The First Lady, Jeannette Kagame has challenged parents, leaders and young girls to own up a new programme that seeks to equip young girls with skills to help them exercise their social, economic and health rights if they are to become future parents and leaders of the country.
The First Lady was speaking during the launch of the third year of the “12+ programme conducted in the Shyorongi sector, Rulindo district.
The programme which is now in its third year, is a ten month long health, economic, leadership and social assets development approach for girls, at that key pre-puberty age range of 10-12 years old.
It adopts an innovative approach to delivering empowerment with an emphasis on communication and mentorship in local locations commonly known as ‘safe spaces’.
These safe spaces are located in classrooms or district offices; that are safe for the girls to share and learn diverse topics with the help of their mentors.
The programme is about equipping girls still at a sensitive and impressionable age, with adequate knowledge and skills to make the best-informed decisions about their lives.
In safe spaces, teachings are based on a booklet specifically designed to deliver simple and relevant lessons through storytelling and animations, which is done with the help of mentors.
Before the launch of the third year of the programme, the First Lady and government officials joined the Rulindo community in Umuganda (communal work), where they planted trees and included environmental protection activities at Groupe Scolaire Shyorongi.
Thereafter, a demonstration of the 12+ programme was conducted by the girls and their mentors for the distinguished guests. Within the demonstration, the girls formed the circle of friendship, which helps to bring an intimate connection between the girls and their mentors.
During the event, Mrs. Kagame said that the programme which started two years ago, has played a significant role in improving lives not only for the direct beneficiaries but also for their families and surrounding communities.
During her remarks, the First Lady mentioned that there are 490 safe spaces where young girls converge every weekend to discuss the importance of hygiene and learning how to start and maintain a kitchen garden, to saving money and understanding sexual and reproductive health among other essential topics.
12+ also has over 1600 trained mentors who conduct the lessons, but also become role models to the young girls.
Over the past two years, she said that 52,000 girls have been trained under the programme and have greatly benefited, in terms of their lives, living well with others and their personal economic development.
Through 12+ eighty percent of them have built kitchen gardens; growing vegetables that contribute to the nutrition of the girls and their families. Sixty-three percent have developed the culture of saving, twenty-one percent have opened accounts in banks while sixty-one percent have small business that generate small incomes, she said.
“A child is never too young to contribute to the family welfare,” the First Lady told the gathering, referring to a young girl in senior one, who is currently supplying vegetables to one of the hotels in Musanze district.
“The testimony from the children and parents show significant changes from this programme. I want to thank the district authorities, as they play a role in the implementation of this programme,” she said.
The First Lady also said that there is also a need to look for ways to help young boys, to help them benefit from the programme. She further urged the Ministry of Health to see if it is possible for all children to be beneficiaries.
“Having the vision for a better life starts early. As parents, we wish you to become children with vision, so that you become real parents and future leaders of this nation,” she told the young girls.
She also challenged parents to keep playing a role in building better families that fit children.
“Parents and all others gathered here, you have to keep supporting the Ni Nyampinga programme so that we keep building society that fits our children,” she said.
Beneficiaries speak out
Young girls and parents who benefited from the programme hailed the programme saying it helped them learn many lessons and the skills acquired will help live a better future.
“I started with a kitchen garden and I would sell vegetables twice a week. I opened an account and deposited Rwf 15,000, which I later withdrew to buy a goat. I kept selling my vegetables, and now I have two goats and two chicken and my business keeps growing,” said Merci Amina, one of the beneficiaries.
Emmerance Ishimwe, a beneficiary under 12+ had positive things to say about the programme.
“I have saved money and now I have a pig. Besides that, I have acquired skills on how to behave, and I know I can’t be tempted and that I should report whoever attempts to violate my rights.”
The 12+ programme was launched in 2014, to provide girls with health, socio-economic and leadership tools to help young girls exercise their rights while providing them with the tools to become successful adults.
It is a nationwide programme conducted under the Ministry of Health, with the support of the Department for International Development (DFID).