After completing secondary school in 2012,Annie Uwase worked as a volunteer at Ubumwe Community Centre in Rubavu, a centre for persons with disabilities.
One day, a tour guide accompanying tourists to the center convinced her to join the guide profession.
Today, she is the country’s only female driver-guide, a job that combines both driving and guiding. Uwase juggles the job with studies (she is currently pursuing a degree in Tour and Travel Management at the University of Tourism, Technology and Business Studies, the former Rwanda Tourism University College).
How did it all start?
It started with a tour guide called Innocent Twagirumukiza convincing me to become a guide. At first I thought he was not serious but he was.
Later, he got some tourists and handed them over to me, and told them that I was a trainee guide. He asked them to give him feedback about me when we returned.
We went to the Pfunda tea plantation where I spent the whole day with the tourists.
I think they gave him good feedback because he came back to praise and encourage me. He also promised to teach me the basics.
He gave me notes and guidebooks to read, and encouraged me to visit as many tourist attractions in the country as possible. Sometimes he would take me on tour to get a feel of things
With time, I began to know other guides, who encouraged me to follow my dream. I joined RWASAGA (Rwanda Safari Guides Association), and started attending seminars and workshops.
How did your family react to your career choice?
They began noticing that I was reading a lot. Whenever I had free time, I spent it locked away in my room, reading the guidebooks I had been given.
When I started making field trips, sometimes spending days away from home, my family got worried. They were not comfortable with the fact that I was staying in hotels and lodges, and working with only boys. I always narrated to them my experiences in the field because I wanted them to know that I really loved it.
In brief, what is the work of a tour guide?
To ensure that a tourist gets a good experience and enjoys it.
What makes this job particularly challenging to a woman?
As guides we travel a lot, so we are always away from home, which is not normal in our culture.
Some people also have negative beliefs about any woman who works in or frequently sleeps in hotels and you can’t change the way they think.
What is your most exciting tour to date?
That was in February 2013. I took a group of Belgians who were in Rwanda for the first time to the Congo Nile Trail. After hiking the trail for seven days, we returned to Musanze and went to the twin lakes, Burera and Ruhondo. The tour lasted one month.
As a freelance guide, how do you get clients?
I get them through other guides, or when I’m called by a tour company.
Tell us about Uwase, the driver-guide
At first it was hard getting a job without a driving license, because most tour companies prefer driver-guides, but thankfully in January I got my driving license.
So far, I am driving around Kigali, but hopefully by high season in May I will be driving to the parks.
Best thing about this job
You learn a lot. You also meet new people from different places. Meeting all these different people is in itself a form of travel. It gives you an idea about what people from different places are.
Depending on myself is the best thing I have ever experienced. My advice, especially to fellow women, is that they should value work, and by work I mean not only office jobs.