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International Women's Day

A virtual discussion

The theme for International Women's Day 2024 is “inspire inclusion”. Join us for a keynote address from Donatha Gihana, founder and CEO of Rwanda Esther’s Initiative. A response from Cathy Holtmann and a facilitated discussion will follow.

Date: March 13, 2024
Time: 1 - 2:30 p.m.
Location: Zoom

Topics of discussion

  • The complexities of women’s issues around the world
  • The challenges, successes and future work surrounding the rights and empowerment of women and girls
  • The power of education in elevating gender equity


Founder, Rwanda Esther’s Initiative (REI)

Donatha Gihana

For the past 16 years, Donatha has served girls and women in various capacities in Rwanda and parts of Africa while working for national and international organizations.

Donatha began her career at Rwanda's Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning (MINECOFIN) and later at the Ministry of Gender & Family Promotion (MIGEPROF). She worked on mainstreaming gender and social inclusion issues in Rwanda's Economic Development and Poverty Reduction Strategy (EDPRS I & II), second-generation national strategies. She has also worked for international organizations like the Nike Foundation's Girl Effect Rwanda Office (2011-2017) and FAWE Rwanda (2009-2012). In these positions, she led international and regional organizations supporting girls' education and youth empowerment programs.

Her passion for elevating rural girls and women for leadership is extended to the community through the founding of Rwanda Esther’s Initiative (REI). This community-based organization is targeting rural girls in communities. To date, 50 girls are sponsored to achieve an education and 20 rural women have been reached with economic empowerment programs. REI has established a strong partnership with other like-minded organizations with a projection to mentor more than 500 young women by 2026, support 100 adolescent girls to stay in school, support 700 families with access to Health Insurance and clean water and improve livelihoods.

In August 2016, the CEO of Global Pty for Africa named Donatha a Country & Regional Winner in the Pan African Awards. She was also recognized as one of the most influential women in business and government under the Welfare and Civil Society category. She is an alumni of the Global Change Leaders Program at the Coady International Women Leadership Institute, Nova Scotia - Canada (2019) and a US State Department Fellow of the International Visitor Leadership Program (2017).

Donatha holds a Bachelor of Arts in Education (Economics) and a Master of Social Sciences in Gender & Development from the University of Rwanda. She is a PhD (Innovative Urban Leadership) candidate at Bakke Graduate University (BGU).

She is a mother of two daughters and two sons.

Director, Muriel McQueen Fergusson Centre (MMFC)

Cathy Holtmann

Cathy is the Director of the Muriel McQueen Fergusson Centre for Family Violence Research (MMFC). She is the academic co-chair of the Religion and Violence as well as the Violence against Immigrant and Visible Minority Women research teams at the Centre. Her research focuses on gender and religion, domestic violence, immigrant women, and social action.