Last night I tweeted out that I had just booked my flights to Rwanda.
If you haven’t seen me in person in the past couple of weeks, it probably caught you a bit off guard. Why Rwanda? Why now? What the hell is going on?
In October I was thrilled to be a part of the US State Department initiative, TechWomen. As a part of the Bureau of Cultural Exchange, it has a mission to connect and support the next generation of women leaders in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) from Africa and the Middle East. The first part of the program brought women, known as Emerging Leaders, from the Middle East and Africa to Silicon Valley and Washington, DC. The second part of the program coordinates bringing the mentors and Emerging Leaders to Africa as a delegate group. This year, there are two trips: Morocco and Rwanda. Which to choose?
For me, Rwanda was an easy pick – the country has an amazing story. After the genocide of the mid-1990’s, the country has worked hard to stabilize and bring new technology and opportunities. They lead the world in female leadership in their government. The country is considered safe and stable to travel in. A new documentary Sweet Dreams (about women and drums and ice cream in Rwanda) caught my attention too. You should watch the trailer – it’s pretty awesome. I’m trying to find a way to see the full film in San Francisco!
With all that, how could I not go? When will I ever had a chance again to visit sub-Saharan Africa with a group, visit the schools of girls and women to encourage them to keep advancing forward; to visit tech companies in Kigali; to experience the culture. When will I ever have a chance to see a part of the world not many Americans will ever see?
So – I booked flights that encompass over 24 hours of travel time. My amazing husband, Nasir Shakour, backed me all the way on this and I regret he can’t go with me. But, for him, duty calls at home. And someone has to take care of our little demon dog while I’m gone!