RGI Blog

From Korea to China....An Alumnae Interview

Meet Claudine! 

With a degree in International Studies from Yonsei University in South Korea she is now pursuing her masters in China!  Her ultimate goal.....to use her understanding of East Asian counties to help form strong partnerships between Rwanda and East Asia. 


Please introduce yourself.  

My name is Claudine Ukubereyimfura and I am from Huye district in the Southern Province of Rwanda and I graduated from Gashora Girls Academy in September of 2015 with a strong interest in politics and Korean culture. My goal was to study in Korea and I was lucky to be admitted to Yonsei University. In 2016 I left for South Korea excited to start my new life in a country I considered to be my second home, even though I had never been there before.  In February 2020,  I graduated with a major in International Studies.


You studied in Yonsei University in South Korea for your undergraduate studies.  What did you study and what interested you in this major? 

At Yonsei University, I attended Underwood International College (UIC) which is a unique college with an all-English program, bringing together Korean students and International students from all over the world. Majoring in International Studies I took classes in politics, international relations, economics, and history. I found most of my classes very interesting mainly because most of my professors were experts in areas of Korean politics and China-Korea-US relations. My professors offered me a Korean perspective to world politics, which is something I guess I could only get form Korea!  I was really able to explore my interest in Korean domestic politics and East Asian international relations.  Along the way I also developed interest in China.


Thinking back to your first months in South Korea, what were your biggest challenges and how did you overcome them? 

My biggest challenge during my first months in South Korea was not being able to speak Korean. Although at UIC all classes are in English, speaking Korean was critical for daily living. Thankfully, during my first year, one of my Gashora sisters, Lisa, was there. Lisa had taken one year to learn Korean and she helped me a lot especially during my first months in Korea. My lack of Korean skills and my cultural barriers didn’t really seem to prevent me from having a good time in my first year. I think my naivety, open mind, and enthusiasm really helped me engage more with Korean culture, make many Korean friends and try many new things.


What were some of your highlights living in South Korea?

Honestly, there are so many highlights, I am not sure where to start from! Some of my best memories in Korea include attending Yonsei University AKARAKA festival which is a festival in which many different K-pop celebrities are invited to perform for Yonsei University. There were both Korean and international students singing and dancing together, shouting the Yonsei slogan in unity with a shared passion. It was such a happy moment and definitely one of the best memories I have had in my life!

During my 4 years in Korea I have had many opportunities to visit different places outside Seoul, try many different Korean dishes, and participate in multiple festivals. I even visited a friend of mine and joined her family to make Kimchi in winter which was so much fun!


Living abroad can be an incredible experience, how do you think it has impacted who you have become and how you see the world?

For me studying abroad has been a very meaningful experience that shaped me as a person. Studying in Korea strengthen my passion for East Asian International Relations, gave me opportunities to interact with people from different countries and helped me become an independent person. Living in Korea for 4 years taught me that cultural barriers are real, but that they can also be overcome as long as you have a genuine desire to understand others. And by learning about other people’s cultures, you open doors for yourself to a new world and new ways of thinking and understanding the world we live in.


You graduated and went back to Rwanda in the midst of a pandemic.  How has Covid-19 impacted you? 

I graduated in February of 2020 and was unable to have a ceremony, but we were able to borrow graduation gowns and on the graduation day, my friends came to congratulate me and take pictures with me. I left Korea in the last week of February, right after my graduation as cases were increasing rapidly. When I arrived in Rwanda there had not been a positive case, but after two weeks home, schools were closed, and Rwanda entered into complete lockdown. This meant that I couldn’t find an internship or volunteer opportunities which was my plan after my graduation.  Instead, I decided to start teaching myself Chinese and learning Chinese history through podcasts since I would hopefully be leaving for China in September to pursue a master’s degree. This was a fun experience because I started to enjoy learning Chinese.


You are now in Graduate School pursuing your masters at Yenching Academy of Peking University in China!  Congratulations!  What are you studying and has COVID impacted your plans?

I am pursuing a master’s program in China Studies and my concentration is Politics and International Relations, however, because of COVID-19, I was unable to go to China and have been taking my master classes online. It was really hard for me at first to come to terms with the fact that I was not going to be able to go China. I felt like my learning experience was not going to be the same and that I won’t be able to make friends.

As expected, it has not been easy! Due to time difference, I now have 3:00 am and 4:00 am classes!  But, overall, I have been enjoying my Yenching experience and I have been able to make friends and even participate in extra-curricular activities online. The whole Yenching community has been very optimistic which is encouraging and helps most of us stay motivated. I am still hoping that I will be able to leave for China in early 2021, because it is important to learn about China when you are in China, and I am also excited to meet my friends and classmates in person.


What do you hope to do with this degree?

As I mentioned earlier, during my undergraduate, as I studied more about Korea, I naturally became interested in China as well because both countries share history and both countries relations are important for East Asia region’s stability. By pursuing a master’s program in China, I am hoping to get a better understanding of East Asian international relations from a Chinese perspective. After Yenching, I am thinking about pursuing a PHD in either East Asia regional studies or Korean Studies but my ultimate goal is to use my understanding of East Asian countries to help form strong partnerships between Rwanda and East Asian countries. I also believe that there is a lot we as Rwandans can learn from countries like Korea and China in terms of economic and social development.


What advice would you give to your fellow Gashora Girls Academy sisters graduating from GGAST in the Spring?

One thing that I would like to tell to Gashora girls graduating next year is that it is fine not have all the answers to the questions of who you want to become or how are you going to help change the world. Of course, if you already have those answers that is great, and I am super proud of you! But if you don’t, that is also ok. But make sure to use your time in college to figure out what you really love and what you are passionate about. As George Wilhelm Friedrich said, “Nothing great in the world has ever been accomplished without passion”. So, I wish you all to find that one thing that you love and then use that love and your passion to accomplish great things!


What are your hopes for your future?  Where do you see yourself 10 years from now?

This is a hard question especially this year now that I have seen how many things can suddenly change in a very short time. But my hope for the future is to continue doing what I like and to share my passion and interests with others. I love East Asia and I am very interested in East Asia and I hope that in the future I can become someone who can bring East Asian countries and Rwanda closer together be it culturally, politically, or academically. I hope I can be someone who will foster understanding between Rwanda and East Asia. Right now, I am not yet certain how exactly I want to do that but everything I do now and plan to do in the future one way or another will be geared towards that goal.

  • Asian Studies
  • China
  • International Relations
  • Masters
  • South Korea
An Alumnae Conversation: Farming, Giving Back, and Providing Hope


The vision for the Gashora farm was threefold; nourish our students with healthy food, serve as an outdoor classroom for our students to learn about agriculture, connect; serve and support the surrounding community by sharing best practices in farming. Today our 42 acre farm is growing an incredible variety of food for our school and we aspire to be self-sufficient- growing everything that we are eating at school. Students are not only engaged with the operation of the farm but our agricultural focused curriculum offers them a chance to learn about new and innovative farming practices. Our students and farm staff work with the farmers from the surrounding community to help them improve their practices to create more yields. In addition to farming, the farm has also been an incubator for student businesses, including the well-known Gashora Gold Peanut Butter.

After schools around the country were closed in March due to COVID-19, the farm pivoted quickly from feeding students and teachers to serving the community of Bugesera. School leaders worked with the community leadership to identify the most vulnerable in the community that would benefit from the support from the Gashora Farm.

We are also incredibly proud to have two of our GGAST Alumnae returning to school as staff members and helping with the oversight and management of the farm. Below, Olive and Gloria, share some of their reflections about their experience working at Gashora and the challenges they are facing during this global pandemic.

First, can you both introduce yourselves?

Olive:  My name is Olive Niyizigihe. I am from the Northern Province of Rwanda, Musanze District and graduated from GGAST in 2013. In 2014 I attended the University of Rwanda College of Agriculture, Animal Science, and Veterinary Medicine, where I received my bachelors’ degree in crop production.

Gloria: My name is Gloria Uwizeyimana, I was born and raised in Mayange, Bugesera. I graduated from Gashora Girls Academy in 2014.  I attended Earth University in Costa Rica, a five-year program where I studied Agricultural Sciences and graduated in 2019.

How long have you worked at GGAST and what are your responsibilities?

Olive:  I joined the GGAST staff in February 2019. My responsibilities include managing the school Value Added Center (VAC), where our Gashora Gold Peanut Butter is produced.  I also collaborate with the farm team in order to achieve specific goals and reach the mission for the Gashora farm to provide our school with healthy food.

Gloria: Having graduated in December of 2019, I began working at GGAST in February.  I have the opportunity to help fill the gaps on the farm and work in all key areas providing suggestions to improve farm performance.  I am also coordinating our collaboration with the Rwanda Institute for Conservation Agriculture (RICA).  RICA is a school that combines research, education and extension services to train Rwanda’s next generation of leaders in agriculture. This is an exciting new partnership that I am excited to help coordinate.

You are a GGAST alumnae! How does it feel being back at school in a staff role?

Olive:  Honestly, I cannot find a word to articulate the feeling I had the moment I heard that I was hired. I was extremely excited to join the GGAST staff. I have GGAST in my heart and I have no doubt that this is where my foundation for life began. I believe in giving back to the community and am excited my career is beginning at GGAST. I love working here so much because I dedicate my strengths, skills, and knowledge for the betterment of the school and the future generations.

Gloria:  It feels like a child who makes her way back home, even though a lot has changed since the last time I was here. There are few faces that are familiar, even our Head of School is new. So, it is so different but still feels like home. I haven’t felt like a part of the staff yet but it is a work in progress.  I now have responsibilities to meet, and realize that every decision I make can create a difference!

School closed on March 20th. How have things changed you during this shutdown?

Olive:  It is true that this was a very difficult time for everyone around the globe in their respective careers. In every situation, for good or bad, one learns from it.  In regards to my career and my responsibilities here at GGAST, I have learned a very important lesson; to always to have a well-equipped stock as it has helped our activities kept going. I also decided to have the VAC team join the farm during this time as many of our casual farm laborers are unavailable. 

Gloria: Before the school closed, I worked with both students and the farm staff, but today I work just with the farm staff, which means I now see more gaps to fill than before. On the other hand, I am very much comfortable staying at school and working on the farm while also using this time to work on my personal development.

Gathering the food for the handout. The farm is now providing food for approximately 300 people/week (95% of the recipients are nursing mothers).

With the school closure, you have shifted to serving the community with produce boxes for 50 families/approximately 300 people in Bugesera. Can you tell us how this came about and what that has been like?

Olive:  It has always been one of the school values to help the community. Even when school is in session our students volunteer their time and talent to tutor the students from other local schools.  In keeping with this culture, we were able to support approximately 300 people, in 3 rounds, with food who were severely impacted by COVID-19. Our Head of School worked with the local government to help identify the families that had greatest need.  It had been a very good experience because to put a smile on peoples faces. We have been able to supply food including beans, tomatoes, fresh bananas, cabbage, yellow bananas, butter nuts, Carrots, dry maize, fresh corns, red onions, papayas, watermelon, amaranth.

Gloria:  It has impacted many and was a huge need considering how tough these times have been to all people around the world. The families have been so grateful for the food received.                    I cannot deny the sight of joy in their faces every time they stand in a line to receive the package.      I have been at the front of the line serving during the three rounds of our distribution.                        We are doing what we were meant to do as a community.

What are some challenges you face on the farm right now?

Olive: The farm is facing a challenge of the irrigation system due to severe flooding in the northern part of Rwanda. This has caused water to be pushed from Akagera River and to fill Mirayi Lake (the lake near the school) which has now flooded.  This has made it difficult for the water pump, used for our irrigation, to function. As a result, we are doing our best to water the crops manually by fetching water from the lake to pour on the crops. We also have less clients than usual and we had to reduce our sale price, which will decrease our intended benefits.

