JULIET MUSABAYEZU is a 17-year- old Rwandan girl currently studying at Harvard University pursuing Human Development and Regenerative Biology. She spent last year interning at Girl Hub Rwanda—a joint venture between the Nike Foundation and the Department for International Development.
She recently spoke at the prestigious Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) 2011 in New York, USA. The New Times’ ALLAN BRIAN SSENYONGA spoke to her about her experience at the event and the Girl Effect concept.
Below are excerpts.
TNT: When I saw a video stream of your presentation at the CGI I asked myself, “Who is this girl?” So how would you describe yourself?
Juliet: That’s a really hard question. I really think a person is described by what they do and what they believe in.
TNT: True, but it’s not everyday that you come across a 17-year- old Rwandan girl at Harvard, right?
Juliet: That’s true. Well I am 17, going to Harvard, and I just started school a few months ago. Before this, I interned at Girl Hub Rwanda, working on the contents team for an upcoming Girls’ magazine and radio show ‘Ni Nyampinga’.
TNT: How did you end up at Harvard University?
Juliet: I think it’s all about your attitude and mentality, which is what ‘Ni Nyampinga’ aims at doing. It is all about encouraging girls to try something new and dream bigger and then work hard to accomplish those dreams.
TNT: Why were you at the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI)?
Juliet: I was at CGI reporting for ‘Ni Nyampinga’, while at the same time raising the profile of the magazine in terms of what it does.
TNT: Any particular lessons you took from the event?
Juliet: I learnt about the importance of talking about girl issues and connecting with people all over the world who feel that empowering girls is one of the most important ways to move forward at this point in time.
TNT: At the CGI event, you kept talking about ‘making noise for girls’. What exactly does this mean?
Juliet: Making noise for girls is a concept based on the girl movement. When one girl is able to connect and share with other girls she can transform her community. That movement is called the Girl Effect. Therefore, making noise for girls involves talking about the Girl Effect and, making sure that people are aware of its possibilities especially the critical importance of educating and investing in girls.
TNT: What in you opinion should girls be sharing?
Juliet: Girls should be sharing their experiences and that is where ‘Ni Nyampinga’ comes in. It allows girls to see what her peers across Rwanda are doing; it provides a platform for her voice, while creating the desired effect in the community.
TNT: And if I may ask, what kind of community do you desire to create with this movement and is it any different from what is already in existence?
Juliet: What is in place now is excellent for the girls to thrive, especially in Rwanda. What we want right now is for girls to have the confidence and self-belief to take advantage of the system and build off it in order to empower themselves and their communities.
TNT: The Rwandan government is known for its robust gender reforms that have empowered women and girls. If you had audience with the president what would you ask him in order to boost girls’ welfare?
Juliet: Actually nothing. We are lucky to have a President who supports the empowerment of women and girls and who asks the society, parents, men and boys to also support this. It is time for girls, like the movement describes, to start taking full advantage of all the wonderful opportunities that are at their disposal.
TNT: In other words, you think girls are not doing enough with these opportunities?
Juliet: No, don’t get me wrong. I just think girls could take better advantage if provided with the right network with which they can connect with other girls to have a stronger voice.
TNT: Any message you have for Rwandan parents with daughters?
Juliet: The call to action here would be for parents to allow their children to take advantage of all the opportunities available and allow them the freedom to dream big.
TNT: Well thank you for your time Juliet.
Juliet: You are welcome.