Empowering young girls to fight for their rights

Nearly 200 young girls from different parts of the country have committed to play a key role in protecting their basic rights and speaking out against violence against fellow children in the community.
A girl at the camp in Kigali asks a question. Diane Mushimiyimana.
A girl at the camp in Kigali asks a question. Diane Mushimiyimana.

Nearly 200 young girls from different parts of the country have committed to play a key role in protecting their basic rights and speaking out against violence against fellow children in the community.

Over 196 young girls made the commitment at the conclusion of a three-day long Girl Camp organised by Action Aid Rwanda at the Red Cross headquarters in Kacyiru, this week.

The girls, aged between 9-18 years, old were drawn from five districts namely, Musanze, Nyanza, Nyaruguru, and Gisaraga Action Aid’s area of intervention.

Under the theme: ‘‘Fight against violence against children,’’ the camp intended to evoke the intuition of the girls and motivate them to be responsible, develop resilience, demonstrate their strengths and learn to treat each other with respect and dignity in order to solve the problems they face in fighting GBV, school drop outs and the rate of teenage pregnancies.

According to Action Aid, the girls’ enrolment rate is higher than boys’ in primary schools. However, some measures must be put in place in order to retain girls at school and to have quality learning. These include awareness raising on both girls and the entire community on the role of girl’s education, setting up facilities to enable girl’s education.

Speaking to Saturday Times, Clare Katwesigye, the Women Rights and Advocacy Coordinator at Action Aid said that girls face systemic challenges to completing their education.

Some of the challenges they face are gender and age specific mainly linked to lack of adequate knowledge about their rights, and reproductive health.

After analysing all the issues affecting girls, Action Aid found it necessary and important to organise a girl’s camp.

“This programme is one of the means that help to raise awareness among girls on the importance of their education where they learn laws protecting children and women, sexual and reproductive health, some cognitive skills, discover commonalities and celebrate differences while learning to express themselves in a positive manner,’’ explained Katwesigye.

She added that they hope girls who attended the camp will act as catalysts of positive change in the community using the knowledge gained and share it with their peers to fight together.

Elie Uzabakiriho, of rights organisation Cladho, said that they found lack of basic knowledge about basic human rights, specifically children rights threaten the livelihood of young girls and at this camp they included sessions about rights and responsibilities of children.

“We hope that by knowing their rights they will be able to defend them when need comes. Have confidence to report all sorts of injustice, build their capacities as a strategy of fighting poverty and hence leading to a life of dignity,” he said.

Girls speak out

Josephine Uwizeyimana, 17, from Gisagara District

‘I learnt that we have a big role to play to end violence against us, especially by not keeping quiet when we encounter violence or witness violence against other children in our community. Before the training, I did not feel confident enough to testify in public but now I’m committed to make a difference.

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Josephine uwizeyimana

Clemence Uwimbabazi 10-year-old from Karongi District

‘I learnt about different steps of physiological development and changes that I will experience. I especially learnt that I have to pay attention to my sexual behaviour and walk away from temptation when I get into adolescence to avoid risking unwanted pregnancy. Because my parents never taught me that I did not know much about all these before’.

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Florence Niyigena,14 years old from Nyanza District

 ‘I had several perceptions about teenage pregnancy which were clarified after the training; for instance, when a girl can conceive. I walked away with a great deal of  knowledge which I hope to share with my friends who are still ignorant about sexuality'.

 

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Florence Niyigena

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Honorine Umuhire, 13, from Musanze District

‘I developed self confidence, self-respect and how to treat others with dignity. Also, I did not know anything about ovulation and the cycle of reproduction. Now I know how to count my ovulation and know when I can get pregnant. I did not know that boys can be victims of sexual violence but I now know they can face the same like girls and we can mutually support each other to fight against violence’.

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Josephine Uwizeyimana

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