Education opens doors for those lucky enough to receive it. Unfortunately, girls and women across the world are often denied access to schooling, especially at the secondary level. Over the past two years, Dassault Systèmes in North America has been committed to helping fight the gender disparity in education by sponsoring women in Rwanda.
The company’s Women’s Initiative (WIN) started the program in 2013 through the NYANZA Technical School. Dassault Systèmes’ SOLIDWORKS brand had a previously-established established a relationship with the school and had been sending them software licenses, computers, and curriculum. The women involved with WIN at Dassault Systèmes’ Waltham headquarters decided that they wanted to make a difference in the lives of students who might otherwise not get the chance to attend school. At that time, only 10 percent of the students attending the school were women.
Through personal donations and fundraisers, such as craft fairs and selling baked goods, the members of WIN have gathered enough funds to sponsor the full cost (tuition room and board, and supplies) for three women each year.
The WIN program has grown considerably since its creation two years ago, and Dassault Systèmes’ management has allocated resources to bolster its efforts along the way. In 2014, the Waltham IT team was able to send each of the sponsored women her own laptop. SOLIDWORKS has also matched some of WIN’s fundraising. Last year, women from other Dassault Systèmes North American offices joined in the fundraising, including those from Auburn Hills, Michigan. and Providence, Rhode Island.
Students sponsored by Dassault Systèmes are chosen for their academic excellence and financial need. Many of the sponsored students attending the school come from larger families with unemployed parents or have been orphaned. Despite their circumstances, all of the women are hard workers with big dreams.
One of the women chosen sponsored in 2014 wants to be an engineer and work in construction. Another student plans to become a civil engineer, so that she can help her build new schools and hospitals. She hopes that her work will help Rwanda develop and give her a chance to help orphans. Others want to start their own businesses, go into public works, and work with electronics. All of the women, no matter their plans, hope that they’ll be able to use their education to help others.
The students enjoy many of the same hobbies of teens here in the US. In their free time, their interests range from singing, to playing basketball, volleyball, and soccer. This past spring, all three sponsored women passed their national exams.
“We are very proud of these bright young women,” said Debbie Dean, Vice President, General Counsel at Dassault Systèmes in North America, who also leads WIN. “It’s important to us that we support these women in their education. They are the leaders of tomorrow.”
WIN is currently reviewing possible students to sponsor for 2015.[cf]skyword_tracking_tag[/cf]