Inflammation and stories on Rwanda

10 Facts About Girls’ Education in Rwanda

Rwanda has made an exerted effort to improve education in the country, paying close attention to the needs of girls. However, the overwhelming cultural and historical barriers for girls are still inhibiting educational equality. Removing obstacles so that girls can successfully complete secondary school are essential next steps. The government must continue its efforts to devote the funds needed to meet these goals. The implementation of thoughtful programming that UNICEF and other entities have developed will help in this task. The following are five facts about girls’ education in Rwanda.

5 Facts About Girls’ Education in Rwanda

  1. Despite increased government focus on the education of girls in Rwanda, girls continue to face significant barriers. Girls in Rwanda experience poverty, sexual harassment and violence. Walks to school can be very long and more dangerous for girls. Furthermore, they are often burdened with family responsibilities such as caring for the elderly. They are encouraged to marry young or seek employment in place of education due to family poverty. The schools may lack separate girls’ restrooms, which discourage girls from attending, especially after puberty.
  2. The Rwandan genocide in 1994 decimated schools and the country has had to rebuild the educational system since then. Girls and women were especially vulnerable to becoming severely impoverished by these circumstances. No schooling took place for a year in Rwanda. “Thousands of teachers and children were killed or displaced.” Reentry into school has been an ongoing struggle for girls as the education of boys is prioritized culturally.
  3. In 2004, the country introduced the National Girls Education Task Force. In 2007, the first lady of Rwanda launched a 5-year school campaign to promote the enrollment and achievement of girls in school. The goals included an increase in achievement and an improvement in retention for girls. The program aimed to examine the barriers girls face in completing their education. One feature of the campaign includes grants and prizes for schools excelling at enrollment retention and high achievements. Funds went toward science equipment, sports facilities, gardens and other programs that would benefit girls in the school environment.
  4. The Rwandan Ministry of Education and UNICEF Rwanda wrote the National Gender-Responsive Teacher Training Package in order to continue “building gender equality in every classroom in Rwanda.” This program starts with breaking down gender bias that educators perpetuate. Next, it goes into learning outcomes and explicit gender-responsive pedagogy and school leadership. The document outlines how to implement and evaluate gender equity within a school environment through a shift in language, priorities and practices.
  5. The World Bank identifies six factors that are heavily influenced by girls completing secondary education. Earnings and standard of living are increased when girls complete secondary education. There is a significant reduction in child marriage and early childbearing. This also influences fertility rates and population growth. Health and nutrition are improved through education and better decision-making skills. Finally, education improves agency and social behaviors.

Rwanda’s education system has had to be reconstructed from the ground up since 1994. While they’ve made impressive strides, the needs of girls require ongoing attention and funding. Developing a cultural shift towards prioritizing the education of girls will lead to positive changes for all as these five facts about girls’ education in Rwanda show. When education is equitable for girls, the entire country will reap the benefits of the stabilization and reduction in poverty for girls and women.

Susan Niz
Photo: Wikimedia

Education in Rwanda
Rwanda has come far from its genocidal war that split the country apart decades ago. The country has taken a step away from this bloody past and is looking towards the future by improving its education system. Rwanda still has massive hurdles like the transition from traditional learning ideas to the implementation of modern and more progressive ideas involving technology and curriculum. This article will go over exactly what Rwanda has done through 6 facts about education in Rwanda.

6 Facts about Education in Rwanda

  1. Three Main Languages: Schools teach three main languages in Rwanda. The national language is Kinyarwanda and educators teach it in primary school. English is another primary language for upper-level classes whilst French is mostly an elective that students can choose to take. Some schools in Rwanda, however, make it mandatory to learn both French and English. Certain schools are having difficulty prioritizing and shifting from teaching colonial French to teaching English within the country.
  2. Rwanda’s Education Budget: Rwanda has allocated more of its national budget towards its education system in recent years than before. Between 2012 and 2013, the country allocated only 17 percent of the national budget towards education, but it increased to 22 percent between 2017 and 2018. This country sees this increase as necessary since the current system currently overworks many teachers who have to pull double shifts to cover all of the required curricula.

