Twenty-five-year-old Benoit Ndajimana has created an environment for young people to learn about sexual and reproductive health albeit in a fun way—through a card game—this allows them to discuss in depth without feeling shy. While partaking in a training as the president of the university, the graduate of Human Nutrition and Dietetics at the University of Rwanda became more aware of some of the issues affecting the youth regarding reproductive health, and these included unplanned pregnancies and early marriage. READ ALSO: What adolescents want addressed about access to sexual reproductive services In August 2021, Ndajimana chose to play his part as a university’s leader and use his influence to help curb some of the problems. He was shocked by the high rate of young girls in villages who got pregnant and was certain that he had to make a difference. “I discovered that the reason many girls were faced with early marriage was because of pregnancy, and all this was because they lacked Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) information,” he says. To launch his cause, he founded a project to support adolescents and young people with access to SRHR information. He says one of the trainers and experts in SRHR he interacted with emphasised the use of games in teaching adolescents and young people. This enabled Ndajimana to create innovative ideas for a game that could break fear among adolescents to openly discuss SRHR. “In the village where I grew up, we enjoyed playing games like cards, Jack and Rose (Titanic poker cards), and up to now young people still love this game. It is on those cards that we indicate educational information on SRHR,” he says. Birth of the idea “After analysing the situation, I worked with a friend whom I shared my idea with to turn it into reality. That’s how the project ‘Ishema Ryanjye’, was created. After developing a sample of the cards, they visited different institutions and organisations that work on SRHR to seek advice and suggestions. “We also had a trial period of eight months at G.S Remera Catholic School by teaching students while visiting other schools and Yego Centres of SRHR using the cards.” Ndajimana says that the project was implemented in secondary schools through clubs and Yego Centres, where students and young people can freely ask questions, or have discussions on SRHR topics. And, the plan is to promote public health in communities through innovative approaches that encourage people to take care of themselves. Ndajimana anticipates distributing the cards to anyone who needs them and also having them used as SRHR teaching material in secondary schools. Teachers can use them to interact with students, and at youth centres where young people meet. However, one of the challenges he faces is the lack of solid capacity to produce numerous cards. Ndajimana is of the view that with the government’s support, he can distribute more cards in secondary schools as teaching material. Promoting wellbeing Last year in October, Ndajimana founded the Health Promotion Organisation, a local non-governmental organisation of graduates in public health and related fields. The organisation has various programmes, like the nutrition project known as ‘Kuza Neza’, which aims at promoting maternal and child nutrition by helping every household have at least one kitchen garden and three fruit trees. “We also have a non-communicable diseases (NCD) programme that has a project known as ‘Mfite Ubuzima’, which aims at reminding and motivating people of 30 years and above to have regular check-ups, know their health status, and we have three days of NCD screening campaigns every four months. This happens three times a year at different sectors in Kigali,” he says. The dietician explains that the environmental health and wash programme is intended at evaluating, correcting, controlling and preventing people from physical, chemical and biological hazards—with access to safe water, decent toilets and good hygiene. This is aimed at maintaining and improving human health. Lastly, is the SRHR programme where ‘Ishema Ryanjye’, operating mostly in Gasabo and Muhanga districts, is more involved. According to Ndajimana, the SRHR programme addresses issues related to comprehensive sexuality education by up surging awareness of SRHR, promoting access to accurate information, specifically adolescents, related to family planning, gender-based violence (GBV), gender promotion and sexually transmitted infections (STIs), including HIV. READ ALSO: New regional bill seeks to guarantee women reproductive health services Experiences “Playing ‘Ishema Ryanjye’ cards has been an exciting experience for me because I am somehow introverted, and I cared less about social activities. Playing these cards has taught me how to win by providing the best questions and answers. “This got me meditating on questions and problems society faces related to SRHR and got me to search from trustworthy resources to get evidence-based information,” says Huguette Irambona, a student. When she first played the game, she was with students from different schools and class levels, but what made the game fun and educative was the fact that all students were open to discussing things that most people shy away from or are ignorant about. READ ALSO: Why society needs more awareness on sexual and reproductive health Irambona remembers a Senior Two girl that asked her if having sex would avert acne, she told her it was false information and explained some of the causes of acne, and suggested simple remedies. She was left thinking that people, especially adolescents, can easily believe whatever they are told without proof, and engage in risky behaviour. Irambona has, therefore, learned to actively listen to people and provide factual information, and if she doesn’t know the answer, she asks her playmates for support. For questions where no one knows the answer, they refer to other trusted sources for the right information. Jasmine Irakoze Uwase notes that playing ‘Ishema Ryanjye’ games has enabled her to learn from her colleagues. “I have attended several SRHR outreach programmes in different schools and Yego Centres, and since we started using the cards, there is improvement. Before, it was hard to engage Rwandan youth in a discussion about SRHR as they are shy, but the cards allow us to ask each other as many questions as possible,” she says. According to Oreste Hafashimana, CEO at LIKE A DOCTOR Ltd, a digital and communications agency, this is a unique approach to learning about SRHR. It has sparked discussion and created a safe space for players to ask questions and gain a deeper understanding of these crucial topics.