As part of celebrations to mark the International Day of the Girl Child, a group of former students of FAWE Girls’ School visited Centre Marembo in Gasabo District to celebrate with girls and other children at the transit centre.
During the Saturday visit, the alumni were accompanied by representatives of Forum for African Women Educationists (FAWE) Rwanda, the organisation that founded FAWE.
The group took time to discuss with girls at the centre who have been ostracised by, among others, sexual and physical violence, rape, domestic torture among other health-related issues.
They also donated an assortment of basic items, including sanitary pads, soap, milk, packages of biscuits, and scholastic materials.
Teta Kayitaba, the president of FAWE alumni, said the activity was part of other series of activities being carried out to empower the Girl Child in the country and complement the Government’s initiatives of bringing hope to the most vulnerable children.
“Today, we are celebrating the International Day of the Girl Child, and there’s no better way than coming here and interacting with those with the most pressing challenges,” said Kayitaba.
“We are committed to bringing hope and smiles to our sisters and fellow girls in different parts of the country. This is part of several other activities we do as girls, some of us passed through similar challenges.”
The day was globally celebrated on October 11, with a call for action for increased investment in collecting and analysing girl-focused, girl-relevant and sex-disaggregated data.
In Rwanda, there were several activities organised the entire week by different women groups, non-profit organisations and other institutions.
According to the United Nations, poor girls are more than twice more likely to marry in childhood than wealthy ones, and that 700 million women alive were married before 18, more than one-third were married before 15.
In Rwanda, it’s no different and this can be seen at Centre Marembo.
Girls presented a short play portraying the challenges they faced before they were brought to the transit centre.
These included being mistreated by their parents, family rejection, rape, and physical and sexual assaults, and exposure to HIV and other diseases by those who abused them.
“I came here nine months ago after my parents had always refused me from continuing my studies. When I completed Senior Six, my mother told me to drop out and do something else but I didn’t find it realistic, so I got a chance to come here and continue my studies. I feel happy today,” said Josiane Ntambineza, 17.
Kayitaba said they have the responsibility to raise awareness on their rights, advocate for the adoption and implementation of laws and policies that prohibit and prevent child, early and forced marriage, and mobilise communities against the practice.
On the other hand, the national coordinator of FAWE Rwanda, Eugenie Mukanoheri, told children that they should aim higher to break the silence and overcome the challenges they are or might have passed through.
“We (girls and women) have been faced by a number of challenges but I’d like to tell you that this has changed, and we’ve taken a new route of beating the ordinary narrative where girls used to be at home. I urge you to envision your future as a great deal,” she said.
LIFE AT THE CENTRE
According to NicoletteNsabimana, the co-founder and coordinator of Centre Marembo, nearly 130 girls and children are housed at the centre, and most of them have not been empowered enough to get the basic requirements in life.
“I must congratulate these young girls and women who thought about this action, this means a lot not only to us who lead the centre but also the kids. Of all the girls living here, only 65 have ample shelter, and we’ve not been able to fully empower them,” she said.
Together with FAWE alumni, they pledged to kick-start the campaign, “One Coin Per Girl,” to help raise funds to support girls and to build bigger facility where girls will be housed before being reintegrated to foster families.
“We want to construct the biggest transit if this project succeeds. What we think is going around in schools where at least every student can give in a coin and the proceeds will go to construction activities and finally help reduce street children, particularly girls, who are faced by the most challenges,” she said.
Kayitaba affirmed that they will work collaboratively and mobilise resources which will be used to build the centre for girls.Follow https://twitter.com/Julio_Bizimungu