January 24, 2012

Empowering Women Entrepreneurs

Consolata Ndayishimye credits her participation in the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs’ 2006 International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) and their focus on women and entrepreneurship with inspiring and encouraging her to seek the presidency of the Federal Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Burundi. Consolata was selected as the U.S. Department of State’s Alumni Member of the Month for January 2012 in recognition of her role in empowering women entrepreneurs to become part of the business network in her country and the East Africa region. Today she promotes women’s entrepreneurship for the entire region thanks to her selection earlier this year as president of the East Africa Business Council.

Mrs. Ndayishimye is a dynamic and energetic promoter of women’s entrepreneurship. In March 2007, she organized trips for Burundian business women to travel to Rwanda in search of projects and learn best practices they could implement in Burundi. As a result, she organized three regional workshops allowing 150 Burundian and 20 Rwandan women to share and learn from each other’s business experiences. Subsequently, six projects were launched in the two countries including a microfinance group, the enhancement of a local restaurant and the Agaseke Project; which provides opportunities for women from the underprivileged Batwa ethnic group to produce and sell handicrafts in support of their own sustainable employment.

In October, 2010, Mrs. Ndayishimye was invited to present a TEDxTalk. These online video events organized by TEDx, a nonprofit devoted to “Ideas Worth Spreading,” provide individuals the opportunity to stimulate dialogue. She used this global platform to urge the Burundian Diaspora to invest in their country by partnering with local businesses that will mentor them and help rebuild the country after 15 years of conflict.

Mrs. Ndayishimye remains instrumental while working with Burundi’s exchange alumni community. At the recent launch of the reconstituted Burundi Alumni Association, she encouraged her fellow alumni to combine their talents and dreams to make Burundi a better place. “Thanks to the support of the American Government, alumni associations across the world are accomplishing great things. We should also be inspired to share our best for our country,” she said.

The IVLP alumna shares her business expertise and contacts with Burundian alumni, connecting them with local journalists, bankers and alumni representatives from neighboring countries. Furthermore, she participates in embassy-sponsored events such as a recent economic roundtable with the Assistant U.S. Trade Representative for Africa and other members of the Burundian business community.

“The IVLP program has changed my life and most of all has increased my skills in leadership, states Mrs. Ndayishimye. “My area of expertise was widened from a small landlocked country to the East and South African Region where I am working with top business officials. I am very proud and grateful to have participated in this wonderful program.”