Gloria:  This pandemic has brought its many disadvantages. In addition to the flooding that Olive mentioned, the farm doesn’t have enough suitable appliances and tools to be used in specific activities like pruning and the application of agro-chemicals. For example: Pruning saws, power pruners and a tree pruner. At least one power pruner can do all the work. Our orchard has been badly affected by the brutality of an insect, and the pruning tool is of the upmost importance to revive the orchard. 

Where would you like to see the farm 5 years from now?

Olive: I would like to see the farm sustaining most of the school kitchen so we did not need external suppliers. I would like to see the VAC Market increased and be able to be a supplier of products outside the country. I would like our school farm to continue to grow as a model farm whereby others farmers and community members interested in agriculture would come to GGAST to learn from us.

Gloria: I would like to see the farm more sustainable, advanced in technology and data collection. I would like to see the farm fulfill its main goal to supply all necessary fresh foods to the school, Gashora community and the market in a profitable manner. I would like to see the farm implementing regeneration agricultural practices whereby environmental protection and soil rehabilitation measures become a priority.

  • Agriculture
  • Farm
Taking our Learning Online:  A conversation with our Deputy Head of School

At Rwanda Girls Initiative we are proud of the incredible staff that give their heart, time, and talent each day to help our Gashora Girls reach their highest potential.  Theophile Habiyambere is our Deputy Head of School and Director of Academics at Gashora Girls Academy of Science and Technology (GGAST).  Theophile is responsible for all aspects of teaching and learning and implementing the educational philosophy of the school and promoting a culture of best practice. We are so proud of our leadership team, including Theophile, who have created a community of teachers and staff who continually seek to learn and grow and see challenges as opportunities.  Our teachers and staff have worked above and beyond to meet the needs of our students and continue teaching while our students are at home.   He took some time out of his busy schedule to share how our staff and students have transitioned to online learning.


Gashora Girls Academy closed last month.  Schools around the world have had to pivot to e-learning.  How has this transition been for Gashora? 

 The transition to distance learning for GGAST, like for many schools, has not been without challenges, however it has not been impossible. Most of our challenges stemmed from our students who come from different parts of the country not being able to access reliable internet and devices to connect with their teachers and classmates. We have managed to tackle this issue with the support of various initiatives by service providers and the GGAST’s support to families that need it. The rest has quite smooth.

GGAST has been inundated with requests from non Gashora students asking to join our e-learning!  Congratulations.  How are you making this all work? Are you using a variety of platforms?  What is your secret of success?

This is true. We have had several requests from students from other schools to join our distance learning and we are currently exploring ways to support our wider community in the education space. One way we have responded to the call is by providing access to some of our lessons through our newly launched YouTube channel

The secret to our success is our investment in developing the ICT skills of teachers and students in every area of learning.

How have the teachers transitioned to this new platform? 

Our transition to the e-learning has been as smooth as one could hope. This has largely been possible because of the commitment and effort of our fantastic team of teachers. Over the years GGAST has been intentional in investing in teacher professional development. A big part of our skills development program has been in ICT. All of our teachers, regardless of the subject they teach, have been provided opportunity to grow their knowledge and skills in ICT tools which can be used in the classroom to increase interaction and participation of the students.  With this exposure they have been in a better position to seamlessly transition to teaching remotely.

Can you share any successes and inspirational stories during this these unusual times?

What has been inspiring to witness is how the whole GGAST family came together to deal with our new situation as a result of COVID-19.  Nobody in our team said distance learning could not be done. My colleagues on the leadership team immediately began to see which students would need some support in order to benefit from the planned distance learning program. Teachers began to brainstorm on the platforms we could use to connect and teach students. They quickly came up with ideas like a school YouTube channel and began to develop lessons in a way that would consider the very limited resources available to some of our students. It has been good to see the teacher’s hard work over the years to learn and implement more ICT tools in their lessons have paid off. We know that we are truly an unstoppable team that has a heart for education development and growth in Rwanda.