  3. The Previous Education System: It is evident that the education system has come a long way since the early 1900s when the schooling system was informal. At that time, Rwandan families were in charge of education and children went to Amaterero schools where they learned about military matters, smithing, basketry and other practical skills that the nation required. Rwanda did this to prioritize education during wartime and conflict rather than fermenting an education during peace.

  4. Education Disparity and Civil War: Uneven education played a part in the civil war within Rwanda. Rwanda allowed the Tutsis to have some premium education between 1960 to 1990, leaving the Hutus to foot the bill. The Hutus also did not have nearly as much access to this education. This exploitation and inequality of education influenced the eruption of civil war between the two peoples.

  5. Tertiary Education: The highest level of education in Rwanda is the Tertiary education level with over 50,000 students within the country competing there. One of the most prestigious of these schools is the National University of Rwanda, which emerged in 1963 and is located in Butare. It is actually a conglomerate of several facilities that make up one single university where educators encourage students to specialize in many different curriculums

  6. Online Education: Rwanda is modernizing its education system by allowing students to take tests online, using TOEFL program. The Department of ICT also oversees E-testing to make sure that students have access to this online testing as a whole. This technology and information are run jointly with the Rwanda Information Technology Authority (RITA). This program makes it so that the ICT technology receives proper advertisement and the schools put it to proper use.

Despite having a bloody history, Rwanda is clearly taking steps to make sure that its education system can plant the seeds for the country’s future. The country is making sure that its education system is putting money to proper use to improve the learning of its younger populace, through the use of technology and the efficiency of its various leveled programs. This has all become clear to us through these 6 facts about education in Rwanda.

Collin Williams
Photo: Flickr

Combating Poverty with Renewable EnergyIn the modern era, more than a billion people around the world live without power. Energy poverty is an ongoing problem in nations like Liberia where only about 2 percent of the population has regular access to electricity. The World Bank explains that “poor people are the least likely to have access to power, and they are more likely to remain poor if they stay unconnected.”

With the new global threat of climate change, ending poverty means developing renewable energy that will power the world without harming it. Here are five countries combating poverty with renewable energy.

5 Countries Combating Poverty with Renewable Energy

  1. India plans to generate 160 gigawatts of power using solar panels by 2022. According to the Council on Energy, Environment and Water and the Natural Resources Defense Council India must create an estimated 330,000 jobs to achieve this goal. With this new effort to expand access to renewable energy, East Asia is now responsible for 42 percent of the new renewable energy generated throughout the world.
  2. Rwanda is another nation combating poverty with renewable energy. The country received a Strategic Climate Fund Scaling Up Renewable Energy Program Grant of $21.4 million in 2017 to bring off-grid electricity to villages across the country. Mzee Vedaste Hagiriryayo, 62, is one of the many residents who have already benefited from this initiative. While previously the only energy Hagiriryayo knew was wood and kerosene, he gained access to solar power in June of 2017. He told the New Times, “Police brought the sun to my house and my village; the sun that shines at night.” Other residents say it has allowed children to do their homework at night and entrepreneurs to build grocery stores for the village.
  3. Malawi’s relationship with windmills started in 2002 when William Kamkwamba, famous for the book and Netflix film “The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind,” built his first windmill from scrap materials following a drought that killed his family’s crops for the season. Kamkwamba founded the Moving Windmill Project in 2008 with the motto, “African Solutions to African Problems.” Today the organization has provided solar water pumps to power water taps that save residents the time they had once spent gathering water. Additionally, it has added solar power internet and electricity to local high schools in order to combat poverty with renewable energy.
  4. Brazil has turned to an energy auction system for converting their energy sources over to renewable energy. Contracts are distributed to the lowest bidders with a goal of operation by the end of six years. Brazilian agency Empresa de Pesquisa Energetica (EPE) auctioned off 100.8 GW worth of energy on September 26, 2019. EPE accepted 1,829 solar, wind, hydro and biomass projects to be auctioned off at the lowest prices yet.
  5. Bangladesh is turning to small-scale solar power in order to drastically improve their access to energy. These low-cost home systems are bringing electricity to low-income families who would otherwise be living in the dark. The nation now has the largest off-grid energy program in the world, connecting about 5.2 million households to solar power every year, roughly 12 percent of the population.

