Inflammation and stories on Rwanda

 Mental Health in Rwanda Rwanda is a small country in sub-Saharan Africa. Rwanda has struggled to become a stable country economically and politically since it became independent in 1962. As a developing country, Rwanda is still trying to develop its healthcare system. With years of conflict and instability, people especially struggle with mental health in Rwanda.

5 Facts About Mental Health in Rwanda

  1. The Rwandan Genocide plays a significant role. Roughly 25% of Rwandan citizens struggle with PTSD and one in six people suffer from depression. The reason why so many Rwandans have mental health conditions can be explained by one key event in Rwandan history. During the Rwandan genocide of 1994, members of the Hutu ethnic majority murdered as many as 800,000 people, mostly of the Tutsi minority. The mass genocide caused severe trauma to survivors who still suffer from mental health issues 26 years after the event.
  2. Rwanda has very few resources. According to the World Health Organization, Rwanda has only two mental health hospitals, zero child psychiatrists, and only 0.06 psychiatrists per 100,000 people. With a large amount of the population plagued by mental health issues, Rwanda needs more resources to help the mentally ill.
  3. Suicide rates have greatly decreased in Rwanda. In 2016, the suicide rate in Rwanda was 11 deaths per 100,000 people. This is a great improvement compared to the 24.6 suicides per 100,000 people in 2000. An increase in mental health resources contributes to the lowering of the suicide rate in Rwanda.
  4. Increased mental health funding is essential. The average mental health expenditure per person in Rwanda is 84.08 Rwandan francs. Most citizens of Rwanda do not have the financial resources to afford mental healthcare. The government currently uses 10% of its healthcare budget on mental health services. Considering how large the mental health crisis is, the government should increase its expenditure to address the crisis. Since citizens cannot afford to pay for mental health resources, the government will need to help provide more free or affordable resources.
  5. The Rwandan Government is updating policies to address mental health. In 2018, Rwanda’s updated strategic plan for its health sector set new targets for expanding mental health care services. Its purpose is to help increase access to mental health resources by decentralizing mental health and integrating it into primary care. Also, this plan calls for a decrease in the cost of mental healthcare and an increase in the quality of care. The plan hopes to accomplish strategic goals by 2024. If successful, this plan may be used as a method to help other countries establish a quality mental health plan.

The Road Ahead for Rwanda

Considering Rwanda’s violent history, it is no surprise that the population struggles with mental health. Over the years, progress has been made with regard to mental health in Rwanda. However, many more resources are needed to help address the mental health crisis in Rwanda. With Rwanda’s updated strategic plan to address the issue and an increase in expenditure, the well-being of Rwandan’s will be positively impacted.

Hannah Drzewiecki
Photo: Flickr

Impact Investing in RwandaImpact investing is a growing industry with huge potential for combatting poverty around the world. The practice consists of firms and individuals directing capital to businesses and enterprises that have the capacity to generate social or environmental benefits. Traditional businesses tend to avoid such investments due to the high level of risk, low liquidity and general difficulty to exit if returns are not satisfactory. Most impact investing is done by particularly adventurous capitalists as well as nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) that aim to create social change. Impact investing in Rwanda, in particular, has yielded positive results.

AgDevCo

AgDevCo is an example of a social impact investing firm that aims to invest with the intention of reducing poverty and increasing opportunity in developing regions. Based in the United Kingdom, AgDevCo was incorporated in 2009 and has engaged in numerous projects since.

The firm’s specific area of investment is in African agriculture, where it believes that impactful investments have the potential to be a significant force in reducing poverty. The firm is currently investing in eight different African countries. Its portfolio includes $135 million worth of funds in 50 different companies. These investments have engaged more than 526,000 customers and have created or sustained more than 15,000 different jobs.

Uzima Chicken Limited

One of its investment projects is a partnership with the East African poultry company, Uzima Chicken Limited. Uzima Chicken produces and distributes the Sasso breed of chickens. Sasso chickens are resistant to disease and can feed through scavenging. These beneficial traits make Sasso chickens particularly useful in the struggle to reduce poverty in East Africa.

In 2017, AgDevCo invested $3 million to support Uzima’s establishment in Rwanda. As a result of the investment, Uzima gained funds necessary for rapid operational growth as a domestic producer of poultry. This is in line with the government of Rwanda’s strategy to achieve poultry self-sufficiency in two to three years. Uzima has also been able to expand into Uganda, where its business is rapidly scaling upwards.

The Uzima Business Model

The Uzima model of business involves the employment of company agents who raise the chicks for six to eight weeks before selling them to low-income households in rural areas. Such a model provides benefits to farmers, who can increase income through the sale of the more valuable Sasso chickens, as well as the agents.

Agents typically make a 25% profit from selling chickens. A survey of Uzima agents found that, on average, 27% of household income came from selling Sasso chickens. By providing a reliable source of extra income for employed agents, Uzima helps to alleviate the burdens of poverty for these people. As of 2017, the efforts had created 150 new jobs, 40% of which are held by women. Rwandan women have benefitted significantly from Uzima’s employment with 64% of women agents reporting that the income they earned from selling Sasso chickens led to a positive change in the decision-making power they had in their households.

Impact Investments for Poverty Reduction

Uzima’s Sasso chickens grow faster, live longer, produce more eggs and have higher market prices. They are disease-resistant and thrive in local, rural conditions. Out of all the customers buying these chickens, 54% live below the $2.50 poverty line. AgDevCo investment gave Uzima the capital necessary for operational expansion, and as a result, a greater quantity of impoverished people in East Africa could buy superior chickens and increase income. Uzima’s business also has clear potential for women’s empowerment, making it a great tool in the effort to reduce poverty and inequality in the region.

The impact investments made by firms like AgDevCo have clearly measurable impacts in impoverished regions, particularly noting the success of impact investing in Rwanda. This makes impact investment firms an important part of the global effort to reduce all poverty.

Haroun Siddiqui
Photo: Flickr

Sugira MuryangoAround the world, the effects of poverty negatively impact childhood development in more than 200 million children. Child development outcomes play a key part in a country’s advancement and the state of the economy. The U.S. National Library of Medicine explains, “Children living in compounded adversity face increased risks of poor child development outcomes and emotional and behavioral problems that can perpetuate a cycle of poverty and violence.” However, in 2016, the implementation of an innovative home-visiting intervention program in Rwanda called Sugira Muryango is fighting to break these cycles.

Violence and Intergenerational Poverty

In past studies, social programs aimed toward child development have been more focused on mothers of the households. However, the developers of Sugira Muryango (researchers at Boston College’s School of Social Work and the nonprofit FXB Rwanda) chose to implement this program to focus more on the father’s role within the household and child’s life.

Rwanda is a key place to evaluate this program due to the persistent household violence and gender roles within Rwandan society. Traditionally, Rwandan society has held few expectations for fathers within the household. However, a positive male figure plays an important role in a child’s developmental outcomes.

The data of some surveys taken in Rwanda by Promundo and the Rwanda Men’s Resource Centre on masculinity and gender-based violence convey shocking truths. The surveys reported that 73% of men and 82% of women agreed with the statement, “a woman’s most important role is to take care of her home” and 44% of men and 54% of women agreed that “a woman should tolerate violence in order to keep her family together.” Lastly, 45% of men saw their dads beat their moms in childhood and 38% of those men became violent toward their own partners in adulthood. Men who witnessed violence at home as children were more likely to perpetuate it, indicating that children emulate behavior, both positive and negative.

Methods Used in the Sugira Muryango Program

As a response to this violence, Sugira Muryango was implemented as a home-visiting intervention program that targets the poorest households with young children (aged between 6 months and 26 months) in Rwanda. The program offers coaching to caregivers of the household in order to teach parents, specifically fathers, positive caregiving practices, nutrition skills, hygiene skills and basic involvement.

The program uses methods of home visits and caregiving coaching in order to improve family relations. The family-based model aims to encourage responsive and positive interactions as well as discourage violence and harsh punishment. In providing this coaching through these methods, it is possible to improve not only parent-child relations but also child development outcomes. With these improved outcomes, Rwanda should see improvements as the children reach adulthood and in breaking the cyclical poverty which should then improve Rwanda’s general development as a country. 

The Impacts of the Program in Rwanda

Not only did the results of the program aid in the decrease of violence within Rwandan homes but it also helped improve mental health rates among Rwandan fathers. Furthermore, reports indicate changes in parents’ behaviors towards the child, including responsive care and play, dietary diversity, care-seeking for child health problems and reduced family violence.

Potential Global Impacts

The Sugira Muryango program is playing an important role in breaking intergenerational cycles of poverty within Rwanda. Although the lasting effects of this program need to be studied as the children grow, the immediate effects have aided in reducing violence and improving family relationships. If integrated into other low to middle-income communities and countries, the overall effects should be promising in breaking intergenerational cycles of poverty on a global scale.

– Caroline Dunn
Photo: Flickr

Human Trafficking in Rwanda
Rwanda, the land of mille collines as the French would say, harbors countless picturesque hills. Unfortunately, the breath-taking landscapes of the Central African country are also witnesses of major crimes against humanity. Human trafficking in Rwanda consists of one of the most disquieting concerns for human dignity.

The Situation

Over the years, there has been substantial economic growth in the landlocked Sub-Saharan country. However, Rwanda has still not ceased to be a destination country for human traffickers taking advantage of high rates of unemployment, homelessness and gender inequalities.

Umutesi is one of the many girls who fell victim to human trafficking in Rwanda. In 2018, an elderly woman approached her and offered a job that seemed like a once in a lifetime opportunity. Desperate for a job, she accepted the offer and traffickers sent her to Nairobi, Kenya under strict orders to hide her passport. Instead of the job at a supermarket she expected to find, she found herself in a slave market, called the office, where prospective buyers browsed.

“We were sold off like mere commodities,” is how she described what had happened to her at the office.

She ended up working in heavy labor, experiencing sexual and physical abuse and surviving in inhuman conditions. Additionally, she changed homes three times with each worse than the one before. When she succeeded in reaching a Rwandan diplomat via a phone she kept discretely, she made an escape plan that required patience and incredible endurance.

Finally, with the help of her government, she escaped and was able to fly back to Rwanda. Like many other victims, she also received free access to health care services and a little funding. Now, she manages a local grocery market and always expresses her gratitude for the second chance she got in life.

Unemployment in Rwanda

Umutesi’s story is very common in Rwanda. Men, women and children, especially those who are vulnerable due to unemployment and homelessness, frequently become targets of sexual exploitation and forced labor.

According to the 2020 data, the number of unemployed Rwandans surpassed 900,000 in May 2020. In fact, unemployment numbers were below 550,000 in February 2020. On top of the overall rates, 20.6% of the youth in Rwanda remain unemployed. Needless to say, this situation is likely to only exacerbate human trafficking in Rwanda.

Never Again Rwanda (NAR)

Never Again Rwanda (NAR) emerged in 2002 in Kigali in response to the 1994 Tutsi genocide. The NGO that initially aimed to establish a safe environment for youth expanded its scope to address its current core pillars: peacebuilding, governance & rights, research & advocacy, sustainable livelihood, education and youth engagement. The organization cooperates with USAID, the Global Fund for Children, the E.U. and other counterpart organizations. Recent research that the organization conducted showed that around 77.67% of human trafficking victims in Rwanda are female. Despite employment being higher among women than men in Rwanda, women are still more likely to become targets due to lower rates of education among them and the demand for sexual slavery.

The COVID-19 Pandemic

Now with the COVID-19 pandemic, human trafficking in underdeveloped countries like Rwanda may experience an increase. While many countries are pushing for a digital transformation, human traffickers use aggravated unemployment as an opportunity to pick the most vulnerable. According to the Africa Centre for Strategic Studies, the increasing rates of unemployment, malnourishment and school closures will result in increased human trafficking.

Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA) conducted the RECOVR Survey in July 2020 to provide data and evidence to decision-makers to reduce the detrimental effects of COVID-19. The survey found that 74% of the households in Rwanda consider themselves at high risk during the pandemic, showing the highest rate among other surveyed Sub-Saharan countries. Additionally, 70% of the agriculture-workers reported suffering from altered harvests and sales.

Human Trafficking in Rwanda increased to 96 cases in 2019, whereas there were reports of only 33 cases in 2018. Considering the aggravated unemployment and declined social standards with the arrival of the pandemic, 2020 likely give way to increased human trafficking in Rwanda.

The Rwandan Government

Though there is light at the end of the tunnel for girls like Umutesi, the Rwandan government has assumed a plan called Vision 2020 to tackle poverty through strategies to boost sustainable economic growth. Additionally, Rwanda aims to boost its knowledge-based economy, investments in the private sector, agriculture and infrastructure development. The Government of Rwanda adopted policies to make labor recruitment companies register for a license from the Ministry of Labour and submit monthly reports. The anti-trafficking law that Rwanda introduced in 2018 penalizes sex and labor trafficking with up to 15 years of imprisonment, although the President of Rwanda is yet to sign the legislation for it to undergo full enactment.

There have been notable constructive developments to combat unemployment and human trafficking in Rwanda, yet scarce resources, lack of testimonies, capacity and cooperation continue to complicate the situation. As such, there are still several commitments that the Rwandan government ought to strengthen to reach the minimum standards in eliminating human trafficking. These include:

  • Participation and communication with international communities to increase awareness campaigns and information sharing.
  • The development of a more centralized systematic screening mechanism to identify victims.
  • The provision of training to anti-trafficking units and divisions.
  • Cooperation with the international community to boost education and employment opportunities.
  • Work to ensure gender equality in access to education.

Currently, Rwanda remains at Tier 2 status according to the U.S. Trafficking in Persons Report for 2020. This shows that Rwanda has still not fully complied with the minimum standards to reduce trafficking, though it has implemented positive efforts. Through increased commitment and consistent assistance from the international community, the risks of Rwandan girls like Umutesi should reduce so that they do not become victims of human trafficking in Rwanda.

– Berrak Rasool
Photo: Flickr

Geographical Information Systems
Technology is an important tool in every facet of society. It revolutionizes the idea of progress and allows the world to interconnect. The usage of technology to benefit humanitarian aid has been no exception, such as revolutionizing the ability to transport supplies to provide urban communities with the tools necessary to ensure clean water access. Technology, such as Geographical Information Systems (GIS), is a prominent tool in the fight against global poverty.

Unfortunately, COVID-19 has solidified itself as a major inhibitor to global health in 2020. Many countries do not have the supplies, technology or economic safety nets to ensure that their people receive what they need throughout the pandemic. Many organizations are doing what they can to provide countries with the tools they need to combat COVID-19 in their communities. One of the largest Geographical Information Systems technology companies is Esri. It has been utilizing GIS technology in the context of humanitarian work for decades. Jack and Laura Dangermond founded Esri in 1969 in a Harvard lab. Since then, Esri has expanded and utilized this technology in a variety of sectors. For example, Esri used GIS technology to map the spread of Ebola in 2013.

Geographical Information Systems Mapping and COVID-19

As it became apparent that COVID-19 would become a pandemic, Johns Hopkins University began creating a virtual dashboard to depict concentrations of the virus in an attempt to stifle its spread. Johns Hopkins researchers utilized technology from Esri in order to do this. Throughout the pandemic, Esri has prioritized the lives of those in our international communities over monetary gain. As a result, Esri made all of its software and training modules available to international organizations for free. Additionally, Esri’s Disaster Response Program helps its international partners utilize its technology.

Transparency in regard to information is crucial in order to prevent the continued spread of the current pandemic. In order to properly combat the virus, community leaders must consider all societal factors. It is impossible to do this without access to all of the information relating to various communities. One can utilize Esri’s geographic information system technology to visualize the spread of diseases. It can also map disease response centers and the availability of medical supplies. For example, some have used GIS technology to show both hospitals and the availability of medicine, as well as preventative resources such as testing locations and isolation areas.

The usage of this technology for humanitarian coronavirus assistance does not stop there. GIS technology has also been useful in determining which international communities are the most at risk of coronavirus-related illness and community degradation. For instance, the geographical information system can map which communities contain the highest concentration of those at risk of the disease. It can also map the communities that have the highest GDP allocation to economic assistance and communities that have access to affordable medical care.

Rwanda as an Example

Rwanda is one country that has been utilizing GIS technology to its advantage during the COVID-19 pandemic. The country uses geographic information system technology to effectively trace contact between people in their communities, enabling them to follow and contain the virus. This contact tracing has also helped allocate funds within Rwandan communities in efficient ways. With case and death numbers very low, it is possible that Rwanda’s use of GIS technology helped the country fight the virus.

