When Beth Murora of Rwanda was six months pregnant with twins, she traveled 1000 miles from her home to gain the skills that would enable her to help other women.
A Difficult Decision
“Have you lost your senses?" asked Arthur Rutagengwa when his wife Beth Murora announced her plans to enroll in the Cisco Networking Academy program. Murora, who was 27-years old and 6-months pregnant with twins at the time, assured her husband that she was of sound mind and resolute in her decision to enroll in the program.
Murora’s pregnancy wasn't her husband's only concern. Although she had earned a scholarship to attend the program, it was being offered in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, which was nearly 1000 miles from their home in Kigali, Rwanda. To complete her coursework, she would need to leave her family for six months, during which time she would give birth to twin boys. "It was one of the most difficult decisions of my life," Murora recalls. "But, too often women lose opportunities to advance themselves because of family obligations. I could not pass up this opportunity, which would allow me to help other women in Rwanda. I had a vision and the willingness to make it a reality."
Journey Toward Accomplishing a Goal
Murora had been accepted into a Networking Academy scholarship program sponsored by Cisco, the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), and the World Bank's Information for Development Program. She was one of nearly 50 African women who received scholarships to complete the Cisco CCNA course.
Murora’s participation in the program was supported by the Rwandan Ministry of Women's Affairs, where she serves as a program officer. "Our Ministry has a vision to create an information and communications technology (ICT) department, which will promote ICT in every government organization and among women. The CCNA training was viewed as a major step forward in equipping us with the knowledge needed to implement these types of programs," Murora explains.
The Minister of Women's Affairs worked with the Rwandan Embassy in Addis Ababa to ensure that Murora’s medical and housing needs would be met while she attended the Networking Academy courses. With the guarded support of her husband and family, Murora embarked on her journey to Ethiopia, accompanied by her mother-in-law. "I knew my babies would be in good hands while I attended classes," she recalls.
Although Murora had completed some computer-related courses while earning her bachelor’s degree in public administration from the National University of Rwanda, she knew the 6-month CCNA curriculum would pose a challenge. Additionally, program participants were expected to complete training on gender and development, entrepreneurship, and management skills.
"Some days it was very hard for me," she recalls, "but the instructors were very helpful. They kept me going and encouraged me to succeed. I set out of my country with a goal to achieve. Despite the pain I felt some mornings, by sheer force of will I got out of bed and to my classes because of my goal. By accomplishing what I set out to do, I knew I could look forward to much happiness when I returned home, mission accomplished, with my new babies."
Four months after giving birth to two healthy boys, Murora completed her CCNA coursework. Upon her joyous return to Rwanda, she possessed a technical skill set that enabled her to pursue the development and implementation of ICT programs. Her work is conducted against the backdrop of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda.
"The genocide left this country in need of rebuilding both physically and emotionally," says Murora. "The majority of Rwandan women are single mothers who are very poor. These women must be able to earn a living and support their children. I intend to use the knowledge I gained to help raise these women out of poverty with the technical training to run organizations and develop businesses, and a communications network that enables information sharing among women's forums."
"People should know that Rwanda is now secure," Murora adds, "things are improving, and we are going about the business of rebuilding this country. The Networking Academy program provided an opportunity for me to be a part of the rebuilding of Rwanda."