RGI Blog

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.

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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
Staff Profile:  Gisele Tunga

Gashora Girls Academy of Science and Technology enjoys the privilege of educating and inspiring 275 dedicated and passionate young women through our innovative model of education that combines strong college-prep academics, along with health, social and  emotional development and extracurricular programs.  We holistically develop our students passions, interests, leadership, competitive and entrepreneurial spirits, and athletic pursuits.  This is made possible by all the leadership, administrators, staff and students who give 100% every day to the Gashora community!  

One of these such leaders is Gisele Tunga, one of our support staff who wears many hats!  Enjoy this post written by Gisele. 

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I have been at Gashora Girls Academy of Science and Technology (GGAST), since the school opened in January 2011, as the administrative assistant and nurse.  Before coming to Gashora, I graduated from the Kigali Independent University (ULK) with a Bachelor’s Degree in Economics and Social Sciences and worked as an advisor at the orphanages in Rilima, Rwanda where my role was to work, guide and encourage the orphans to reach their dream.

The inaugural class had 90 girls; but enrolling students at a brand-new school that had no track record was a great challenge; one that we no longer have! We had to convince students and their families to take a risk on GGAST, explaining that it was going to be a high performing STEM school for the brightest students. What we heard by most students was, “Why should I go to Gashora?” These young women had the opportunity to go to schools that they already knew, why take a risk on a new school. We struggled with this for the first couple years, especially with girls who lived in remote parts of the country. We would call the top performing student in each district to invite them to attend and they often questioned traveling far from home. Knowing the value of the opportunity, it was our job to be convincing and do our best to get the girls to accept the offer.

Now we have 400 applications per year, and our reputation reaches across the country and continent. It has been amazing seeing the students and teachers grow this school into one of the best schools in Rwanda, not only in academic achievement (top 3% of the country) but in whole girl development.

Some Gashora alumnae have written after they arrive at college and thank me for giving them the opportunity to attend our school. They express so much gratitude and appreciation. It brings tears to my eyes when they say that the day I called to invite them to Gashora was the day they were blessed by God. We now have alumnae studying in 25 countries around the world and have graduated 524 young women, future leaders of Rwanda.

My responsibilities at Gashora Girls Academy has grown and changed through the years.  I continue to assist in the admissions and enrollment process, determining students' financial aid packages.  I also support the organization of school field trips, communicate with parents, and having one on one meeting with students supporting their different struggles.  I have shared beautiful moments with the girls during these one on one sessions.  I realize that it is a great honor to be a part of a solution, and a part of their lives.

Additionally, I have the opportunity to mentor the Dear Doctor Rwanda (DDR) Club. In this club, we work around the clock trying to make a difference in the community. Some of the activities include proper nutritional workshops and tutoring Dihiro School students in Physics, Chemistry and Biology. Within the school, we have focused on primary health such as hand washing and basic healthy habits. 

I also oversee the Aerobics program that is contributing to physical health and fitness of our students. More generally, I work closely with the Dean of Students to promote Whole Girl Education which is the philosophy upon the school is founded.

I have grown into a strong believer of girl empowerment and the magic that educating a girl child can have on a society. From working closely with Gashora students, I know that each of them is the complete package of what the nation needs- inventive, innovative and competent girls. I am inspired so much by my girls’ confidence, initiative, risk-taking, and creativity. My favorite part of Gashora is admitting students from low socioeconomic backgrounds and watching them be transformed by the Gashora experience to achieve their full potential and dreams.

As Mother Teresa said “Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.” I am grateful to be a part of the Gashora community; it is where I live my passion to do all things with love and where I enjoy not only what I call work but my second home.

  • STAFF
Alumna Profile: Positive Journey Toward Progress

The following post is written by Gashora Girls Academy alumna, Hillarie Uwamahoro, GGAST Class of 2014.  She is currently studying at Earth University in Costa Rica.

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A dream that can bring life changing opportunities turns into a reality when a person takes one step forward. A girl that was raised without hope ultimately found joy that dignified her destination. That girl today faces the world differently and has discovered crucial tools that lift her up in the moments of sorrow to encourage herself and others.

The last twenty-three years has been a period of discovery.  I have learned who I was, who I am now and what I want to become. I was born in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in 1995, one year after the Rwandan Genocide of 1994. During that period, my country, Rwanda, was still on the journey to bring back peace and unity ruined during the Rwandan Genocide. Due to the security issues, my family went to DRC as refugees in July of 1994, where they stayed until November of 1996. When leaving Rwanda, my mother was pregnant with me. She had to walk from the Northern Province of Rwanda to DRC carrying a baby in her womb. The journey was extremely long, and due to political instability, was without means of public transportation.