While technology can bring about new problems, it can also bring about new answers. Knowledge is power, especially when combating an international pandemic. Additionally, geographic information system technology has been providing helpful information to international communities. The coronavirus pandemic threatens those in global poverty in many ways, both in terms of global health and economic prosperity. Accurate mapping of who is the most at risk is crucial to ensuring that nobody is forgotten throughout the pandemic.

Danielle Forrey
Photo: Flickr

Engineers Without Borders
Engineers Without Borders (EWB) is a foundation that partners with poor communities to help provide them with basic human needs. Its mission is to build a better world with engineering projects that will help solve the world’s most urgent problems. It builds to save lives.

Building Safe Structures

Many people are without a home in poverty-ridden countries, often living without so much as clean water or electricity. Due to environmental disasters, forced refugees and internally displaced people, many must roam the streets. Back in 2015, estimates determined that there were 100 million people facing homelessness. The need for durable and permanent refugee camps and homes is more pressing than ever. This is where EWB-USA saves the day. It addresses the challenges in engineering associated with “transitioning emergency infrastructure to more permanent systems,” which helps boost host communities who take refugees in.

Engineers Without Borders often takes on villages’ needs for bridges to aid in safer and easier travel. It found that one Guatemalan village had to walk three hours on dangerous mountain roads just to reach the capital. Access to capitals or bigger towns can be dire as they encapsulate hospitals, schools, markets and so forth. So, the Engineers Without Borders project team and volunteers decided to create bridges for these communities. The foundation takes up to several weeks to construct these bridges to make sure they are sturdy, safe and dependable for these villagers.

Engineers Without Borders also discovered the need for schools. It found out that a native Guatemalan girl had biked over an hour to reach her school. As a result, the foundation started building schools and improving the schools’ infrastructures, making them safe and durable. It has brought education to places like Guatemala, Lat Cantun II, Santa Eulalia and more.

Installing Solar Panels

Electricity is a luxury that not many homeless or poor people get. However, it is a necessity for the safety and well-being of many people. This is why EWB-USA not only makes solar panels for villages in need but also introduces and installs them. The solar panels bring hot water, better food storage, increased phone access and light to homes and schools alike. Engineers Without Borders also installs solar street lights to help keep the residents and refugees safe.

University students in EWB-USA even built a solar charging station for villages. These stations could be used by all, specifically to charge phones. It found that cell phones were extremely important for youths to apply for jobs, apply for housing and communicate with friends and family.

Engineers Without Borders helps bring electricity to these areas by partnering with foundations like IKEA and UNHRC. Its partnerships have been a key way to faster and more efficient help for these communities. Currently, Engineers Without Borders is working on over 55 projects located in more than 20 states and two territories, trying to make a difference.

Providing Clean Water

Clean water is yet another widely inaccessible luxury in many poverty-stricken countries. In Uganda alone, over 23 million people must walk over 30 minutes a day to get water that is often contaminated, bringing disease and even death. Engineers Without Borders saw how water brings life and found creative ways of providing clean water for villages. The foundation has dug and repaired wells, built rainwater catchment systems and constructed water filters. Additionally, it has built gravity-based water supply systems in phases for those in the mountains.

In Cyanika, Rwanda, the villagers benefited from one of the Engineers Without Borders’ creative rainwater catchment systems that consisted of two single tank systems. It allows the villagers to save time as well as their lives. One villager even sent a letter of thanks, expressing their gratitude as it bettered many lives, health and well-being of all the villagers.

Engineers Without Borders continues to fight to provide people their basic rights and needs. It continues to live up to its mission of building to save lives through the power of engineering. For more information about this organization, check out its website.

Katelyn Mendez
Photo: Pixabay

Overpopulation in Rwanda
Rwanda is a small, highly populated, mostly rural country in Central Africa. Within the past few decades, the rate of population growth has grown to unsustainable and potentially dangerous levels. For instance, a woman in Rwanda has an average of 5.4 children and the country is on pace to double its already large population in just 24 years. As a small rural country, limited amounts of resources exist to support the overpopulation in Rwanda. This exponential increase will inevitably lead to problems with resource management.

