Urban Fold

Laying a Brick Foundation for Success in Rwanda

Benita Hussain describes an innovative architecture project serving Rwandan women in their quest to rebuild the country.

A collaboration between Women for Women International, a D.C. based NGO, and New York architecture firm Sharon Davis Design, will result in an award winning facility, scheduled to open next year, for Rwandan women. The design and execution of the Women's Opportunity Center has taken on a holistic approach. The facility itself will incorporate sustainable elements such as leaf shaped roofs for rainwater collection, which will serve utilitarian, as well as, educational purposes. Other features are designed to nurture relationships and open dialogue. For example, classroom spaces are rounded and will lack the traditional row seating that lends itself to a hierarchic environment.

The Women's Opportunity Center is not waiting until the doors open to create economic opportunities for Rwandan women, however. Project manager, Bruce Engel, wanted to involve women in the creation of the center and found the ideal opportunity when the team discovered the poor quality of bricks traditionally used in the region. Engel describes the rationale behind his idea:

"Then we thought, 'How about we combine our desire to make a better brick, the desire to have the women more involved in their own center, and WfW's mission for job creation and income generation?'"

The resulting cooperative of 30 women produces 20,000 sand-molded bricks per week and will soon have enough to build the Women's Opportunity Center. Once the bricks for the Center are finished the cooperative hopes to continue to sell bricks to Rwandan developers.

Thanks to Jessica Brent

Full Story: Building a Future for Rwandan Women, Brick by Brick

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