With one in seven people living without electricity around the world, ending energy poverty could be the key to ending world poverty. The story of renewable energy around the world is one that is not only tackling climate change but also thirst, hunger and the income gap. According to Jordan’s Minister of Planning and International Cooperation, Imad Najib Fakhoury, “Our story is one of resilience and turning challenges into opportunities. With all honesty it was a question of survival, almost of life and death.” With lower costs and larger access, renewable energy is not only the future of environmental solutions but the future of development for countries all around the world.

Maura Byrne
Photo: Flickr

Scavenger Hunt for a Cause
The Greatest International Scavenger Hunt, or GISH, is a scavenger hunt for a cause and one that can boast that it actually is the greatest international scavenger hunt — it has received a Guinness World Record for the largest media scavenger hunt in the world. “Supernatural” actor Misha Collins founded GISH in 2011, and it is a scavenger hunt for a cause that has seen over 55,000 participants from over 69 countries since its inaugural year. GISH effectively mobilizes its thousands of participants toward charitable causes, often by making charitable donations a task in the annual hunt. On such a large scale, GISH has made an impact on causes including refugee settlement and farmland donations in Africa.

What is GISH?

Formally known as GISHWHES, GISH is a scavenger hunt for a cause and a viral online media event that takes place over one week every year. Participants must pay a $25 sign-up fee and teams must consist of 15 people, either personally chosen or randomly assigned. The organization sends out the scavenger hunt list via email as well as the GISH app, and the goal is to complete as many tasks as possible by the end of the week.

Some previous tasks from 2019 included hosting Stormtrooper X Games and providing photos, finding an actual spacesuit and putting a GISH patch next to the national flag. Additionally, some tasks were to create a brochure for a Mars tourist company, plant and maintain trees and help residents of a local nursing home “escape” by throwing a summer party and asking about their favorite memories.

How Does GISH Help?

Through various GISH tasks over the last few years, participants have cleaned thousands of beaches, more than 2,000 participants have donated blood, more than 800 have registered as bone marrow donors, more than 3,000 have volunteered for food pantries and volunteers have donated more than $700,000 to charity. In 2011, GISH raised money to build an orphanage and care center for the orphans of the Haiti earthquake of 2010. In 2016, participants raised enough funds for four refugee families from Syria to move out of a refugee camp and into a stable housing environment. In 2018, GISH participants helped to provide over 250 acres of farmland and resources to women in Rwanda to rebuild their lives and provide them with the opportunity of financial freedom. In 2019, scavenger hunt teams raised funds to help refugees at the U.S./Mexico border and raised more than $240,000 to help families in Laos. These are just a few of the impacts that GISH has had in the last eight years.

Random Acts: A Partner Charity

Random Acts, a charity also founded by Misha Collins, is an organization dedicated to finding new ways to bring random acts of kindness into the world. Similar to GISH, it has an annual event called AMOK (annual melee of kindness), where participants perform various acts of kindness to make their community a better place, including fundraising and mobilizing.

It also hosts Endurance 4 Kindness, which is a global event that allows participants to push themselves and raise money for a good cause. Random Acts has helped fund campaigns like Hope to Haiti and Dreams 2 Acts: Nicaragua as well. GISH has partnered with Random Acts in the past to save a South African dance school in 2017 and to help build an orphanage in Haiti in 2011.

How to Participate

To participate in GISH, find a team (or opt for random placement), sign up through their website, pay the $25 participation fee and wait to receive the list! Prepare to be uncomfortable and awkward, but be ready for a good time. Overall, keep in mind that although seemingly lighthearted and just for fun, many of the tasks aim to make a real difference, both in local communities and globally.

GISH is a scavenger hunt for a cause and has been going strong for the past eight years, constantly breaking Guinness Records and gaining more participants as it grows. It emerged as a call to action in response to the devastating earthquake in Haiti in 2011 and has since helped people all over the world. From refugees in Syria and Lebanon in 2016 to women in Rwanda in 2017 to families in Laos this year, GISH has made impacts all over the world. GISH is the Greatest International Scavenger Hunt for a great international cause and each year continues to see more participants helping to change the world. Over the next few years, participants will help thousands of people and donate thousands of dollars for various charities, expanding an already record-setting scavenger hunt for a cause.

Jessica Winarski
Photo: Flickr

Menstrual Hygiene for RefugeesWhen looking at menstrual hygiene for refugees, imagine for a moment, having a period while fleeing political violence or natural disaster when sanitary products and private sanitation facilities are scarce. In the Syrian refugee crisis alone, there are more than one million girls and women between the ages of 12 and 59 in need of access to menstrual hygiene. This means that 29 percent of the more than four million Syrian refugees are in need of access to menstrual hygiene.

While refugee camps make sure to provide food, shelter and clean water, many personal items are not provided. Too often, menstrual hygiene for refugees such as disposable products and private facilities not given adequate attention. In turn, many women and girls often have to rely on reusing rags or garbage, which can lead to infections. However, there are organizations working to improve access to menstrual hygiene for refugees.

Rwanda

In refugee settlements in Rwanda, more than 10,000 women and girls from Burundi struggle with maintaining menstrual hygiene. Plan International Rwanda is working to improve access to menstrual hygiene for refugees by providing 3,668 women and girls with underwear and sanitary pads. By providing them access to sanitary products, Plan International Rwanda allows girls to go to school, play with other children and feel more confident.

Uganda

The nation of Uganda has been attacking the problem of menstrual hygiene for refugees from multiple angles. The Danish Refugee Council (DRC), for example, has been distributing menstrual hygiene supplies such as reusable pads, buckets, soap, towels and undergarments. In addition, they are building latrines and carrying out community sensitization activities to destigmatize menstruation.

Reusable menstrual hygiene products have proven to be an important option for refugees. Just four reusable pads provided by the DRC can last a refugee a year. Another reusable option that has grown in popularity thanks to the NGO WoMena is the use of menstrual cups. These medical-grade silicone cups can be worn up to 12 hours at a time and are less likely to leak. One cup can also be reused for up to a decade. The organization provides training to teach refugees how to use them. This aids in destigmatizing misconceptions around its use and losing one’s virginity. Of those who decided to try these reusable cups, 81 percent reported satisfaction with the product.

Jordan

In Jordan’s Zaatari Refugee Camp, the U.K.-based non-profit, Loving Humanity has been working to not only provide sanitary products but also job opportunities. Jobs are being created by implementing 12 machines that assemble low-cost sanitary products in 2016. These machines were pioneered in India by Arunachalam Muruganantham after seeing his wife hoarding rags because she could not afford menstrual hygiene supplies. His design creates inexpensive pads by breaking down tree bark cellulose. It is very popular among rural women in India because it costs approximately 30 cents for a 10-pack of pads.

The cost of one machine is $2,000 and a month’s worth of materials is $360. This will produce 30,000 pads. In Zaatari, these machines aim to employ women in the community. This gives them a sense of empowerment and control over their bodies as well as a paycheck.

When it comes to disaster management, it is vital to include menstrual hygiene for refugees. While these methods have helped improve access to menstrual hygiene products, many refugees still have to choose between food and hygiene. Access to these supplies, though, opens a world of opportunities for girls. They can play with other kids and pursue their educations without the anxiety of stigmatization.

– Katharine Hanifen
Photo: Flickr

Ebola Prevention in Rwanda

In August 2018, the World Health Organization confirmed an Ebola virus outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Since then, the Rwandan government has taken a proactive stance with a rigorous system to promote Ebola prevention in Rwanda. So far, the system has been successful. Despite constant traffic across the borders between the DRC and Rwanda, there have been no cases of Ebola in Rwanda.

Threat of Transmission from the DRC

Since the outbreak of Ebola in the DRC, there have been more than 2,600 confirmed cases of the virus and 1,800 deaths. According to the WHO, the DRC Ebola outbreak is one of the worst outbreaks in history, second only to the 2014 West Africa Ebola epidemic. The WHO recently designated the outbreak as a global health emergency. With approximately 12 cases of Ebola arising every day in the DRC, the threat of transmission to other countries is still high, especially Rwanda. Since the Ebola threat is just across their border, Rwanda’s government has been proactive in preventing it.

