50 young girls and women are being socially and economically empowered through numerous skills accessible at Rwanda Girl Guides Association, a non-profit organisation giving girls and young women opportunities to develop their potential.
The organisation aims at nurturing these women into responsible citizens who can and will make a difference in society. They acquire self-confidence and hands-on skills—such as tailoring, talent discovery, and are also equipped with knowledge about reproductive health.
Beneficiaries who are mostly aged 5 to 30 have access to a wide range of non-formal educational programmes and activities that, for instance, encourage them to develop their own special personalities, contribute to their communities and form friendships in a positive environment.
Fabiola Uwera Agasaro, a high school graduate and beneficiary, says the programmes have taught her a lot of things that she didn’t learn in school.
Some of the members of Rwanda Girl Guides Association
She recalls joining the organisation four years ago while in high school.
“I remember some girls who had to drop out of school due to pregnancy. It is easy for one to get carried away or influenced by what their peers are doing.”
She says if it wasn’t for the education and training she got from the organisation, it would have been easy for her to fall into the same ditch.
Community work is one of the activities the girls engage in.
The 21-year-old has dreams of becoming a designer. “Because of my love for dressmaking, I have decided to learn how to make clothes as I wait to join university this year.”
22-year-old Justine Itangishaka says that the experience she is getting has helped change her mind-set about life in all aspects.
She says after dropping out of school while in senior five due to financial constraints, she lost the meaning of life and thought it was over for her.
“After joining the programme, apart from learning tailoring, I developed self-confidence and I now know what is right and wrong. The skills also help when it comes to socialising with other people in my community, which I didn’t know before,” she says.
Itangishaka adds that from tailoring, she hopes to earn a living and support her family, and if all goes well, she will enrol at a technical and vocational institute to further her studies.
Jacqueline Mushimiyimana, another beneficiary, says she has learned how to manage her time well, something that was difficult for her before joining the organisation.
Through the different programmes, Mushimiyimana says she has also acquired other important skills, such as doing research.
More about the organisation
The organisation has another programme called ‘Yess Girls Movement’ where they exchange young leaders aged 15 to 20 with different countries in a bid to share knowledge.
‘Free Being Me’ is another aspect used by the organisation to boost the girls’ self-esteem and confidence. This is done by training them on how to love their bodies and why it is important to attach value to one’s inner being as opposed to physical appearance.
According to Germaine Umuraza, the organisation’s head of programmes, beneficiaries have a chance to discover and exploit their talents.
“When they don’t mind about physical appearance, it’s easy for them to develop their careers and become useful in society,” she says.
Their programmes cater for both girls who are in and out of school. They have a tailoring class that aims at supporting young single mothers to learn different hands-on skills, such as how to make sweaters, hand bags, African attires, among other things.
The organisation has a nursery school that accommodates the beneficiaries’ children and also those around the area.
Umuraza says they set up the school after realising that it was difficult for the women to work and at the same time, nurse their babies. Hence, they had to get a place where the kids would be catered for.
Sexual reproductive health
‘Speak Out’ is another of programme that teaches adolescents about sexual and reproductive health.
The girls are also equipped with information about their rights, how to fight against violence and drug abuse. Fighting against drugs is done through door-to-door campaigns to educate communities on the effects of drugs.
The girls are also taken through a leadership programme that helps them start initiatives that build communities.
Rwanda Girl Guides partners with the Ministry of Gender and Family Promotion to empower the girls. Girls have become open minded, creative and focused on building a future, Umuraza says.
Members of Girl Guides Association, currently in Rwanda, share their experiences;
As part of the activities in Girl Guides Association, I have been in Rwanda for three months and the experience is overwhelming. Through the association, I have had a chance to visit memorial sites and attend the commemoration ceremonies. Listening to the survivors and perpetrators share their stories of what happened, and the reconciliation process, is so much different from what I used to hear.
Linnet Atieno Odero, Volunteer at Kenya Girl Guides Association
If it wasn’t for the Girl Guide Association, I wouldn’t have come to Rwanda. Just being here is a story to share. Secondly, being exposed to different cultures from a different country helps improve our social skills, and teaches us how to live with other people who aren’t from our own country.
Regina Nicholaus Mushi,Member of Tanzania Girl Guides Association
I have learnt a lot when it comes to communication skills and how young people are given opportunities to take part in different initiatives, including leadership. There is a need for other countries to learn from the good leadership Rwanda has.
Daniel Oluwakemi Esther,Member of Nigerian Girl Guides Association
Before joining the Girl Guide Association, I was shy and I didn’t have the confidence to speak and even move around freely. Joining the association helped me have the courage to travel, not only in my country, but in other countries as well. I have also discovered my own potential as a young woman.
Randriamanantena Rado Narindra, Madagascar