On March 9th - 11th, 2011, Rwanda Women Network hosted a group of 18 Congolese women in an exchange visit and learning experience supported by OXFAM Quebec and Kinshasa.
The visit was a result of the 2008 “International Workshop to Replicate the Polyclinic of Hope Model” held in Kigali.
They were part of five Women Organizations including Programme d’Appui aux Femmes Victime des Conflits / Guerres (PAFEVIC), Centre de Development Rural et Communautaire (CADERCO), Collectif des Associations Feminines (CAF), Reseau d’Action des Femmes Chretiennes (RAFEC) and Development Femme et Famille (DFF) based in the Northern Kivu and Eastern region of the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The delegation was received by the First Lady, Mrs. Jeanette Kagame, Jeanne d’Arc Mujawamariya, Minister of Gender and Family Promotion, parliamentarians, senators and leaders in civil society organizations.
The purpose of the visit was to learn about how Rwanda promotes gender equality and women’s empowerment for the country’s development.
Discussions with the First Lady revolved around strengthening collaboration between countries that make up the Economic Community of the Great Lakes Countries and promoting women’s economic empowerment.
Ideas were shared on how women should take advantage of existing cross-border trade and the move from informal to formal trade through enterprise and skills development. Fighting violence against women and involving women in lasting peace-building initiatives was also emphasized.
Jeanne d’Arc Mujawamariya said Rwanda’s national programs like; one cow per family, the guarantee fund aimed at facilitating women’s access to credit, and community efforts to contribute to better housing for vulnerable families (Bye Bye Nyakatsi program), aimed at uplifting vulnerable families.
She emphasized that Rwanda believes in accountability in leadership and transparency at all levels.
The Congolese visitors shared experiences and practices of different community volunteers such as; Community Health Workers, Community Paralegals, and Orphan and Vulnerable Children caregivers.
The Polyclinic of Hope (PoH) was created in 1997 as an intervention programme following the establishment of the Rwanda Women's Network (RWN) in the same year.
The programme responded to the plight of women survivors of sexual and gender-based violence by addressing their health, psychosocial, shelter and socio-economic needs in the aftermath of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.
To date beneficiaries include current cases of sexual and gender-based violence, widows, orphaned and vulnerable children and people living with HIV/Aids.
The PoH has currently been replicated in four centres at Nyamirambo, Kinyinya, Bugesera and Huye. These centres involve over 15,000 beneficiaries, including those infected and affected by HIV and victims or survivors of gender based violence.
Several income generating activities such as; knitting and weaving, baking of bread and crafting handmade cards have empowered the women and youth at these centres to become economically viable.
Through the PoH replication at the Village of Hope, Kagugu, the RWN received the UNDP and UNAIDS 2006 Red Ribbon Award titled “Celebrating Community Leadership and Action on Aids”, and the 2007 UN Habitat Dubai International Award in “recognition of best practices to improve the living environment” for child-headed households and genocide widows and their families.
The Congolese women specifically indicated an interest in replicating the PoH’s inclusive approach and lessons learned, to address the impact of violence against women. This approach would be introduced in the women centers being constructed by Oxfam Quebec in the Northern Kivu region.