Strategies for Ebola Prevention in Rwanda

The Rwandan National EVD Preparedness Plan is the basis of Ebola prevention, with key strategies, including early detection and response training, Ebola education, vaccinating health workers, outfitting health facilities, and carrying out simulation drills.

Early detection and response training help prepare medical staff, from Red Cross volunteers to health care centers. Rwanda’s efforts to educate its citizens, also contribute to early detection and response training. Through radio, television, billboards and community meeting, the public has learned the signs and symptoms of Ebola, so citizens are better prepared.

Vaccinating health workers in high-risk areas is also critical to controlling transmission, should health workers encounter a patient with Ebola. Approximately 3,000 health workers have received vaccinations so far. Beyond health care officials, Rwanda set up an Ebola treatment center and 23 isolation units. These measures, paired with simulation exercises to maximize response efficiency, go beyond proactive, by preparing for potential Ebola transmission.

In addition to all these measures, health officials check for Ebola symptoms at points of entry to Rwanda. Officials check travelers’ temperatures and make them wash their hands, while Ebola awareness messages play in the background. So far, these measures have kept Ebola out of Rwanda. Even so, the threat of Ebola spreading to Rwanda remains critical.

Increasing Threat of Ebola Transmission

In early August 2019, Rwanda briefly closed its borders, after the third confirmed Ebola death in the Congolese border city of Goma. According to a joint statement from the WHO and the United Nations, the latest case of Ebola in the highly populated, border city of Goma increases the risk of the virus spreading to other countries.

The government closed the border to cut down on traffic between the two countries, due to concerns of transmission between Goma and the Rwandan city of Gisenyi. Though Rwandan officials shortly reopened the border in response to international criticism, they have also increased cross-border monitoring between the two countries.

Moving Forward

As WHO Director-General, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus noted, “Rwanda has made a significant investment in Ebola preparedness.” These investments and prevention strategies have stopped the spread of Ebola into Rwanda thus far. However, the threat of Ebola transmission will remain significant, until the outbreak is controlled in the DRC. Therefore, it is crucial that the Rwandan government, as well as health organizations worldwide, keep encouraging Ebola prevention in Rwanda.

– Morgan Harden
Photo: Flickr

Global Heatlh EquityThere have been many advances in healthcare from the discovery of germs and the invention of vaccines to high-tech solutions like telesurgery and gene editing. Yet, with all of the advanced healthcare systems in the world, some people still lack access to even basic services. According to a study from the World Health Organization and the World Bank, more than half of the population lacks access to healthcare.

Global Healthcare Access

If a random person were selected on the street, it would be more likely that they wouldn’t have access to essential healthcare services. And for people who have access to healthcare, it can be prohibitively expensive. The study also found that an additional 100 million people spent so much on healthcare that it forced them into extreme poverty.

When the study was released in December 2017, WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus was disturbed by the fact that so many people still didn’t have access to basic health services. He believes “A solution exists: universal health coverage allows everyone to obtain the health services they need, when and where they need them, without facing financial hardship.” One path to improving healthcare is by increasing the number of qualified healthcare professionals.

University of Global Health Equity

The fight to get everyone in the world access to healthcare is called global health equity. In 2004, a medical journal defined global health equity as an approach to medicine that centers on the issue of the extreme lack of access to healthcare. They wrote, “[r]egardless of their origins, social and economic inequalities are reflected epidemiologically: disparities of outcome in and between countries are now major challenges in medicine and public health.”

One recent initiative aiming to tackle these challenges is the University of Global Health Equity in Kigali, Rwanda. The initiative formally began in 2014. The campus opened last year. The university is a collaboration between the government of Rwanda and the U.S.-based nonprofit Partners in Health (PIH). PIH helped build primary healthcare facilities in 10 different countries, including Rwanda. Additionally, it has also helped establish health equity-focused programs in U.S. medical schools.

The purpose of this university is to bring equity-focused medical education to a place directly affected by health inequity. The founders write that the university “stands alone in both its focus on equity and its proximity to health systems that face the very challenges that students will grapple with in the classroom.” Gary Gottlieb, CEO of PIH says that “[t]he vision of…being able to create that educational pipeline is the foundation of the University of Global Health Equity.”

