Fri. Jul 19th, 2024

Becoming a Doctor Is a Dream I’ve Passionately Been Pursuing since Early Childhood, Says Uwajeneza

Rwanda’s Healthcare Provider, Uwajeneza Grace (PHOTO/George Kalisa)

By George Kalisa

Uwajeneza Grace, 23, a trained Rwandan Nurse narrated her story to The Light Magazine about a desire to contribute towards social and economic transformation of Rwandans particularly women. She traces her dream of becoming a medic to this desire, which she got while in Primary Five.

“I was in P5 when I felt the call of becoming a medical professional,” recalls Uwajeneza.

Rwanda faced the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi during which over one million Tutsis were killed by Hutu extremists and Hutu militias, Interahamwe leaving many orphaned and widowed. Rwanda’s economy was destroyed beyond repair. For close to 28 years, President Paul Kagame led government has been rebuilding and reconstructing the nation from the ruins caused by the genocide.

Every sphere of life was horribly affected. Many Healthcare providers including doctors died while others fled country. To the day, the landlocked East African nation is still grappling with an alarmingly doctor-patient ratio of one doctor per 8,294 people countrywide.

Uwajeneza Grace at her place of work where she is having a part-time job (PHOTO/George Kalisa)

Though Rwanda’s Health sector is continuously recording a rise in the number of qualified health professionals, the doctor-patient ratio was still below the national target of one doctor per 7,000 by the year 2024 according to Rwanda Health Performance Report 2017-2019.  

As of December2019 there were 1,492 physicians working in both private and public health facilities including 642 specialists and 850 general practitioners. This translates to one doctor per 8,294 people nationally.

Notably, women’s representation in the Health sector is still worrying despite concerted nationalwide campaigns aimed to encouraging female Rwandan population to join Medicine and the Science World at large through various programmes including STEM.

Uwajeneza emerges from this history. Her out-of-the-ordinary story partly, but not hugely, indicates she’s one of the products of such massive efforts as well as the conducing teaching-learning environments in the Education Sector created in response to vast need of medical professionals in the country.

Much as an enabling educational climate and enormous government’s efforts have been handy in improving women’s livelihoods, Uwajeneza is hugely a self-made Nurse who attributes her success to passion for medicine.  

Uwajeneza’s journey that starts from a remote village and poor family in the Eastern region of Rwanda to graduating as trained healthcare provider from the University of Rwanda (UR) has inspired thousands of Rwandan girls mostly those hailing from her home area.

She is a daughter to Gatera Innocent and Nyirandibori Yvonne who settled in Nasho cell, Mpanga Sector, Kirehe District in 1995 on returning from Tanzania where they lived as refugees. Uwajeneza is the fourth born of 10 siblings, five of them are girls.

Her parents are smallholder farmers that earn a living exclusively by practising subsistence farming.

The pursuit of dream is no bed of roses, she says. She describes her education journey as “bumpy” and “challenging”.

Her parents couldn’t afford a first world school where she could access a better education. It’s needless to mention, she learnt to appreciate the little resources to survive as a young girl because parents were struggling to raise a large family.

The seed of gaining satisfaction from the fruits of the work of her hands and perseverance in pursuing goals have been growing stronger and stronger over the years, altogether influencing her philosophy of life to the day.

The novice Nurse doubles as a woman activist. She believes that women should have a place in society, which can enable them to potentially contribute to economic development of communities and country.

She loved Sciences and her outstanding performance demystified the deep-seated, widespread belief that Sciences is a boys’ thing.

“I have always scored higher grades than most boys would score. I’ve always acted with unyielding determination when it comes to pursuing my dream.”

Self-esteem, confidence and strong belief that both men and women are equally competent, when society lives above gender discrimination, altogether keep the spirit of chasing goals glowing within her.

“I would say my outlook towards life has helped me achieve some of my goals.”

In 2021, Uwajeneza graduated as a Healthcare Provider and currently a part-time worker at a Pharmacy in Kigali.

Her determination to live a focused life, Uwajeneza says, helps avoid distractions she encounters as a female youth in a digital world. She carefully chooses the right company and distances herself from youths obsessed with quest for a luxurious lifestyle that they cannot afford, eventually engaging in illicit activities such as running after horny men, clubbing, irresponsible drinking and drug addiction that she loathes.

The omnipresent, natural smile she wears on her face while don in a white coat reveals a lot about her satisfaction with her achievement and abundant hope for a better future and firm stance to grow in her career. Her sense of integrity, selflessness, compassion, honesty and dedication to serve her community and Rwandans in general, as a lifelong commitment, characterised the interview.

Contribution to Communities

Within her reach, Uwajeneza has always grabbed any opportunities to contribute towards changing Rwandans’ livelihoods along promoting women’s plight. She’s proud to have served as Vice-President of the Children’s Parliament of Mpanga Sector, was a great opportunity to learn children’s rights and freedoms.

Today, she appreciates reasons why Rwanda needs emancipated women that live above cultural barriers and systemic problems that have since time immemorial subjected women and girls to poor living standards. Ignorance forced women live in deprivation of their human rights including right to lead prosperous lives. 

As a model in her home area and former trainer of girls aged 6-15 (2016-2017), Uwajeneza inspires hundreds of young Rwandan girls. She’s formally and informally passing on values and skills that enhance girl child empowerment as well as strengthening lifelong survival skills.

She loves work and doesn’t despise any kind of work as long as it can bring some income. 

When she completed high school, she desired to serve her community. Fortunately, she got a job as a porter and her dad regarded it a disgrace. After completing University education, she moved to Kigali to search for a job in her area of training. She’s living with hope and unshaken faith of getting one sooner than later.  

Meaning of Women’s Day

H.E Paul Kagame (PHOTO/Courtesy)

International Women’s Day provides an opportunity to Rwandan women and girls to pay tribute to H.E President Paul Kagame for promoting policy reforms that liberate women from ignorance, illiteracy and pangs of poverty and unemployment, explains Uwajeneza.

“Today, women and men are treated as equals and laws are in place to defend and promote our plight. And, a myriad of gender reforms and women’s empowerment progrmmes implemented by the GoR speak aloud about prevailing political will to uplift women’s and girls’ welfare,” explains Uwajeneza.

She adds: “the day can be used to assess progress of programmes that aim at promoting social and economic transformation of Rwandan women.”

To girls in and out of school, Uwajeneza calls on them to set goals, keep far from habits that can potentially fail them to achieve their goals. They should be confident and appreciate their worth as human beings with equal opportunities regardless of social differences including gender, education and social class.

“They need to respect parents, share their dreams with them for support and guidance.”

She says success in life isn’t a preserve for urban dwellers and hence encourages girls to “desist from ‘shortcuts’ to a better lifestyle through engaging in unproductive activities the Rwandan society loathes. Uwajeneza who’s still single likes sports and reading.

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