23-year-old Fiona Doreen Ashimwe was among the 15 finalists during this year’s Miss Rwanda beauty pageant. Last week, together with partners, she visited SOS Technical School in Kagugu to enlighten adolescent girls on sexual and reproductive health and Rwandan core values through her project Urubohero. She had a chat with Women Today’s Sharon Kantengwa on how her project will empower girls.
What inspired Urubohero?
My project is about establishing a learning centre for adolescent girls. It came about when I was in boot camp during the pageant and we had mentors who came to tell us stories about Rwanda, our culture and how unique the country is. I came up with the idea of going to secondary schools to teach adolescent girls Rwandan core values and how they are supposed to behave. I also felt it important to enlighten them on reproductive health.
Urubohero is a word that was used for peer learning centres in Rwandan history. Its purpose was to nurture girls as future mothers of their homes, with the guidance of their own mothers and aunts. While at boot camp, I thought of a project that could bring back this culture.
Being in a civilised world, however, we cannot apply all the things that they used to do back then, but at least we can know about culture and reproductive health.
How does the project work?
I prepare the girls with basics, and then bring mentors to enlighten them further. I partnered with some members of National Women Council to give them tips on sexual and reproductive health, and also Rwanda Academy of Language and Culture (RALC) to give them insight into Rwandan culture. We also have a female representative from Kiyinya District who teaches the girls how to behave. I talked about the impact beauty queens should have in society and shared my experience from boot camp to inspire them. I also taught them that women and girls have rights and that they should seek justice whenever they are abused.
I believe that when girls are abused, it is difficult for them to report the case to the authorities because they are afraid. As a girl who understands what they go through, I will use my experience in law to make it easier for them to get justice.
Each girl in the school also planted a tree as a way of teaching them the value of building society.
What are your future plans?
I want to start with Kigali, that area I represented during the pageant, and go to schools and eventually, go even further to other areas. Every week I should be able to visit a different school. I am planning to balance all this with my own school schedule.
How do you plan to fund this project?
Since I submitted my project proposal to the Ministry of Sports and Culture, I have been given support in terms of partnership. Luckily for me, my project doesn’t require much because it only requires talking to the girls. Last week, the Urubohero club was established at the school that I visited. There’s a committee and they meet every month and get mentors. The challenge that I have is that some secondary schools are not approachable and complicate the process of establishing peer learning centres, yet this is a project that is going to impact society.