The Akilah Institute for Women Celebrates its Inaugural Commencement Ceremony

Friday, August 17th marked a monumental day in the history of the Akilah Institute for Women—the graduation of our inaugural class! After more than two and a half years of rigorous academic studies, exams, internships, and countless hours of community service, 39 young women crossed the stage to receive their certificates of completion in Hospitality Management at the Akilah campus in Kibagabaga, Kigali (full diplomas will be awarded as soon as we receive pending accreditation from the Ministry of Education). We are proud to announce that we have 100 percent job placement. Akilah graduates are launching their careers in the hospitality and tourism industry, working in hotels, eco-lodges, airlines, and more.

Akilah's valedictorian, Gisele Bahati, at the opening ceremony in 2010 (left) and receiving her final transcript at graduation (right).

We are especially grateful to Marriott Hotels International and Rwandair for their support of Akilah. 16 of the graduates will soon begin 18-month positions at Marriott hotels across the Middle East. They will return to Kigali to help open the launch of the new Kigali Marriott hotel in 2014.

The First Lady of Rwanda, Madame Jeannette Kagame, was in attendance at the graduation ceremony, shaking hands with each student as they received their final transcripts. The Minister of Education Vincent Biruta made the keynote presentation as the guest of honor. Other guests included Director General of the Workforce Development Authority Jerome Gasana, US Ambassador to Rwanda Donald Koran, and Senator Henriette Umulisa as well as government officials, members of the Rwandan private sector, community leaders, and financial supporters from around the world.

Akilah graduate Irene Ingabire shakes hands with First Lady Jeannette Kagame at the commencement ceremony.

This historical ceremony not only signified an incredible milestone for Akilah and Rwanda’s first-ever class of women to complete a 2-year program from a women’s institute of higher education but, moreover, it represented a group of young, confident women who are paving the way for future generations and entering the Rwandan workforce determined to make a significant contribution to their communities, economy, and nation.

Following remarks by the Minister of Education, Executive Director Lisa Martilotta and CEO and Co-founder Elizabeth Dearborn-Hughes both gave poignant speeches, acknowledging the immense efforts the students had put forth over the past two and half years.

“We founded Akilah in order to create a unique educational platform for young women,” said Elizabeth Dearborn-Hughes. “We provided items such as classrooms, textbooks, and faculty. But it is the young women in this graduating class who developed the heart and soul of this special institute. They have exceeded our expectations in countless ways.”

Proud Akilah graduates and future leaders and entrepreneurs of Rwanda.

Surpassing the requirements for internships and social change projects, many students showcased their leadership skills and entrepreneurial savvy far beyond the classroom walls, serving as elected youth representatives, student body leaders, community activists, and embracing a wide range of opportunities in the private sector.

As these young women embark on their journey into the professional world, now equipped with confidence and the necessary training and skills, Akilah has no doubt that these graduates will succeed. Succeeding not only in their roles in the workplace, but succeeding to ensure a better future for their families, their communities, and—ultimately—their country.

Akilah's first graduating class with co-founders Elizabeth Dearborn-Hughes and Dave Hughes.

Congratulations to the Akilah class of 2012! 

To view additional photos of the ceremony and read graduation media coverage, visit our Facebook page at

One thought on “The Akilah Institute for Women Celebrates its Inaugural Commencement Ceremony

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *