Rwanda has had a positive development with increased economic growth and the most equal parliament in the world. But poverty is still widespread and the challenges are particularly great for children and women.
The genocide in Rwanda in 1994 left deep scars. 800,000 people died and the country is still alive with the memories. Active work is underway to create a society with sustainable peace.
Rwanda is investing in becoming a middle-income country and living conditions have improved over the past decade. Child mortality has decreased by two thirds and a majority of children start school. Large investments in society have also reduced poverty. Between 2006 and 2011, one million people came out of poverty. But two-thirds of the population still live on less than two dollars a day.
The situation for women and children
Rwanda tops the list of countries with the most women in parliament and their legislation gives women the same rights as men when it comes to divorce and inheritance. At the same time, traditional patterns remain in society, such as the fact that most of women’s work in agriculture is unpaid, despite the fact that agriculture constitutes a large part of the country’s economy. In addition, women spend almost three times as much time on unpaid domestic work as men.
A study by Unicef shows that many children in Rwanda are exposed to violence. Half of all children have been subjected to some form of violence before the age of 18, and most often by someone they know. The study also showed that almost one in four girls has been subjected to sexual violence and three out of five boys in physical violence. It is also common for young women to be exposed to violence in close relationships.
In Rwanda, both women and men must be 21 years old to get married. The country also has far fewer child marriages than neighboring countries. In Rwanda, seven percent of girls are forced to marry before the age of 18.
This is what Plan International in Rwanda does
There have never been so many young people in the world as there are today, and more than 60 million young people are out of work, according to the International Labor Organization (ILO). In order for young people to get a paid job, they must have the skills that are relevant and that are in demand in the labor market. Plan International therefore educates young people so that they can make money in a safe and sustainable way. Several thousand young people in Rwanda have participated in Plan International’s vocational program.
Savings and loan groups are part of Plan International’s program to ensure that families have a stable income. There, women and young people, who otherwise do not get loans from banks, can borrow money and learn how to save and run small businesses.
Hope for the future in the refugee camp
Vanessa and Tantine both grew up in a refugee camp. They have not had an easy adolescence, but both have found a home in Plan International’s project to empower young girls.
Living in a refugee camp is not easy for girls and women. The challenges are many, not least it is difficult to build your own future. Plan International works in two camps in Rwanda where thousands of people from the Congo have lived since the mid-1990s. In the camps there is only a school up to nine, so getting a higher education is basically impossible. Plan International works to enable teenage girls in the camp to set their own goals in life, find a possible career, know their rights and how sex and cohabitation work. In short, it is about things that the girls should have learned in school.
– A lot has changed since I joined this project. Now I can handle any situation, no matter how tough it may be, says Tantine, 17 years old.
She really liked the lessons about finding a way to earn a living.
– After our economics lesson, I borrowed money from my mother to buy some avocados. Then I sold them in the camp to make money. My goal is to make so much money that I can pay for hairdressing lessons.
24-year-old Vanessa is a mentor in the project. The difference between before and after she came in contact with Plan International is large.
– I used to feel that I had no friends, and the only thing I did was cry. I cried around the clock and did not eat. It was a depression and I did not take care of myself or my children. I think it lasted so long because I felt unsuccessful who had gotten pregnant so early, she says.
In the beginning, Vanessa did not have enough self-confidence to give other advice, they knew that she herself had had children when she was only a teenager.
– But now I have received training and am part of the mentor group. I feel so confident and know what I’m talking about. This has helped me get to know myself, I know so much more today, says Vanessa.
Vocational training for young mothers
As a teenage mother, I had lost hope. Plan International gave me the opportunity to acquire knowledge for a new profession. Now I am much more confident and ready to face the future.
– Umurerwa, one of the newly graduated girls
Getting a job as a young person in Rwanda is not easy. The girls also face challenges such as teenage pregnancy and gender-based violence. 41 young mothers participated in vocational training to be able to work with cooking and as hairdressers. In addition to the profession, they learned about entrepreneurship and economics. Many of them have after the training started cooperatives to stand stronger together when they run their own companies.
Boys a key to equality
Before I became a member, I thought I was so different from my sister. She used to do all the housework alone. Now I have changed and help a lot more at home. Through toys and games, we can involve even more boys and change their attitudes.
– Roger, 15 years old
Boys play a crucial role in overcoming gender discrimination. Plan International works for equality in the refugee camps in Rwanda. Through Boys4change clubs, we build solidarity, respect and empathy for the girls’ situation and talk about rights. Boys become important means of change for gender equality and contribute to changing discriminatory behavior.
Facts about Rwanda
Population: 12.2 million
Life expectancy: 67 years
Infant mortality rate: 16.4 per 1000 births
Proportion of children starting school: 93.9%
Proportion of women in parliament: 61%