Would you share how you came to GGAST and what you have learned?

I started working with Gashora Girls Academy of Science and Technology (GGAST) in 2013 as a part-time math teacher.  In 2015 I was promoted to be the Director of Academics in.  I have a Master of Education in Curriculum and Instruction from University of Rwanda, College of Education. I also have a degree in Science with Education from the same University.

Working in a socio-economic diverse school has taught me that being successful does not depend on how wealthy or not your family is. It is not about your place of origin; it is simply about your goals, and how you are committed to achieve them. Our students inspire and teach me each day with their enthusiasm and innovation.  They are self-driven, responsible and motivated!

Working in an environment where students are hungry for knowledge, skills and competencies has put me in a position to look for more qualified, capable, and self-driven teachers. It has also made me to expand the type of Professional Development Programs we provide to our teachers so they can help teach these young and talented girls from all of Rwanda to reach their highest potential.

As a technology school, I am always trying to assist both teachers and students to use ICT tools in class and outside the class. Students, together with their mentor teachers, are all engaged in different projects such as robotics, web design, app design to mention but a few. This is a result of hard work, dedication and teamwork between admin, teachers and students.  I am proud that GGAST is leading the way in technology, not only in Rwanda, but also in Africa.

  • COVID-19
  • Online Learning
Our Alumnae during Covid-19

Hey it's Amy Karuletwa here! As the Alumnae Manager for Gashora Girls Academy and Rwanda Girls Initiative, it is my privilege to engage with our alumnae around the world, assisting them with college transitions, various resources, and internship and job placements throughout their university years. Pretty cool job, huh? The alumnae department is composed of a team of three which includes Elvanie Batamuliza, Yvonne Musime, and myself. Both Elvanie and Yvonne are Gashora alumnae who were part of our inaugural class of 2013. 

As all of you know the world has changed in so many ways in recent months. Because of this, we have been in constant contact with our 621 Gashora alumnae studying all over the world to make sure that all of our alumnae are in safe & healthy environments. Most universities have allowed International Students to remain on campus and have continued to provide food, healthcare and online classes.  The few that did not allow students to stay were able to find housing with host families, classmates or relatives.  We also had a few universities pay for flights for students to return to Rwanda.  These students have been able to continue their online classes and remain in good spirits. 

Below are some highlights from conversations with six of our student who are studying in Italy, Germany, Hong Kong, and the United States.

Christine Ashimwe, GGAST Class of 2016, Duke University but was studying abroad in Italy. Christine is studying Visual Media and Advertising.

Houria Uwase, GGAST Class of 2018, Technical University of Kaiserslautern (Germany). Houria is studying Mechanical Engineering.

Pacifique Hirwa, GGAST Class of 2018, Hong Kong Polytechnic University. Pacifique is studying Biomedical Engineering.

Sarah Benimana, GGAST class of 2016, Walla Walla Community College. Sarah is studying Agriculture Systems.

Bibiche Mashenge, GGAST Class of 2016, Stanford University. Bibiche is studying International Relations.

Eliane Wibabara, GGAST Class of 2016, Washington State University. Eliane is studying Agriculture Economics & Food Business Economics.


What has been the most challenging aspect of the COVID-19 outbreak to you personally? 

Christine (Italy): The most challenging aspect of the covid-19 for me has been the uncertainty that it brought. I remember when I was still in Italy, before my school decided that things were bad enough to require an evacuation, I'd see all my friends being evacuated and I kept wondering what staying in Italy could mean for me. I was told that evacuating would mean that I would lose my Visa status and that that would lead to me losing the internship I'd secured in the US along with chances of getting back to the US because there were some logistical issues on my program's end that were still unresolved. It really was a stressful time, but luckily, I got evacuated and I am not losing my student visa status.