I was born in February 1995, and I started facing health problems such as diarrhea and Pneumonia because of poor hygiene. Fortunately, I survived since we returned to Rwanda in November 1996. Upon returning to Rwanda, my parents had to start from scratch because they didn´t have a job and our assets had been damaged. They built their future like any other person who faces struggles and work persistently to overcome them.


When I was 5 years old, they took me to a primary school, where I would walk 6 km. I faced difficult moments as a young girl because I did not have enough school kits. My siblings and I had very tough and emotional lives during that season. Food was a valuable and precious thing for my family to have. I never believed that it would be possible for me to go for higher studies because of the lack of financial resources.  My father got a driving job and my mother dedicated herself in subsistence farming. That is how my parents started thriving slowly. Despite the struggles we had reestablishing our lives, I was academically strong and I was accepted to Gashora Girls Academy.  At Gashora I received educational support and indispensable opportunities.   I met incredible colleagues and teachers who encouraged me. I began believing that there is no limit to embrace my goals and strive for my future. My objective had always been pursuing agricultural studies to ensure that hunger and poverty were not found in my community. My region only practices farming for family consumption because of lack of sustainable skills on how to improve agricultural productivity and turn it into a big source of income. Furthermore, there are many young girls of my generation who didn´t get the opportunities to go for higher studies, and they ended up having unplanned pregnancies. However, there are some other youth who don´t want to get involved in agricultural activities because of ignorance and negative attitude towards farming.

Many youths believe that agriculture is meant for uneducated people because they grew up seeing uneducated farmers in the community. The main reason behind all these challenges is the history that Rwanda had in the past.

In 2015 I experienced a life changing opportunity when I was admitted to pursue Agriculture Sciences at EARTH University in Costa Rica where I received a scholarship from the Howard Buffett Foundation. I was the first girl to study outside of Rwanda in my community!

While at EARTH I began experiencing agriculture technical skills especially in soil science and I was strongly motivated by soil management techniques to increase productivity.   I had never seen these techniques being applied in my region. In 2018 I worked with Precision Agriculture Center (CAP) here in Costa Rica for six weeks learning new mapping technologies for soil precision management in order to optimize soil development and productivity. I also pursued an internship at Tuskegee University from August to December 2018, where I had an educative and bold experience conducting research from the Soil Chemistry Laboratory. I acquired scientific skills on carbon decomposition in soils and professional working ethics. In addition, I developed my enthusiasm towards Soil Sciences from the university professors, past and present. For example, I was inspired by the former president of Tuskegee University, an educator and author, Dr. Booker T. Washington, whose message says: “if you want to lift yourself up lift up someone else”. From that quote I learned that nothing is impossible in all aspects of life; only that we need to have self-esteem and encourage each other to move forward without leaving anyone behind. It does not matter how downtrodden we are; all we need is a positive attitude to achieve big accomplishments.

Because of this exposure, I started having many crucial viewpoints on upgrading my career in order to play a big role in transforming the economy of my region and people´s perspectives. I can firmly say that I have been on a positive journey towards progress because I am no longer a slave of poverty. I used to think before that poverty is equal to not having money, but now I define poverty as a status of not having hope and concrete ideas. I believe that my dream of being among agricultural scientists in Rwanda is yet to come, and once achieved I will do all it is required to contribute to the transformation of my village.


If youth would work hand in hand and creatively, our history would be turned marvelously because the future is US. It is our responsibility to foster positive changes that improve the standard of living for the people in Rwanda.
 

In summary, my struggle and success has made who I am today and the best is yet to come. My eyes are now facing the stars in pursuing a graduate degree in order to professionally prepare myself as an agent of change in soil science. Thus, I shouldn’t allow my past to define me but instead use my present to overcome the past in order to build an impactful future.
 

Positive attitude wins!

  • Agriculture
  • poverty
MEET OUR NEW STAFF!  GGAST ALUMNAE ELVANIE, MADO, and OLIVE

It is an exciting time at Gashora Girls Academy.  Last May, our inaugural graduating class of 2013 began to graduate from university's around the world!  We have recently hired 5 of these amazing alumnae to work at GGAST. 

We sat down with three of these young women to talk about their time at Gashora and how they feel being back. 

