The Rwanda Girls Initiative – How Collaboration Can Create Positive Change

03.21.2011 | Molly McWhinnie

We recently had the pleasure of working with the founders of the Rwanda Girls Initiative (RGI), Suzanne Sinegal McGill and Shalisan Foster, with an announcement sharing their milestone achievement of opening the Gashora Girls Academy. Their story had all of the right elements for us to share a compelling and inspiring story with the media of how two women teamed up with local companies to drive change in Rwanda. 

Soozi and Shal are two local philanthropists from the Bellevue-area who shared a vision of providing high-quality secondary school education for girls in Rwanda. They first began their endeavor three years ago and collaborated with a number of Washington’s top education and business leaders who provided their expertise and resources to the academy, including MulvannyG2, Washington State University and the University of Washington, among others. 

Together, they built the Gashora Girls Academy, an upper-secondary boarding school in the Gashora sector of Rwanda, which offers academic excellence for young women and will have a lasting impact on the greater community and the world. The culmination of their efforts was realized on Feb. 7, 2011 when they welcomed their first class of 90 girls to the academy.   

First class of students at the Gashora Girls Academy. Photo by Mike McCausland/Rwanda Girls Initiative.


To raise awareness for RGI, we focused our efforts in securing interviews with local, regional and national media. It was clear that this story contained a strong local angle, given the regional leaders involved, but it was also a timely for national media to consider as the 17th anniversary of Rwanda’s devastating genocide in April approaches. Furthermore, Rwanda is a country that can serve as a model for stabilizing many of the world’s most difficult crisis regions, including Egypt and Libya whose recent events have taken center stage across the media over the past several weeks. Education – particularly among young women – will play a critical role in Rwanda achieving its goal of becoming a middle-income, knowledge-based country by 2020. 

Journalists were eager to learn more about RGI’s vision and share the news about how they developed a replicable model for educating girls in Rwanda. As a result of our outreach, RGI was featured in local and national media including: 


It was a sincere pleasure working with Soozi and Shal, whose enthusiasm and passion for their project has encouraged me to think about what I can do to help make a positive impact in this world. What they have accomplished in just three years is truly remarkable as it leaves a lasting impact on the young women and the country of Rwanda for years to come. I could not agree more with what Seattle Times’ reporter Jerry Large wrote in his column about Soozi and Shal, “They are modeling values in action, and everyone touched by their work wins.” 

It was an honor to have had the opportunity to support them in their PR activities and I look forward to hearing about the future success of Soozi and Shal, as well as the young women attending the academy who will most likely become the future leaders and change-makers of Rwanda.


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Filed under: Execution, News, Non-profits, Our Results, Planning

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