Making Medical School More Accessible

Another part of the problem that the university is trying to solve is the “brain drain.” This is when medical graduates from impoverished countries cannot find well-paying jobs in their home countries, so they travel to more economically stable countries instead. As a result, impoverished countries frequently do not have enough medical professionals even when they have enough medical schools.

The University of Global Health Equity aims to help its students find job opportunities that focus on health inequity. It also has a blind admissions process, so it can admit all qualified students regardless of their ability to pay. Dr. Abebe Bekele, Dean of Health Sciences at the university believes that neither sex nor economic background should get in the way of someone realizing their dream of becoming a doctor.

On average, students have 91 percent of their tuition funded by scholarships. So far, 37 students have graduated. Furthermore, 88.5 percent of them work in nonprofits or the public sector in accordance with the university’s mission of an equity-based approach to healthcare. This is an important step in global health equity that will help create more jobs in the medical field around the world.

-Sean Ericson
Photo: Mass Design Group


Nearly 63 percent of people living in Africa lack internet access. In contrast, 11 percent of North Americans, 13 percent of Europeans and 48 percent of Asians lack internet access. In response to this issue, Africa50, an infrastructure investment organization, has launched an innovation challenge asking for modern innovators to submit their original ideas on how to provide internet to under-served areas in Africa.

The Africa50 Innovation Challenge began May 14, after it was announced at the Transform Africa Summit held in Kigali, Rwanda the same month.

The submitted solutions will be piloted in Rwanda, which Africa50 CEO Alain Ebobissé said was the ideal place to implement and test the solutions.

Rwanda: A Country Evolving in ICT

Ebobissé described the country as having a thriving Information, Communications and Technology (ICT) sector. Cooperation between the challenge and the co-development of the Kigali Innovation City, a project Africa50 invested $400 million in 2018, is evidence of this ICT boom.

Rwanda has increased its internet access to 29 percent, as of 2019. The increase is a marked improvement compared to the less than 1 percent who had access in 2000. This development can, in part, be accredited to the National Information Communication Infrastructure (NICI) policy the country adopted in 2000.

The policy defines four separate stages of increasing internet and communication in Rwanda. The country has already prepared the ICT groundwork and is currently in the fourth and final stage; enhancing the infrastructure and improving the service delivery.

The goal of the final stage is to increase technological skills, develop the community and private sector and enhance the government’s use of the internet and cyber-security. The policy is planned to end in 2020.

The ideas will be implemented more broadly across the continent once the pilot phase in Rwanda is complete.

Winning Criteria and Perks

The judges will be looking for six main criteria in the proposals submitted to the Africa50 Innovation Challenge:

  • Innovation and originality
  • Ability to be implemented on a large scale
  • Affordability for both implementors and consumers
  • Sustainability for the environment
  • Readiness to be piloted in Rwanda
  • Adaptability of the solution for a variety of circumstances

The finalists will be announced mid-October and they will present their solutions at AfricaCom the following month.  Those selected will be announced at the 2020 Transform Africa Summit, but the organization does not specify how many winners will be chosen.

The winners will be awarded a cash prize or project development funding, connections to investors and exposure as an innovator.

If these solutions are implemented, economic growth and job creation are a few of the newfound benefits that may come to these countries. Companies can grow and have an improved role in the competitive market if they have access to the internet.  As a result, these solutions allow them to reach more consumers, labor pools and raw materials, according to a 2012 report by the International Telecommunication Union.

ICT Progress in Other African Countries

There will certainly be interesting proposals from this year’s Africa50 Innovation Challenge entries,  but there are already solutions that have worked in other African countries.

For example, Kenya has had a considerable jump in their internet speed and bandwidth — which increased 43 percent from 2016 to 2017. This increase can be attributed to the National Broadband Strategy for Kenya. Additionally, Nigeria has increased its number of internet users from 72 million in 2017, to 92 million in 2018.

Nigeria’s fiber network, 21st Century, is partnering with Google Station and anticipates the installation of 200 Wi-Fi hotspots by the end of 2019, according to Fortune.

Africa50 aims to spread high-speed internet and improve opportunities for those living in under-served communities, whatever the solution.

