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Introducing our 2022 Women’s Empowerment Retreat in Rwanda

July 29, 2021

In these most difficult of times, it gives me great pride to announce that our third Women’s Empowerment Retreat will take place from  February 20-25, 2022, at the magnificent Singita Kwitonda in Rwanda. While I love Rwanda for its incredible wild spaces, wildlife and luxury hospitality offerings, there’s a much more thoughtful reason for holding our third retreat here, namely that Rwanda stands out as an African leader in the arena of women’s empowerment.

In recent years, Rwanda has tripled its women’s representation in middle management and led by example with a staggering 60% representation of women in parliament. And Singita Kwitonda has a feminine energy to it that is more powerful and present than anywhere I have been in Africa. Perhaps because it was designed by a female architect, decorated by a female interior designer and is run by a female general manager, and because 50% of the team is female. I could not be more proud and excited to have you experience this profound and special place.

Women’s empowerment in Africa

Late political and environmental activist Wangari Maathai famously said, “In Africa’s rural areas, women are the first victims of environmental degradation, as they are the ones who walk for hours looking for water, who fetch firewood and who provide food for their families.”

Although these words were uttered almost 20 years ago now, I remember their simplicity, profundity and power, for they unwittingly set in motion a defining driving force in my work from thereon.

The truth though, is that the pace of change for women in rural parts of Africa has been painfully slow. Based on my observations, when it comes to environmental degradation, social injustice or Covid-19, women in rural Africa remain the most affected. They’ve long been excluded from positions of leadership in the safari industry and have at best been given responsibility without authority. 

Looking forward to 2022

Our mission with these retreats is to celebrate these women for the ways in which they challenge the status quo every day. Hosted by myself and Pat Mitchell – a life-long advocate for women’s rights – our focus on areas of social change and female empowerment is well aligned with our vision at ROAR AFRICA: “If African women rise, wildlife will thrive’’. As always, we have lined up a stellar cast of dynamic female speakers who will deliver talks to the equally wonderful women who gravitate towards a trip of this nature.  

Professor Agnes Binagwaho

The Rwandan pediatrician and Vice Chancellor of the University of Global Health Equity focuses on changing how healthcare is delivered globally by training health professionals to deliver more equitable, quality health services for all. Agnes’ 20 years in the Rwandan public health sector have seen her serve in high-level government positions from Executive Secretary of Rwanda's National AIDS Control Commission to Minister of Health.

She is the current Senior Advisor to the Director General of the World Health Organization and serves as a senior lecturer in the Department of Global Health and Social Medicine at Harvard Medical School, an adjunct clinical professor of Paediatrics at Dartmouth's Geisel School of Medicine and as a member of the US National Academy of Medicine – making her an authoritative voice in global health. It’s no wonder she made Avance Media's 2020 List of the 100 Most Influential Women in Africa.

Corie Knights 

Corie manages individual philanthropy as chief fundraiser for WildAid and is responsible for raising millions of dollars to enable the organization’s programs. Corie also leads event planning, ambassador relationships, corporate partnerships and donor trips both domestically and abroad.

WildAid’s demand reduction program uses sophisticated advertising techniques, donated airtime, and celebrity spokespeople with the message: “When the buying stops, the killing can too”. More than 100 globally recognized actors, athletes, musicians and business leaders have appeared in WildAid campaigns. WildAid ambassadors have included Jackie Chan, Yao Ming, Prince William, David Beckham, Leonardo DiCaprio and many other famous names. The organization has been active in China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, Canada, and the US. It now attracts more than US$289 million of donated media space annually, primarily in China.

Lydia Nzayo 

Lydia was born in Rwanda 35 years ago but was raised in Russia, France and Italy before establishing her career in Spain. As part of the launch team at Kwitonda – Singita’s first property in Rwanda – Lydia is a mentor for women in the safari industry in that she is the first female general manager in the Singita Group and in Rwanda. That she has managed to merge her passion for sustainable tourism with her dynamic skill set, whilst giving back to the country of her birth is hugely inspiring to us and we look forward to hearing her share her journey. 

In addition to the thoughts, inspirations and vision of these inspiring women, we have created an itinerary with all-important down-time activities like daily wellness treatments, hikes to see the last mountain gorillas and a visit to Dian Fossey’s famous research camp. As always, our emphasis is on sharing a series of unique and curated experiences not found on ordinary safari itineraries, underscored by the certainty that travel will make us not just better people, but better wives, partners, mothers, daughters, sisters, friends and members of our communities too. 

Claire Bradbury

A childhood in the South African bush was the catalyst for Claire’s self-described ‘urban hyper-nomad’ lifestyle that has allowed her to find roots in cities across sub-Saharan Africa, Australia and the UK, whilst working as a Chartered Environmentalist, lawyer and wellbeing specialist. Having devoted much of her career to tackling the concept of critical sustainability, in recent years Claire has emerged as a thought leader and changemaker in urban sustainability and will be sharing with us the thinking behind her book Dwellbeing: Finding Home in the City, which is due out in October 2021. 

In addition to the thoughts, inspirations and vision of these inspiring women, we have created an itinerary with all-important down-time activities like daily wellness treatments, hikes to see the last mountain gorillas and a visit to Dian Fossey’s famous research camp. As always, our emphasis is on sharing a series of unique and curated experiences not found on ordinary safari itineraries, underscored by the certainty that travel will make us not just better people, but better wives, partners, mothers, daughters, sisters, friends and members of our communities too. 

While in the capital city of Kigali we will be staying at The Retreat, a luxury boutique hotel whose American owners Alissa and Josh Ruxin first came to Rwanda 15 years ago to work in the healthcare sector. Their vision to showcase Rwandan culture by way of an authentic experience delivered by an inspired team has seen them train up more than 1 000 hospitality staff who have gone on to work at other major resorts in Rwanda. In addition, they own Heaven Rwanda, Kigali’s first international restaurant and training facility, as well as The Retreat's gourmet restaurant. From The Retreat, we’ll depart for a tour that will delve into Rwanda’s incredible traditions of design, art, craft, architecture and fashion.

If you’d like to secure your place on this extraordinary journey, please email welcome@roarafrica.com

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