16-year-old Neeysa Sanghavi from Mumbai, India, recently came to Rwanda for a four day trip, but not for a mere visit or tour but to conduct a pilot study about Rwanda’s history and hopefully, change her country’s perception about Rwanda. Women Today’s Sharon Kantengwa spoke to the student from Singapore International School about her project and what she intends to achieve.
What inspired your trip to Rwanda?
We have African History as one of our subjects in our history classes and one day my teacher talked about the Rwandan Genocide as one of the world’s biggest atrocities. When I got home I asked my mother, who works here, if it was still going on and she said no. I was very confused with what the actual situation in Rwanda was because I kept getting different opinions from some of the students and so I decided that I wanted to see what it was like for myself. I asked for permission at school and they gave me a week-long holiday. I came to learn more about the Genocide.
Did this tour change your perspective?
It changed my entire perspective about Rwanda. Because all I knew was it was very violent and unsafe but when I came, I was overwhelmed by the hospitality of the people that I interacted with. When I first went to the memorial centre, I realised that people need to know what really happened, who were affected and why it happened and take it as a lesson and inspiration to move forward.
What project are you working on?
I want to do a social service project after learning the truth about the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi. I want to change the misconception of the people in India. After my pilot project and research, I will prepare a document for my school and as a tour leader, bring in a group of students for a study tour in Rwanda.
Also, from my interaction with the Agahozo Avega Genocide widows, I figured out many of us in India are good with handcrafted material and talking to people so we can help market them and help with a little innovation changes.
When will it be launched?
Preparations should be done by February next year because I have to present my proposal at school, and ask students to come and sign up for it. Everyone will facilitate themselves when coming to Rwanda because it will be community service.
What reaction do you expect from your fellow students?
Even though we have our own assumptions about how Rwanda is, none of us know what really happened. I’m sure if I went and explained to my friends what I saw and even show them the videos I took; they will be eager to learn more about the country.
How can young girls make an impact in society?
I believe that you don’t have to be a politician to make a change in society. One thing every girl needs to start is forming informed opinions about what’s right and what’s wrong, and learn the skills to make decisions. Start with something small like volunteering in a hospital during the weekends or spending time with someone from a lower economic class to understand their life. Just living the same life as them will give them great ideas.