Studying abroad has many advantages for our Gashora Girls Academy of Science and Technology (GGAST) alumnae. Rwanda is one of African’s fastest growing nations and the opportunities for tertiary education are growing with it. In the last year, two prestigious universities have opened, University of Global Health Equity, which was created to change the way health care is delivered around the world, and Rwanda Institute for Conservation Agriculture, whose goal is to prepare the next generation of agricultural leaders in Rwanda. However, there are many programs that are not available in Rwandan universities, especially when it comes to Science and Technology. Our 329 alumnae who are or have studied outside of Africa, hope to gain a better understanding of the world and use what they learn abroad to make an impact in their home communities and country.
Jocelyn Mizero is one of those leaders! Jocelyn is a Gashora Girls Academy 2013 graduate. After graduation she attended Lafayette College where she earned her B.S. in Biology. After graduating in 2018 she worked for Tiba Foundation in Kenya where carried out a fact-finding mission to develop an Accident and Emergency Nursing program in an emergency room at Matibabu Foundation Hospital. After 5 months of service she worked for Tiba in San Francisco as a Development and Communication intern. This fall she returned home to Rwanda where she is currently a surgery research officer with Partners in Health in Rwanda. Her passion lies in public health research.
The following article was written by Jocelyn as she has been inspired by the international campaign, Orange the World: 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence.
November 25th marked the first day of the international campaign Orange the World: 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence. This campaign is coordinated by the Center for Women’s Global Leadership. The campaign starts on November 25th, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women and ends on December 10th, Human Rights Day.
November 25th, 2019 also marked the start of the 2019 Global Gender Summit (2019 GGS) being held in Kigali until the 27th. This is the 4th edition and the first time this summit has been hosted in Africa. The previous editions have been held in Istanbul, Manila and Washington DC in the US, respectively.
This year’s theme for the 2019 GGS is “unpacking constrains to gender equality”. The delegates will explore the following dimensions: “scaling up innovative financing; enabling legal, regulatory and institutional environments; and securing women’s participation and voices.”
In his opening remarks at the summit, His Excellency Paul Kagame spoke about activism and how “it is about the management of expectations, identifying relevant things you ought to do, getting more organized and really deliberating and doing things within our means to do, because there is a lot within our means that we don’t do.”
This struck a chord. In my journey towards self-liberation, what I heard from President Kagame’s remarks is that the time is now to speak up and to be intentional about what I advocate for. For the sake of my mother who stayed in an abusive marriage for the sake of our better upbringing, and for other women whose voices will never be heard for the fear of dismantling their homes and denying their children a better future, I have chosen to always speak up.
However, the first step of activism is having the knowledge to speak up.
It was during induction/orientation week at my new job with Partners In Health (PIH/IMB) that I learned about the Isange One Stop Center for Gender-based Violence (GBV). During a tour of Rwinkwavu District Hospital, a PIH-supported site, we approached a secluded building with the words “Isange One Stop Center”. When I asked what the building does, I was met with surprised looks. Their eyes begged to know how come I didn’t know this initiative existed. I did not beat myself too much about that and instead I allowed my curiosity to take over. I left the center with all my questions answered by the nurse we found there.
Isange One Stop Centers (IOSCs) are run by the Ministries of Gender and Family Promotion, of Health, of Justice and the National Police of Rwanda. These centers strive to provide comprehensive services to adult and child survivors of Gender-Based Violence (GBV) and child abuse. These services not only include medical but also psychological and psychosocial wellbeing. The centers also offer legal protection and justice. I realized that the reason for seclusion of the IOSC at Rwinkwavu District Hospital was secluded was to help avoid stigmatization of the survivors. There were 44 Isange centers all over Rwanda by Jan 2019. There is one Isange center in each district located at the district hospitals. The target is to have 500 centers, with at least one in every sector of the country.
Gender-based violence happens frequently to women and children and that day at the hospital, I learned that if I was going to be an activist for women’s and children’s rights in Rwanda, a country that I have not lived in for the past 5 years, I had to stop being the feminist that adopts issues and progress of foreign lands but fails to acknowledge those of their own homes. It was time to listen and learn.
The words of President Kagame at the 2019 Global Gender Summit about activism rang true. Activism should not happen from the comfort of our homes and screens. However, it is about identifying relevant things that we can do within our means to be practical activists. We need to equip ourselves with the knowledge to speak up. Prevention is the best medicine for GBV and fortunately for Rwanda, Isange One Stop Centers are an insurmountable resource.
During the remaining 14 days of the campaign, I want to challenge my fellow Rwandan activists to dig deeper and find the things within our means that we need to do to dismantle the culture of silence that fuels GBV in our society. May it be speaking up ourselves just as a start to pave the way.
Aspiring Physician and Global Health Professional | Surgery Research Officer at Partners In Health
- Gender Based Violence