her employee to smooth a layer of cement

"Construction has an essential role in Rwanda’s development, and women are indispensable participants." Donata Umutoni, Lead Civil Engineer

“Whether it is schools, bridges or hospitals, development requires infrastructure and construction, and centres like this one are important to help children develop from a young age, both socially and in their education so they are more prepared for their future.”

She pauses, and watches two women walk past, who are helping each other carry a large pile of bricks. “There is nothing a man does that a woman cannot also do.”

“In Kinyarwanda, we have a proverb: ‘gushaka ni ugushobora.’ It means that if you put energy into making something happen, it will. It only depends on your motivation.”

The construction of the early childhood development centre is nearly complete. With funding support from UNICEF United Kingdom and UK-based NGO Ready for Schools Rwanda, the UNICEF-supported centre will host two play-based learning and stimulation rooms for children, a kitchen and administrative block, new toilets, and a community gathering space for parents.

“I love my job, and I am proud to be a part of this project,” says Donata, returning her attention to her employees. “As women, we need to be confident in ourselves and know that we have power. Power to do any job, and power to develop our country.”

Source: UNICEF Rwanda