Increased Access to Healthcare

Increased access to reliable healthcare in the country has certainly, in part, contributed to overpopulation in Rwanda. An ever-expanding amount of children survive into adulthood due to 82% of the country being vaccinated against deadly diseases. This may seem like a purely positive fact at first glance. However, as more children survive, the population grows and generates other problems. Third world countries, such as Rwanda, have limited access to adequate food and water supplies. The more people there are, the fewer resources there are available to each person. Moreover, the growing population has a direct link to more people suffering from malnutrition and starvation.

Geography and Resources

Rwanda is 10,000 square miles with a population density of more than 1,000 people per square mile. The immense overcrowding and strain on limited resources lead to stifled agricultural growth within the country. The farmland supports the population to the best of its ability, but there is very limited space for new fields for crops. The population explosion stagnates food production. Quality of life depends on adequate food access and overpopulation blocks that. Rapid population growth must stop to save the quality of life from deteriorating at an alarming pace in Rwanda. Two things they could look into are investing in family planning and education.

Family Planning and Education

Family planning helps reduce family sizes by providing different forms of birth control to eliminate unplanned births. Making family planning more accessible to all people should help reduce overpopulation in Rwanda.

The Belgian Development Cooperation is an NGO working in Rwanda to help limit the birth rate and population. They strongly believe that access to family planning, birth control and contraceptives is a human right. They are donating 26.7 million pounds to the Rwandan government to try and make family planning available to all of the people of Rwanda.

Education is also important in curbing rapid population growth. Investing in education is important because people with an education, especially women, generally tend to have fewer children.

Looking Forward

Something needs to be done in Rwanda to help stop the birth rate from increasing. Investing in methods to lessen birth rates, such as birth control and education, could have major influences. Working on being able to sustain an ever-increasing population is also a priority. Overpopulation is not just a problem in Rwanda; it is a global issue. Rwanda as well as the entire world should work to decrease birth rates. To sustain an acceptable standard of living, the world needs to take action before it is too late.

Samira Akbary
Photo: Flickr

Poverty Eradication in Rwanda
Rwanda is a low-income country in East Africa with a population of 12.6 million as of 2019. The World Bank and the IMF have supported Rwanda’s economic development, which has been remarkable throughout the past decade. Following years of conflict that destabilized national progress, particularly the 1990-1994 genocide that claimed almost 1 million lives, there have been exemplary innovations in poverty eradication in Rwanda.

In 2013, the Government of Rwanda drew its second Economic Development and Poverty Reduction Strategy (EDPRS II) as part of its Vision 2020 for socio-economic transformation, which included targets of a GDP growth of 11.5% and a 20% reduction in poverty levels. The Vision 2020 also aimed for an annual creation of 200,000 new jobs, 50% of them in non-agricultural sectors. The Government also founded the Rwanda Development Board (RDB) to further drive economic development. In 2019, RDB recorded $2.46 billion USD in investment commitments to Rwanda, with the U.S. being the top investor. Energy, water, manufacturing and the service industry attracted the highest investment. Notably, 46.5% of people in Rwanda were employed as of November 2019 with 61% of the total workforce in the agricultural sector. Here are some of the effective innovations in poverty eradication in Rwanda.

