There’s an old adage that says, “If you educate a woman, you educate a generation.” That is what Elizabeth Dearborn-Hughes, founder of the Akilah Institute for Women, is doing in Kigali, Rwanda. Elizabeth, a high-energy American with a passion for helping others, fell in love with the African country the minute she moved there.
She volunteered with grassroots projects and nonprofits, learning all she could about the people and their culture. She was deeply inspired by the resilience they showed during the 1994 genocide, when more than a million people were killed in 100 days.
Since then the country has made tremendous progress, and Rwandans are working toward establishing a solid, knowledge-based economy in their country. Elizabeth and her organization’s co-founder, Dave Hughes, are supporting this vision by opening Akilah, a school for young women that provides the skills and training they need to achieve meaningful careers and start their own businesses.
The very first class of young women recently graduated from Akilah, earning business diplomas with a focus in hospitality management. Fifteen of these graduates will have the opportunity to intern for up to 12 months at Marriott hotels in the Middle East. This on-the-job training will give them the skills they need to become supervisors and train approximately 250 other employees, most of whom will be fellow Rwandans. All of the trainees are expected to be placed in hospitality positions at the Kigali Marriott, which is scheduled to open in 2013.
We always try to align our business needs with what is most important to the communities where we operate. Considering the high youth unemployment across Africa, we believe our partnership with Akilah will open doors to a world of opportunity for a lot of young people.
“Akilah” means “wisdom” in Swahili. Wisdom usually comes with age, but I think Elizabeth is wise beyond her years.
I’m Bill Marriott, and thanks for helping me keep Marriott on the Move.