Houria (Germany): It had been hard to keep my mental health in good condition. I am young in a foreign country and a foreign language. To get clear information was hard since all the NEWS and Articles were written and given in Deutsch. I have to admit that I panicked a little at the beginning when I saw all the supermarkets being emptied.

Bibiche (California): I was scheduled to do my internship at the United Nations this spring as well as taking classes at the Stanford in New York program. With this, my academic plan was pretty much well-laid out. The most challenging part is re-organizing my course plan. And this comes with other technical problems like a revision of one’s financial aid budget, disbursement of stipends etc. On the bright side I’ve had a-lot of help from different individuals and offices on campus

Eliane (Washington): The most challenging aspect of the Covid-19 for me is not knowing what is

Sarah biking in Walla Walla. 

next and being completely out of control. Before all this started, I had a summer internship lined up and ready to go, but now, I do not know if I will be able to do it. I worry about how this might affect students’ ability to find jobs upon graduation and its impacts on business operations in general. But again, I am focusing on living in the present and trying not to worry about what I cannot control. Although there is a lot to worry about now, there is also a lot to be grateful for. I am so grateful for the ability to do online school amid the uncertainties. I am grateful for all the free time I have and did not realize I needed. I am grateful for the nurses, doctors and everyone who puts their lives on hold to fight this pandemic.

Have you had any positive or unexpected bright moments during this challenging time?

Christine (Italy): I've actually felt grateful during this whole thing. I know there are a whole lot of unknowns, but people showed up to fight for me and made sure I got home safe. I've felt so much love from friends, family and complete strangers!

Houria (Germany): I used to paint, but I was not getting enough time for it, now I paint more frequently. I do sports every morning and I drink more water. I also got more time to work on my mental health and I know how to calm my nerves.

Pacifique: Her last outing before the lock down. 

Pacifique (Hong Kong):  This period of quarantine has been pretty fruitful and insightful. When the virus broke out in China I was afraid that we will be locked down inside our house, but I was encouraged when I saw people who wanted to protect oneself but also having fun time which reduced my fear. Through training after the outbreak of COVID-19, I was able to get a glimpse of my purpose which is one of thoughts that has been haunting me from the beginning of university. I was also able to explore new talents like dancing, singing and drawing. I believe that at the end of this period I will be more encouraged and excited to keep moving on with what life have from me compared to if the outbreak didn't happen.

Bibiche (California): Yes, there have been bright moments. Seeing how much empathy people around me express in the face of a common problem. Whether it’s how much people have raised for first-generation, low-income student population, or just friends checking in on each other, it’s definitely highlighted our care for each other. Also being back home, I am proud of how well Rwanda is handling the situation. I arrived home on Thursday, was quarantined at the hospital, and tested before being allowed into the country with other incoming travelers...all for free. Although it was a stressful position to be in, I’m really proud of Rwanda’s protocol.


Do you feel this whole situation has set you back with your education? What about various opportunities, such as summer internships, travel plans, etc? 

Christine (Italy):  Yes, it was hard to be in Italy and not be able to see Europe and missing an opportunity to keep learning from the best art teachers in Italy, after my program was cut short.

Sarah (Washington): It really did set me back. All the summer internships I was accepted to were cancelled including an amazing program I was going to go to in France, a Sustainable Energy Bootcamp.  It is kind of challenging because this is my last summer while I am in college and I was hoping to intern with the school I am applying to for my Master’s Program. I guess I will have to apply again next year, but it might be challenging because my VISA will be almost over.


Any funny stories to share that occurred during this time? 

Houria (Germany): My classmates and I sometimes go on our balconies and start talking from there in Kinyarwanda since no one can understand what we are saying.  It is our way to kill boredom in this period. 

Alumnae Highlight:  Orange The World: What we ought to do to be practical activists against Gender Based Violence

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.

Jocelyn Mizero

Aspiring Physician and Global Health Professional | Surgery Research Officer at Partners In Health

  • Biology
  • GBV
  • Gender Based Violence
  • Lafayette