4 Innovations in Poverty Eradication in Rwanda

  1. e-Soko: e-Soko is an Agricultural Market Pricing Information System that the World Bank has funded. It seeks to empower farmers to make more informed decisions on farming by allowing them to access pricing information through ICT. The program also connects the Ministry of Agriculture with the farmers in sharing key information and continues to provide weekly market prices of farm produce available online. In 2019, the World Bank scored Rwanda a trading food indicator of 69.19 out of 100, which is a measure of domestic farmers’ use of regulatory processes for agricultural production. In 2020, RDB and FAO partnered in a three-year project dubbed “Support local suppliers’ capacity development and promote e-commerce in Rwanda” for smart solutions in horticulture, livestock and agribusiness.
  2. Girinka: Loosely translated as “may you have a cow,” Girinka is an initiative to alleviate poverty in rural communities that the Rwandan Government spearheaded in 2006 in collaboration with several NGOs. Based on the Rwandan traditional practice of giving cows as gifts, the Rwandan Government granted heifers which provided milk to combat malnutrition in children, commodity through sale of dairy products and improved agricultural output through their organic manure. By 2017, 85% of the projected households had received a heifer each with a total of 298,859 heifers distributed. A survey from 2012 showed that 79% of the households were food secure. The initiative, also known as One Cow per Poor Family, has been a success story among the innovations in poverty eradication in Rwanda.
  3. The One Laptop per Child Initiative: The Ministry of Education in Rwanda is committed to providing equitable, quality education for a skilled workforce in order to drive socio-economic development. To achieve this, the Government introduced changes in basic education such as a new Competence Based Curriculum that emphasizes social skills and application skills; the curriculum aims to reach a developing a workforce that is more productive. In line with this, in 2008, the Government launched an ICT program for primary schools labeled as the One Laptop per Child Program to increase understanding in mathematics, sciences and technology. As of 2019, 58% of primary schools, 85.4% of secondary schools and 51% of tertiary institutions in Rwanda were using ICT in teaching and learning. For the primary schools, 79.9% had science kits and 25.5% had a science laboratory. As of 2020, RDB put Rwanda’s literacy rate at 73.2%.
  4. Mobile Employment Services: In 2019, RDB introduced the Kora Portal, an online employment site that is one of the innovations in poverty eradication in Rwanda. RDB further provided buses and ICT experts to take the services to remote parts of Rwanda. By 2020, the portal had registered 965 jobs, 62 employers and 4,800 job seekers. The portal also has a skills database that recorded 95,000 graduates. This was in line with the Government’s aim to create 1.5 million jobs by 2024. As of November 2019, Rwanda’s unemployment rate was at 15.4% in comparison to 14.3% in February 2018.

Prospects

Rwanda aims to become a middle-income country by 2035 and a high-income country by 2050. In its Vision 2050, the RDB’s National Skills Development and Employment Promotion Strategy seeks to boost investment in the country, advance skills in the workforce and build on emerging technologies all to transform Rwanda’s socioeconomic status. The World Bank Group projected Rwanda’s annual GDP growth rate to be at 6.9% in 2021 in comparison to a low of 2% in 2020 from a high of 9.4% in 2019. Through the innovations in poverty eradication in Rwanda, the country’s socio-economic status should keep growing.

Beth Warūgūrū Hinga
Photo: Pixabay

Four Crucial Programs on Poverty Eradication in Rwanda
Rwanda has one of the fastest developing economies in Africa. This economic development depends greatly on poverty eradication in all parts of the country. Over the past 20 years, the Rwandan government has partnered with a number of organizations to start initiatives geared towards poverty eradication in Rwanda. These programs would help the poor by reaching the needs of local communities. Here are four initiatives meant to help end poverty in Rwanda.

Four Programs That Will Solve Poverty Eradication in Rwanda

  1. Economic Development and Poverty Reduction Strategies (EDPRS): From 2008 to 2018, the government of Rwanda began Economic Development and Poverty Reduction Strategies one and two. These five-year campaigns focused on growing the country’s GDP, reducing the country’s poverty rates and reducing the income inequality between households. These campaigns followed the closing of the first Poverty Reduction Strategy which focused on emergency recovery from the effects of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi. Moreover, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) reports that during the first five years of EDPRS I, GDP grew at an annual average rate of 8%. In addition, poverty in Rwanda dropped from 57% in 2006 to 45% in 2011. During strategy two of EDPRS, the government reinforced the district-based performance contract for better implementation and evaluation of the set poverty-reduction goals.
  2. One-Cow-Per-Family (Girinka Program): The Girinka Program was started in 2006 by the president of Rwanda, Paul Kagame. This program started after the realization that there were high numbers of malnourished children in poor families. The goal of the program is to tackle malnutrition in rural areas of Rwanda by giving one cow to each family. The benefits of the initiative would expand as cows reproduced calves and these calves were given to other families in need. The cows produced milk and the excess was sold to local dairy facilities. This helps the families greatly as they gain income from the cows while also being able to feed themselves.
  3. Umuganda: Umuganda means community work. It is common knowledge in Rwanda that on the last Saturday of the month, people will gather in their local communities to do community work. This work involves building houses for the homeless, cutting weeds in the neighborhood, helping in the construction of roads, bridges, schools, hospitals and other necessary buildings in the local community. Additionally, Umuganda involves cleaning up the streets in urban areas. This extra activity helps to prevent pollution-related disease transmissions while discouraging littering. These community works are the norm in the country. In addition, every adult in a healthy condition is expected to show up at these events. Umuganda has been a channel for helping the poor in local communities. This activity encourages support and gives back to the community. After Umuganda, local leaders hold a community gathering. At the gathering, there are discussions of problems in the community and solutions reached accordingly.
  4. Savings and Credits Cooperatives (SACCOs): SACCOs are widely known as Umurenge SACCOs. The government of Rwanda started this initiative in 2008. The initiative aims to encourage financial inclusion. Umurenge SACCOs became more popular in rural areas where big commercial banks are often inaccessible. The Rwandan Cooperative Agency reports that these SACCOs focus on boosting rural savings and providing Rwandans with loans to help enhance their livelihoods in the long term. By 2012, SACCOs doubled the number of Rwandans who used a formal financial institution for banking and significantly improved financial literacy in rural areas of the country.