– Makenna Hall
Photo: Flickr

Refugees in Rwanda
As of early 2019, estimates determine that Rwanda is host to approximately 150,000 refugees. To support this number, Rwanda maintains six refugee camps and four transit/reception centers, in addition to supporting refugee integration into urban areas. Rwanda is remarkable for its inclusive approach to refugees, most of whom are from Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo. The national government, UNHCR, the World Food Programme (WFP), the Government of Japan and other international, national and local organizations are all working to improve opportunities and livelihoods for refugees in Rwanda.

Approximately 79 percent of refugees in Rwanda live in the refugee camps, with the remainder — about 13,000 — living in urban centers. Rwanda gives refugees the right to do business and access health services, insurance, banking and education to promote integration. As of 2017, Rwanda had integrated more than 19,000 refugee students from Burundi into its national school system.

According to UNHCR, enabling the self-reliance of refugees is an essential part of its mission. UNHCR creates and supports initiatives that allow refugees to contribute to the economic development of their host country.

Ali Abdi has lived in Rwanda for 20 years after fleeing Somalia. After applying for a business card, he now runs a small convenience store and lives with his Rwandan wife. Ali described Rwanda as “a peaceful country” where “people do not discriminate.” He is thankful for his ability to be independent.

Supporting Refugee Entrepreneurs

In Kigali, the capital of Rwanda, many refugees like Ali are finding success in entrepreneurship. UNHCR labels Kigali as a “City of Light” for its accepting and supportive attitude toward refugees. The Government of Rwanda is actively working to promote the integration of refugees into the city with targeted assistance.

For refugees aspiring to own their own business, Inkomoko is a local business consulting firm that trains and supports refugees with UNHCR’s support. Beginning in 2016, Inkomoko’s refugee program has worked with 3,300 refugees, resulting in the creation of 2,600 new jobs across the country, a significant boost to the economy. The director of Inkomoko’s refugee program, Lydia Irambona, stated, “Our main goal is to help them increase their revenue, get more customers and understand how to do business here.”

Annick Iriwacu, a Burundian refugee, went to Inkomoko after a referral from her cousin. She has since opened a successful business selling liquid petroleum gas. The business has grown enough for her to now have five employees. She stated, “They gave me the strength and hope to continue, because I was giving up.”

Financial Support for Refugee Camps

While refugees in Rwanda’s refugee camps have fewer opportunities for economic independence and contribution, supporting and protecting them is still crucial. In June 2019, the Government of Japan donated $270,000 to UNHCR Rwanda to cover the needs of 58,552 Burundian refugees in Mahama, the largest refugee camp in the country. This is one of many donations, as the Government of Japan has supported Rwanda for six years and provided a total of approximately $7 million to the UNHCR to support Rwandan refugees.

UNHCR intends to use the 2019 money to maintain and improve refugees’ access to legal assistance and protection against violence, as well as health care services. Refugee camps in Rwanda provide primary health care and send refugees to local health facilities if they require secondary or tertiary care, which can be costly.

Supporting Refugee Farmers

Many refugees living in Rwandan camps want to become more economically independent, however. While the refugee camps provide displaced people with access to basic education and health facilities, many refugees have found that working allows them to take further advantage of what Rwanda can offer them and their families.

The IKEA Foundation, UNHCR, the World Food Programme, the Government of Rwanda and the Food and Agriculture Organization have all provided funding. These organizations are working together to improve the livelihoods of both refugees and local Rwandan farmers.

In the Misizi marshland, 1,427 Rwandans and Congolese refugee farmers are working together for agricultural success. The project is also generating social cohesion, as the Rwandan and refugee farmers are learning to work together and recognize the benefits of cooperation. As of early 2019, these farmers had produced more than 101 tonnes of maize, the profits of which enabled them to feed their families.

Rwanda’s Example

Rwanda intends to continue its inclusive approach to refugees them become successful and independent whether they live in camps or cities. Refugees have found success in Rwanda because its government and international partners are working hard on their behalf.

While there is still more work to do to ensure that refugees in camps have access to work opportunities and that refugees in cities receive support in achieving economic independence, the nation serves as an example of how to successfully help refugees begin new lives and contribute to a country’s economy.