Meet Elvanie  who works as GGAST's Career Development and University Advisor, Mado who is our Nutritionist and Olive who is our VAC (Value Added Center) Manager!

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Would you introduce yourself to everyone?

Elvanie:  I am Elvanie, at GGAST I studied Mathematics, Physics and Computer Science (MPC). I liked most of my combination

Elvanie:

Elvanie: Career Development and University Advisor

subjects but I especially enjoyed my computer classes. During my stay at GGAST I was involved in some extracurricular activities including the volleyball team, modeling and part traditional dance.  I went to Adventist University of Central Africa and studied Networks and Communication systems.  I am currently supporting the current students and alumnae with career development and university advising.

Mado: I am Marie de Dieu (Mado), my combination was Physics, Chemistry, and Biology (PCB). Besides academics, I enjoyed my stay in Gashora because of the diverse extracurricular activities; however, my favorite was Basketball. I went to the University of Rwanda and got my degree in Nutrition and Dietics.  I am currently working as school Nutritionist and leadership development coordinator at GGAST.

Olive: My name is Olive and I studied PCB (Physics, Chemistry and Biology) at GGAST. I used to play volleyball as my extracurricular and I was Dorm Captain prefect.  I studied Crop Production at the University of Rwanda. I am currently the VAC Manager at GGAST.

 

-What have you done since you graduated from Gashora?

 

Elvanie:  After graduating from Gashora, I immediately attended Adventist University of Central Africa (AUCA) in Rwanda where I pursued a degree in Networks and Communication Systems. AUCA exposed me to real life experience due to their project-based learning system. 

      Mado: Gashora Nutrionist

Mado: After graduating from Gashora served as the assistant Basketball Coach during my gap year. I then enrolled at the University of Rwanda College of Medicine and Health Sciences and graduated November 2nd with a Bachelor’s Degree in Human Nutrition and Dietetics.  In my second year at university, I began working for the Global Give Back Circle as a Program Coordinator. The program put emphasis on developing leadership skills, mentorship, and giving back.  I also had the opportunity to engage in research done at the University.  I was part of evaluating programs like Integrated Nutrition and WASH Activities. My friends and I initiated a Public Health Students Association where I was the Project Manager with the main goal of identifying community nutrition related problems and providing solutions, such as building kitchen gardens and carrying out nutrition educational sessions to raise the awareness. 

Olive: After Graduating from Gashora, I had a temporary job teaching nursery students at BUGESHI Primary and Nursery school.  the next fall I joined the University of Rwanda College of Agriculture Animal Sciences and Veterinary Medicine where I received a Bachelor Degree in Crop Production. In my 3rd year of the university I was Vice Class Representative, and my 4th year I managed to be Deputy Guild President.

 

-How did Gashora prepare you for life beyond Gashora?

 

Elvanie:  Gashora helped build confidence within me. Through various presentations, my communication skills went on developing and spread in everything I undertook. Gashora also taught me how to search for various opportunities available. With this skill, I was able to find job opportunities while I was still a university student.  Last but not least, Gashora taught me how to be responsible and accountable for my life decisions, which is a skill that is very important in the outside world.

Mado: To be honest I do not know what I could have done with all the fear and self-doubt which were my identity before joining Gashora. Coming from a school which we were being led out of fear and could not have self-advocacy. It was a huge gift to be in Gashora where students lead the school and encouraged to speak out and let their voice be heard. As a result, I developed integrity, self-awareness, confidence, and empathy. I have been able to stand out and to lead others by paying attention to their suggestions, opinions, and synergy to bring a positive change.

Olive: Gashora empowered me with the leadership skills that helped me to be a good leader at the University of Rwanda where I was Deputy Guild president in charge of Academics. This helps me to be self-motivated and courageous in whatever I do.

 

-Why did you decide to come back to work here?

 

Elvanie:  Working in Gashora is one of my biggest dream coming true. I have always wanted to give back to the community that made me who I am, but most especially I wanted to participate and get involved in girls’ education and development. Being a girl, I know how important girls’ education is and I would like to help girls know their worth and help them become important people in the future. I feel so much joy to be able to work with them through this journey of making so many decisions in a little time, be able to exploit the available opportunities and make use their time. As a career development and university advisor, I also want to equip girls with skills that will help them shine in the outside competitive world.

Mado:  Gashora has been my home and I feel like I have never left Gashora.  I had been longing to work in a diverse environment and excited to be here. 

