At the same time, IA remained steadfast in its commitment to critical social principles – constantly raising the bar on its own high standards of ethical conduct in operations (in all countries) and transparency in accounting and financial records. While such commitments might seem at first unremarkable, experience has taught me that too often these standards break down or flat out disintegrate under the pressure of working in developing countries such as Rwanda. The bottom line is that best intentions are not enough; there must be effective systems in place and an emphasis on adherence and consistency in decision-making. Reviewing the meticulous documentation and organizational responsibility initiatives at IA revealed to me that IA most definitely, so to speak, walks the walk.
IA also presented a unique vehicle for melding my professional experience with my scholarly passions. In London, I earned an M.A. in African studies. This graduate coursework focused on economic and political development in Sub-Saharan Africa and complemented firsthand knowledge of socio-economic deprivation in post-conflict societies that I acquired while studying abroad at the University of Capetown. IA, as an organization devoted to economic independence for African women, opens pathways for me to form meaningful partnerships with the most socially vulnerable and economically marginalized members of the African economy on their road to self-sufficiency and prosperity.
IA’s focus on sustainability really operates on three levels: artisan women, partner cooperative, and organizational. And, perhaps unsurprisingly, all three excite me. An alumnus of a women’s college in the U.S. and formerly an active member of the Women’s Network at Goldman Sachs, I am committed to addressing immediate issues facing the artisan women, namely, cyclical poverty and its attendant causes. Armed with an academic background in economic development in Africa, I am energized by the challenges of adapting and applying small business concepts to help spur the growth and improve the performance of IA’s partner cooperatives. Finally, inspired by the dynamic IA team who recruited me, I relish the opportunity to throw the weight of my experience and professionalism behind a truly remarkable organization.
All this is to say that I am thrilled to be a part of the IA team and am highly optimistic that an authentic and durable social impact in Africa is well within our reach.
(Photos: up top, Alex helps Covanya complete a purchase order and, below, Alex and Prudence Beza teach an English literacy class at Cocoki)