– Sara Olk
Photo: Flickr

the lingering effects of genocide
The causes of genocide are vast but include dehumanization, national crises and government power. In countries where there are deep grievances between groups, it is probable one group will ultimately be victimized by the other. Moreover, groups may blame each other for tragedies within their country. Plus, some governments constrain their power, limiting the fair representation of its people.

Rwanda and Cambodia offer two case studies of genocide that occurred in the last 50 years. Additionally, both populations combated realities of poverty and inequity even before the atrocities. Halting any development these countries may have experienced, genocide left lingering effects in Rwanda and Cambodia. Currently, both countries face hardship. However, their peoples are busy rebuilding their environments to sustain a neutral state wherein cultural, political and economic growth can flourish.

Rwanda

Rwanda lost 800,00 people during the genocide in 1994. Since the genocide, Rwanda is trying to develop services and opportunities that were lost. The drive behind this redevelopment has come from tea and coffee exports, foreign aid and the tourism industry.

Rwanda has always depended heavily on agricultural production for family consumption and state revenues. But rural poverty and land issues created a dissatisfied climate before the genocide. This is still seen through rising land inequality and decreasing possibilities for income outside of the farm sector. And both are lingering effects of genocide and threaten economic stability. Subsequently, commodity prices have dropped rapidly, especially in 1989. Then, government revenues from coffee exports declined from $144 million in 1985 to $30 million in 1993.

New Growth

However, according to the World Bank, Rwanda is developing its private sector to ensure more economic growth and reduce the lingering effects of genocide. Since 2001, Rwanda’s economic growth was bordering an average of 8 percent. In 2010, the World Bank named the country as the top reformer for business. After two successful Economic Development and Poverty Reduction Strategies from 2008 to 2018, Rwanda’s per capita gross domestic product annually grew around 5 percent.

The Rwanda Development Organization has ongoing projects that empower the Rwandan people to help improve socio-economic development in their communities. One project includes the Farm to Market Alliance. FtMA provides institutional support to 24,000 farmers among 80 cooperatives. The project has sustained many small farms and created support groups. So far, 20,000 farmers have been trained by other farmers to learn the best farming practices, like post-harvesting and handling.

Cambodia

In Cambodia, the Khmer Rouge genocide period took place from 1975 to 1979. Now, the country is still grappling with the past. The Cambodian People’s Party took power at the end of the genocide, instilling conservative values. Currently, there is still a generation of political leaders making it difficult for communities to have open discussions about the Khmer Rouge genocide. As such, it is hard to create strategies for growth and healing.

Legacies of Poverty

Poverty in Cambodia remains widespread, largely due to the lingering effects of genocide and the unfair distribution of wealth. The genocide led to the death of much of Cambodia’s educated class. Additionally, the majority of surviving Cambodians were farmers, subsequently unable to sustain the services affected by the genocide.

In rural areas, poverty is still a lingering effect of genocide because of ongoing corruption and the lack of government help. Similar to Rwanda, Cambodia faces challenges in jump-starting modern agriculture and irrigation techniques. This has made it difficult for Cambodia to keep up with developed countries.

Nevertheless, the future does appear hopeful according to statistics. General poverty rates in Cambodia have decreased from 50 percent to 35 percent between the mid-1990s to the mid-2000s. As a result, many provinces have seen improvements. Development strategies and nongovernmental organizations have done a lot to assist Cambodian communities.

Voluntary Service Overseas is one such NGO that has worked to restore developmental growth in Cambodia by improving the education system, quality of teaching and people’s livelihoods. It works alongside government entities to research inclusive education policies. In 2015, VSO supported the training of 540 senior education officials. This creates a sustainable opportunity for more cohesive management of schools and contributes to future economic development.

A Shared Experience

After the genocide in both Rwanda and Cambodia, a majority of the population was comprised of young people. A large part of the healing process has been to educate younger generations about the country’s history and why knowledge is so vital in making sure genocide never happens again.

Both countries have tried tackling the skills gap that could greatly affect the future of the country’s growth in economics, politics and education. Enrolling more children in school proves to be a successful strategy in combating poverty. However, these children must also attain employment opportunities as adults, too. Creating these foundations will reduce the lingering effects of genocide and give future leaders the resources to build better lives not only for themselves but for their country as a whole.

Melina Benjamin
Photo: Flickr