The youth count for more than 60 percent of Rwanda’s population. From heading households, earning incomes and getting educated, they carry the great responsibility of fostering development.
Never Again Rwanda (NAR), an upcoming human rights non- governmental organization located in the heart of Kigali is empowering, encouraging and equipping Rwanda’s youth to take charge.
Dr. Joseph Nkurunziza, the President of NAR, says that it was established in 2002 with the sole purpose of enabling the youth to develop critical thinking in order to advocate for human rights, socio-economic development and peace building.
“Most issues concerning Rwanda’s human rights situation are written and documented by organizations from other countries. It is time for Rwandan local organizations to make human rights assessments on the ground so as to monitor human rights violations and advise the concerned parties,” said Dr. Nkurunziza.
NAR’s methodology focuses on empowering and creating awareness among the youth through creative education. Currently almost forty Never Again Youth Clubs have been established in secondary schools, universities and local communities across the country.
Instruments like trainings, workshops, music, dance, drama, comedy, debates, community outreach, handcrafts, sports and the media have been incorporated into their programmes as an effective way of teaching.
These clubs are a platform for the youth to air the sensitive issues they face on a daily basis. They discuss human rights issues, democracy, poverty, peer-pressure, drug abuse, leadership, HIV/AIDS, education, child abuse and gender based violence.
“This enables them to develop active citizenship, the freedom of expression, and overcome the psychological trauma suffered 16 years ago during the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi,” said Dr. Nkurunziza.
One participant, King Geofrey Ngabonzima, a 25 year-old student at School of Finance and Banking (SFB) said he was already inspired by debates, open dialogue and the students who initiated the NAR Club in his institution.
“Since I joined the NAR Club early last year, I have realised that Rwanda’s youth have a voice in whatever is being implemented in the country: Our country’s history has shaped us and that’s why most of the problems we face rotate around our history,” Ngabonzima said.
With this open forum, youth from different historical, social, education and financial backgrounds are helped to tackle and solve their issues.
Through creating, introducing and implementing various programmes, NAR has attained peak success in fostering change among Rwanda’s youth—the very reason for its formation.
Focus-Pressure- Action (FPA)
Lydia Taima Munganyinka, the FPA Coordinator, said that this programme that begun in 2007, encourages Rwanda’s youth to think critically about issues that are taking place at the local and national level.
“Rwanda’s youth have to participate in democratic processes. They have a role to play towards seeking solutions for prevailing problems in our nation,” Munganyinka said.
Using the FPA methodology, these youth clubs research, debate and select most pressing problems in their schools and community—this is the “Focus stage.”
Thereafter, they develop and apply pressure on the individuals within the community who are responsible for the given problem. They put pressure and involve those who are capable of solving the problem, like local authorities—this is the “Pressure stage.”
Eventually action is taken if those involved refuse to resolve a given problem that has been identified. Youth then settle for a peaceful solution through creating public awareness about the issue—this is the final “Action Stage.”
Munganyinka said, “Never Again leaders, members and volunteers continuously discuss and debate about the most relevant topic to be addressed.”
Recently, they have concluded debates on democracy, human rights and the justice system. They are currently focusing on Rwanda’s education.
Education in Rwanda
Various University students, on Saturday February 27th, concluded a FPA Youth Discussion Forum on Education in Rwanda.
Callixte Kayisire, the Nine Year Basic Education Advisor at the Ministry of Education contributed to the discussion and expounded on some of the education issues raised by the youth.
He said that that the education system in Rwanda was promoting critical thinking.
“Critical thinking promotes writing, reading and speaking skills; in this way, students are trained to participate in the development of the thriving education system,” Kayisire said.
James Nkubito, a 27 year-old SFB 3rd year Finance student said he joined the university’s NAR Club because it provided a platform on which he aired out his views on the unresolved issues youth face.
“I have learnt to analyse possible answers to the problems we face in our country,” Nkubito said.
Munganyinka, the FPA coordinator, further emphasized that, “FPA is all about advocacy, involvement, enforcement and empowerment of the youth to understand their rights and actively participate in resolving issues within their communities.”
Besides the Youth Discussion Forum, radio shows and the human rights training early this month are ways that NAR increases awareness and breaks from the monotony that comes with mainstream academics. However, the challenge remains. How to awaken Rwanda’s youth out of their redundancy; how to motivate and sensitize them to confront their fears and confidently resolve human rights problems.
Fostering women exploits
Never Again Rwanda is also committed to empowering youth economically so that they can stand up for their rights.
It was on this note that Never Again Rwanda is launching the 3-year ‘Empowering Young Women Entrepreneurs (EYE) Project’ this year which has been made possible by the support of USAID.
“The Eye Project’s goal is to contribute to the empowerment of Rwandan women through vocational skills and leadership training so they can gain paid employment, or be self-employed, and understand and stand up for their rights,” said Dr. Nkurunziza.
The project targets 156 out-of-school female youth between the ages of 18-24 who are to be trained over a period of 3 years (i.e., 52 trainees per year).