Olive: It was my privilege to work here at Gashora and my pleasure to put all the efforts and knowledge to improve my lovely famous high school because nothing better than seeing GGAST shining.

 

-What are your favorite things about Gashora/things you missed?  -What is one of your favorite Gashora memories?

 

Elvanie:  The first thing I missed the most about Gashora is its supportive environment. While I was in Gashora, I knew that I would always receive support from the administration, the teachers and my friends.  When I graduated and entered the outside world all the support flew away. I had to do everything on my own. My best memories from Gashora were the talent shows held at the school. When I was a student at Gashora, I was a member of both the fashion club  and the traditional dance troop, which are some of the best memories of my life.

Mado: The things I missed about Gashora were the different activities, such as the bonfire, water balloon fights, capture the flag, and basketball games, that were filled with laughter and were true moments of happiness. Those were the moments when Gashora sisterhood was at its maximum. The moments that my brain keep under the title of my "favorite memory's" are the Intramural Competitions. These competitions brought all the students into three different teams, and we would play different games like basketball, football and volleyball. Words of encouragement were always shouted out loud for everyone.

Olive: Farm Manager

Olive: One of Gashora memories I won’t forget is affection and passionate of the staff and the founders of this school towards every student at Gashora.

 

-What is it like being back on campus as a staff?

 

Elvanie:  It is nostalgic. Whenever I look around the campus, I recall all the moments I spent here when I was a student. However, I am no longer a student but a staff member. I feel the urge of sharing my experience with my younger sisters, contribute to their well-being, and guide them through this path to their academic success as well as their career goals.

Mado: Once alumna and now back on campus as a staff was not something that I would easily capture and imagine.  Being a staff on campus helps me understand the reason behind decisions that were and are taken. I can, now, understand the way members of the staff feel when important decision are being made. I feel like a mediator, because I can understand the feeling of both students and the staff, with that I am able to know what would be best for the two parties.

  • STAFF
Remember-Unite-Renew

This month of April, the Flame of Remembrance ("Urumuri Rutazima" - the unquenching flame ) will be lit for the duration of 100 days. This will mark the beginning of the remembrance of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda. The Flame of Remembrance is a symbol of courage and resilience of all Rwandans, and the unquenching persistence towards peace, forgiveness and reconciliation.  

This month, we stand in remembrance with our Gashora students, families and staff who are playing a critical role in paving the future for a prosperous country for all Rwandans. 

Below is an essay written by one of our 2013 Gashora Girls Academy graduates who has recently returned to Rwanda to work at GGAST.

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Hope and Compassion- Celeste Dushime

At 2PM on April 7th 2015, I was sobbing on a bench in the middle of the Yale Campus. I had been organizing the Genocide Commemoration for a week and had made small posters with facts about the 1994 Genocide: how many people died, how many people were infected with AIDS, etc. However, I had not accounted for the April wind or my classmates’ indifference. As students walked around with no recognition of the tragedy that had started that day two decades earlier, the wind blew away my posters confronting me with the erasure of our pain. I called my mother, crying while I realized the weight of who I was and where I was. I was a Rwandan sitting on a campus that educated both Bill Clinton and Samantha Powers,two  people who could have stopped the genocide but didn’t.

I was reminded of a conversation two days earlier as my mother listened to my outrage and my tears about how “they didn’t care about our deaths.” In that moment, the genocide was my story, it was my senseless death, it was my blood that was spilled for no reason. As my parents listened, as I gained the ability to own a history I hadn’t experienced, I thought about what it meant to have been born in Rwanda after the genocide. I am not the only one who experiences this complicated history; my classmates, my siblings and my friends have all been dealing with this situation; it affects most of us from the post-genocidal generation.

Until recently, I saw this consciousness as a negative effect of the genocide, but teaching at Gashora has opened my eyes to the ways that this special consciousness has created a deeply thoughtful generation of future leaders. The more time I spend with these students, the more I am impressed by their compassion, their open-mindedness and their ability to care so much about the world. Any injustice touches them so deeply and they are so committed to bettering the world. The events that scarred my country so much left them with an intense ability to care and a deeply en-grained respect for life, human rights and equality.

As we start the 25 commemoration of the genocide and think about the toll that it had on Rwanda, my heart goes to every soul we lost, every broken family and all the pain that we will always carry as a country. My hope, however, rests in my students: in their love, their compassion and my firm belief that they would never allow our country to go back to what it was 25 years ago.

  • 25 years
  • flame of rememberance
  • hope
  • rememberance
  • rwanda genocide