Umushyikirano through the eyes of a Rwandan living in Diaspora

Nyanja with other delegates on the second Umushyikirano 2018 on Friday. Nadege Imbabazi.

The just-concluded 16th National Umushyikirano attracted Rwandans from all walks of life, including government leaders, the private sector, civil society and those from the Diaspora.

Among the participants at Umushyikirano was Nyanja Borodin, 35, a mother of three who lives in Sweden with her children and husband Petter Brodin, a pediatrician and researcher.

She first attended the annual national dialogue last year and that experience sparked a calling close to her family’s heart. She has since returned to Rwanda several times seeking connections that would help her elevate the quality of medical care in the country.

Nyanja shared her story with The New Times’ Athan Tashobya on the margins of the 16th Umushyikirano.


Nyanja Borodin. Nadege Imbabazi.

What is your takeaway from this year’s Umushyikirano?

President Paul Kagame’s focus on maternal and child health with improvements in nutrition was inspiring.

The continued pursuit of accountability for government decisions is also incredibly powerful.

One striking example was the mismanagement of micro-loans highlighted in the session and immediately addressed by our top most government leaders in a strong display of good leadership.

Talking about maternal and child health care, I understand you intend to build children specialty hospital in Rwanda, what inspired you to embark on this project?

We are impressed with what Rwanda has been able to do to implement and deliver healthcare across the country, increase vaccine coverage and provide antenatal care. This saves many lives already.

We are inspired by these developments but also see that the country now is ready to take the next step in healthcare. In our opinion, this means improving the more advanced level of care.

As a small country with a centrally located capital, Rwanda has many advantages over other countries.

Another thing that is very inspiring is the recent developments in Rwanda in ICT and data collection. As medicine is being transformed globally into a data-driven science, Rwanda can use its developments in ICT and registries to implement advanced healthcare.

We propose a national diagnostic centre in which advanced procedures are provided for all regional clinics and data is collected that will create a unique resource for research and more informed policies.

By understanding better what conditions are found, developing clinical programmes can be done more efficiently.

Little Hills (the NGO co-founded by Nyanja) aims to gather international experts in these areas to help Rwanda realise this vision and thereby take its health care system to the next level and also become an example in the region and beyond.

What’s the latest progress on the project so far?

We have our non-profit status, doctors are already signing up to come from Sweden and we have acquired the seed funding needed.

As of now, we are still trying building relations with the Government of Rwanda to be able to start realising our plans collectively. The ideas we propose can only work if implemented together with government.

Little Hills cannot set up this thing on the side. To be able to fully deliver on its promise of contributing to an overall quality improvement in the Rwandan healthcare system, Little Hill’s programmes must be integral to the Rwandan heathcare eco-system.

Any plans on where you want to establish the facility and the timeline?

Both depends on how Government intends to help us and be involved.

In a few words, how would you describe your first experience of Umushyikirano in 2017?

Recently I tried to put my experience in an opinion that was published in The New Times, I can’t find a better word to describe my first Umushyikirano in 2017 but “exceptional”.

As I said, as a member of the diaspora, it was a transformational experience that impacted the direction I have taken ever since.

Is attending Umushyikirano something you would recommend to fellow Rwandans in Diaspora?

I believe it is important for diaspora to contribute its knowledge and capabilities towards the development of our home country of Rwanda and to know the country’s needs and the most priority programmes.

Simply put, this national meeting represents a unique opportunity to learn and be part of the national development.

How can next Umushyikirano be made better, in your own view?

By scheduling the meeting far in advance and communicate the dates early, more members of the diaspora would be able to attend.

Also, by mixing people from government with people of different trades, more communication and exchange of ideas are stimulated.

Why do you think it is important for Rwandans in Diaspora to learn Kinyarwanda?

Kinyarwanda is the national language and for the dialogue to involve everyone this language should be used.

I don’t believe the Government needs to invest in books to teach our children in the Diaspora as one person requested during the meeting. First, we should do our job as parents to speak the language at home; then we can ask for extra support.

Also, maybe we as diaspora we should try to support government in funding for these books, instead of using resources that are much needed to advance our country.

Anything you may want to add?

I wanted to add that from the Diaspora, we did not have enough women and youth participating. We can do better.

Secondly, it is good that government is pushing for innovation and new ideas but what is the Government doing to establish supportive systems for realising ideas.

I think the Government needs to help with legal support, support with infrastructure, seed funding, among others.