I always admire the way young people have fresh ways of thinking about solving old problems. That’s the story of Yvette Ishimwe, a 22-year-old entrepreneur who turned her country’s water challenge into a business opportunity to benefit the poor.
When Yvette was a teenager, her family moved to a region of Rwanda’s countryside where clean water was in short supply. Poor families would go to dirty swamps to gather water, putting their families at risk of disease. Yvette thought there must be a safer, more affordable way to provide her community with water.
At 19, while still a college student, Yvette started experimenting with treating nearby lake water with an ultraviolet water purifier. At first, she supplied the clean water to her family and then she then started selling it to her neighbors—at a fraction of the price of bottled water. As word spread, demand for her water grew and she established her company, the Iriba Water Group.
Yvette’s team of workers deliver cans of clean water by bicycle to hundreds of families in her community and her customers continue to grow. Last year, her work caught the attention of Queen Elizabeth II, who named Yvette one of her young leader award winners for the impact her work has had on her community. Yvette traveled to London for a ceremony in Buckingham Palace, where the Queen gave her a medal for her achievements.
More than 2 billion people around the world lack access to clean drinking water. Now Yvette has set her sights on reaching more of them by marketing water purification systems beyond Rwanda so more people will have the tools they need to have access to safe, clean water.