Why Rwandan schools promote women’s rights and saving culture in boys and girls
Written by: George Kalisa
Monday, November 5th, 2018, 4:50
A total of 576 students 327 of them are girls at Groupe Scholaire Nyarusange cluster in small and manageable groups weekly to learn how they can fight and end gender based violence (GBV) which is a root cause for conflict in Rwanda, YWCA mentors told The Light Magazine.
This school is situated in Muhanga District about 60Kms south of the capital Kigali.
Victims of GBV are mostly girls and women, but finding sustainable solutions involves sensitizing both genders because both girls and boys are vulnerable to the effects of conflict traced to GBV, Providence Uwayo, a Field Officer at the offices of Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA) in Rwanda’s Southern region explained.
“We cannot get a permanent solution to gender based violence and conflict when the boys are not involved in the process because apart from committing acts of violence against girls, they can also be victims themselves,” said Uwayo.
The four-year project that was started in 2016 and funded by CARE International and implemented by YWCA and the Association for Counseling Trauma in Rwanda (ARCT –Ruhuka) is called Safe School for Girls (SS4G).
“Before this project started we had high prevalence of teenage pregnancies and school dropout rate was very high. We’re glad, they have greatly reduced,” said Uwayo.
SS4G operates in 174 Secondary schools in only five of Rwanda’s 30 districts, benefiting thousands of teenage students. There are two volunteers in each of the pilot districts called master trainers working with the mentors in schools.
The districts are: Muhanga, Kamonyi, Ruhango
Nyanza and Huye.
Uwayo says that apart from teaching reproductive health for both genders, they encourage the culture of saving by forming saving school clubs in order to reduce poverty which is a root cause of gender based violence.
The mentors who are chosen from teachers said that they encourage the students to use the savings to buy poultry and livestock of short gestation period like rabbits, pigs and goats.
The students said that the money they get from selling the livestock meets school requirements like school feeding, uniforms and others. This has significantly reduced the economic burden on poor parents and school dropout rates, YWCA field officers said.
This reporter found separate groups of girls and boys participating in open air SS4G classes in a spotless and clean school compound with their mentors after normal classes had finished. SS4G activities are part of the co-curricular school activities.
Anathalie Mukabucyana and Jean Twizeyumukiza who are the mentors in this rural school, were facilitating the classes.
On why they separate boys and girls Monique Mukamutari a Senior Field Officer at the YWCA said separating them encourages openness
and freedom to communicate the social and body changes the adolescents are undergoing.
“Because boys and girls are physically different and experience different body changes as they grow up they face different problems. For example, we encourage the girls to make reusable sanitary pads from cloth, helping those from poor families,” said Mukamutari.
“This affects exclusively girls, so we separate them,” she added.
Brigitte Nishimwe16, in form three says SS4G has helped her discover herself and getting financial skills with which she has solved many problems, which would hinder her education.
“Boys have learned to respect us as well as to relate with us as equals. When I started keeping rabbits from the savings, my wellbeing never remained the same. Each student puts 100 Rwanda francs on a group’s account per week in my group which we share at the end of the term and academic year,” said Nishimwe.
100 francs can only buy a sweet and Nishimwe says she never knew it is important if it is saved.
“I buy scholastic requirements whenever my parents cannot afford. We’ve learned the dangers of early sex and pregnancies and how to avoid them,” she added.
Jean Baptiste Ntiyibagirwabayo 16, says they have learned to respect girls and not to commit violence against them.
“We learn to respect girls as our equals and not to harm them through beating or causing psychological and mental pain, hence, encourage using of non-sexist language and against discrimination by seeing them as inferior humans,” said Ntiyibagirwabayo.
“We also learn to develop self-control and abstinence and concentrate on our studies,” he added.
Ntiyibagirwabayo said the mentors encourage them not only to respect the girls’ rights but also to defend them in the event of facing violence by reporting to the school authorities.
The boys are encouraged to be supportive to girls’ education by avoiding hindrances caused by them such as impregnating them or playing sex with them that can cause AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases. Equally, they encourage girls to use their savings instead begging money from boys.
YWCA encourages girls to continue with education after giving birth and they support them during pregnancy particularly when disappointed parents decline to support them.
Parents, teachers, the students meet once a term in a meeting known as school community scorecard to take stock of the SS4G project identify challenges and solutions and promote advocacy in the government with those that cannot be solved like school infrastructures.
“The program aims at addressing inequality and high dropout rate due to the lack of motivation and mentorship, family gender issues holding more boys than girls, social and Physical environment at school and limited knowledge to life skills,” says Sam Kalinda the programme Manager at CARE International Rwanda.
The project is supporting vulnerable adolescent girls and boys to attain an education. The project therefore aims to impact 24,600 girls and 19,800 boys in lower secondary to be able to accomplish and transition to higher secondary by addressing their social, emotional and economic challenges that would otherwise lead them to drop out of schools or perform poorer.
After the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi that left close to one million killed, conflict related with GBV was rampant. Many adolescents suffered from trauma. Teenagers mostly girls dropped out of school due to pregnancies, biting poverty and lack of counseling.