The Women’s Opportunity Center

With thoughtful planning and design, a place to convene, learn, and grow helps women create economic development for themselves, their families, and their communities.

Our goal was to ensure sustainability for this investment and other projects in Rwanda, so that solutions don’t rely on philanthropy alone to continue and thrive in the long-term.

Verna Eggleston, Bloomberg Philanthropies

Groups of Rwandan women have been gathering in circles for generations. This was the inspiration behind the Women’s Opportunity Center, a 2.5 acre, environmentally sustainable campus that brings together urban buyers and rural farmers. Behind the innovative design of this entrepreneurial meeting place and farm is the story of how Zainab Salbi, founder of Women for Women International (WfWI), decided to help women in post-conflict regions around the world, and why Bloomberg Philanthropies invested in this effort.

Bloomberg Philanthropies has been working on economic development in sub-Saharan Africa since 2008. Verna Eggleston of Bloomberg Philanthropies recounts the incident that sparked their interest and investment in the region: “I received a booklet from our president, Patti Harris, about some WfWI women who were training male soldiers in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) who had raped and abused women. I was fascinated that a group of women were training soldiers not to rape. I immediately said, ‘I want to go. I have to see it.’ ” The booklet was about a WfWI program. WfWI is a Washington, DC-based nonprofit organization that has helped nearly 420,000 marginalized women in countries affected by war and conflict since 1993. WfWI works directly with women in eight countries offering support, tools, and access to life-changing skills to move from crisis and poverty to stability and economic self-sufficiency.

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Sharon Davis

Meet Sharon

Sharon Davis is an award-winning designer whose work is driven by her belief in the transformative power of design. Following a successful career in finance, she redirected her professional pursuits to the built environment, returning to graduate school in her forties and establishing a collaborative design practice dedicated to human-centered environments in 2007. Sharon visited eastern Rwanda in 2009, witnessing first hand the economic hardship and lack of basic necessities in this region. “Travel to the country you are interested in. Talk to people on the ground. This helps with many things, but especially with buy-in,” according to Sharon. Her time in country gathering data on the needs of women in this community is directly reflected in the thoughtful and practical design of the award-winning Women’s Opportunity Center.

Women are resilient. An investment in a woman is an investment in a community, an investment in a country, an investment in a nation, because women immediately invest and put their returns into their families.

Verna Eggleston, Bloomberg Philanthropies