These poverty eradication programs have shown great results over the years. They reached many remote communities that are often forgotten. With the spread of technology in the country, the coming years promise better numbers on this journey of poverty eradication in Rwanda.

Renova Uwingabire
Photo: Flickr

Women’s Rights in Rwanda
Rwanda, a nation rebuilt after a tragic genocide in 1994, has progressed in terms of gender equality rights and become one of the leading nations in terms of women’s equality. However, many gender-based issues still persist that limit women. Women’s rights in Rwanda are notably among the most progressive, but Rwandan women are still invisible in many senses.

Women in Government

Rwanda was the first country to have a majority of women in its government. In fact, women hold 64% of the Rwandan government seats, whereas men hold 36% of the seats. On paper, women’s rights in Rwanda seem to flourish and represent a standard for other countries. Following the genocide and the diaspora of a majority of the population, women made up more than 60% of the remaining population and became responsible for the workplace.

President Paul Kagame, who rebuilt Rwanda after the genocide, leads this nation of 12.3 million people. He created a new constitution mandating a reservation of 30% of the parliament seats for women. Since this new amendment from 2003, the Rwandan government has consisted of a mostly equal balance of men and women.

Gender Equality in Rwanda

Paul Kagame also implemented the Vision 2020 plan which consists of a transformation to a knowledge-based middle economy country, however without gender equality in the field of information and communication technologies, this vision will not become reality. Currently, 34% of higher education ICT graduates are women. To aid this gender inequality, the Rwandan Government has implemented strategies that will benefit women in ICT. It is also investing in programs to increase the number of women in the field.

This nation ranks fifth in the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Index from 2016. The United States currently ranks 45th, so Rwanda is seemingly much more equal. The World Economic Forum measures the gender gap index by how far countries have gone in closing the gender gap across a different range of measures. The Gender Gap Report specifically highlights equality in health, education, economy and politics.

The World Economic Forum highlights women’s rights in Rwanda in two categories, economic and political. Women hold 86% of the labor force participation and the wage gap is 88 cents for women in comparison to only 74 cents for women in the United States. These statistics are notable, however, one can attribute much of this labor force participation to the lack of men able to work during the genocide and the number of women forced into the workplace.

Sexual Violence in Rwanda

While Rwanda is a standard of gender equality because of the high rates of women in the economy and politics, the prevalence of sexual violence still persists at an astonishing rate. During the genocide, others used women as weapons of war and they experienced rape to increase fear in the country. Even years after the genocide, thousands of Rwandan women are victims of sexual violence and can take little no legal action. One can attribute the majority of this to the lack of representation of women in police and judicial positions.

In an attempt to alleviate sexual violence, The Rwanda Men’s Resource Center implemented a program to put at-risk men and women in each other’s shoes. The Men’s Resource Center, created by nine men, attempts to address masculine behaviors and gender inequalities while promoting healthy family lifestyles. This program has yet to be successful in reaching and solving many Rwandan women’s struggles, but it is a step in the right direction to address gender violence.

This African country looks equal on paper,  but many of its citizens would disagree that male and female gender roles are actually proportionate. Gender equality has progressed greatly since the 1994 genocide, but the authoritarian system still limits women and they face disproportionate amounts of sexual violence with little legal or medical assistance. Rwandan women have made immense strides and are some of the leading forces for change in the nation.

– Caroline Pierce
Photo: Flickr