The Change Agent ABIE Award honors an outstanding international woman (non-U.S. resident with an emphasis on developing countries) who created or expanded opportunities for girls and women in technology. This year’s winner, Marie Claire Murekatete, is a Software Development Division Manager (Technical lead) at Rwanda Information Society Authority (RISA), formerly RDB-ICT. Prior to that position, she was a senior software engineer at Rwanda Development Board.
Marie Claire was a vice president of a masterminding cycle called GIRLS IN ICT Rwanda (an International Telecommunication Union “ITU” led initiative) in 2013. She worked within Rwanda’s ICT sector alongside a group of passionate ladies who instantly nominated her to serve as ICT’s vice president. She remains the vice president of ICT for the third consecutive year in a row.
GIRLS IN ICT majorly involves in empowering young girls to pursue STEM as a career. In 2014, Marie Claire founded a social nonprofit organization called Refugee Girls Need You that has a major focus of teaching ICT for teenage refugees in Rwanda. Along with the many activities that Refugee Girls Need You is involved in, it has partnered with the three largest camps in Rwanda (Kigeme, Kiziba, and Gihembe) in collaboration with UNHCR. Each year, at least 400 young refugee girls learn basic computer programming, web design, ICT support, and graphic design. After these trainings, they connect all of these young refugees with local communities, and ICT-trained girls meet up to work on ICT solutions to raise standards of living of refugees as a whole.
In 2015, Marie Claire built and designed a project called “Inspire, Connect, and Innovate in STEM,” which involves visiting high schools and teaching young girls cutting edge technology concepts that are on the trend yet are not found or taught in their academic curriculum. These concepts include robotics, material and conceptual design, data science fundamentals, and the use of data. In less than 18 months, more than 200 students (all of who were young girls) were trained and graduated from the program. Half of them currently are undergoing the mentorship program with Techwomen and the U.S. embassy in Kigali.
In 2015, Marie Claire won the Technovation Challenge and became Rwanda’s Master Educator. She coordinates Technovation in 20 high schools in Rwanda by teaching young girls how they can build mobile application to resolve community challenges. Technovation offers girls around the world the opportunity to learn the necessary skills to become tech entrepreneurs and leaders.
In 2016, Marie Claire was nominated by SAP as Africa Code Week’s Rwanda ambassador. She helped 1,000 school girls and boys in Rwanda learn programming languages such as Scratch. That same year, UN Women and Mott MacDonald awarded her the Rwanda Gender Promotion Recognition award for being a role model for the next generation of women in the Rwandan community.
Marie Claire has been involved in numerous activities, and tremendously helped UNESCO establish Searching for Martha, and initiative that empowers women across Africa. She also worked with Reach for Change as an external expert to help facilitate a mentorship program tailored made for women in Denmark. Marie Claire is a Techwomen and Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurship Fellow. She holds a master’s degree of Science in Information Technology from Carnegie Mellon University and bachelor’s degree in Computer Engineering and Information Technology from University of Rwanda College of Technology.