In Rwanda’s male-dominated renewable energy sector, one young woman has foregone all odds and built a large biogas enterprise that employs 107 men.
Eugenie Mujawamariya (31) is a wife and a mother of two young boys, living in Musanze district in Rwanda’s Northern Province. “I took technical subjects in vocational school. Boys would always laugh at me as I climbed construction ladders just like they were doing. I was determined to make it as a mason because I enjoyed working with my hands,” she said.
In 2014, Eugenie received basic business and biogas technical training via the Opportunities for Youth Employment (OYE) project (in partnership with The MasterCard Foundation), through which she learnt to build biogas digesters. The biogas technical training came as a wake-up call for her. At the time, she was working as a mason for a local biogas company. She decided to invest Rwf500,000 ($700) savings from her job as a mason to start her own company: Style Construction Company (SCCO). “I love biogas. After I was trained by the OYE project, I resigned, registered SCCO in 2014 and set to work. With my savings, I hired five technicians from my OYE class and started looking for contracts. Now I have 122 people working for me,” Eugenie recalls.
SCCO employs two permanent staff – both OYE trained - to manage accounts and supervise technicians. The other 107 OYE-trained workers are contractors. Eugenie is providing on-the-job training for 15 masons. “Now that I have a steady workforce, I would like to borrow from banks and compete for bigger district tenders of 100 biogas digesters or more, but the banks require collateral which I don’t have,” she adds.
“Biogas is my livelihood. My husband and I have bought one hectare of land with my earnings, and we’re educating four relatives in secondary school. I would never have been able to afford all that,” says Eugenie.
The workers are full of praise for their hardworking boss. “Eugenie is reliable. Since we finished training with OYE, we have had steady contracts, some as far as in Burera. In a month I can make between Rwf100,000 ($150) to Rwf120,000 ($170). I have even bought a dairy cow worth Rwf300,000,” says Jean D’Amour Turimumahoro (24) - a technician for SCCO. “I have built a 3-bedroom house for myself from my income. She inspired me and a colleague of mine to start our own biogas company,” says Savion Habimana (24), also a technician.
Eugenie never tires of advising girls to embrace technical careers. She sets an example for other girls by breaking ingrained gender stereotypes.