National Dialogue: What the Ni Nyampinga girls would ask?

Rwandans are preparing for the annual National Dialogue, ‘Umushyikirano,’ which will take place in Kigali on December 18th to 19th 2014. The National Dialogue, which is chaired by His Excellency the President of Rwanda, is now in its twelfth year and it provides an opportunity for Rwandans both in Rwanda and in the Diaspora to pose questions to the leadership of the country at a national level. This is one of the most exciting events of the year because nowhere else in the world do citizens have direct access to their leadership, let alone their head of state.

Each year, the National Dialogue strives to be as inclusive as possible in order to incorporate the diverse thoughts, opinions, and experiences of Rwandans around the country. According to Hon. Venetia Twagirayezu, the Minister in the President’s Office, 1,000 Rwandans will be in attendance at the National Parliament, where the event is being held, while 2,000 young people will tune in from Petit Stade in Remera as part of the annual Youth Connekt convention. Video conferencing will be employed to include at least two communities based upcountry.

Under the general “Common Vision, New Momentum”, two sub-themes will be explored: “Family: A Foundation for National Prosperity” and “Safeguarding Our Achievements for a Better Future.” Rwandans from all across the world will be able to follow the event on television, radio, online. They will also have the opportunity to submit inquires through Facebook, Twitter, calls, emails and SMS.

During the MDG Special Event at the World Economic Forum in Davos this year, President Kagame emphasized the importance of investing in girls. Throughout the year, Ni Nyampinga has interacted with numerous girls from the most vulnerable to the most successful entrepreneurs and leaders of our society. Through these interactions, we have realized the importance of having girls’ voices added to the national dialogue. It is beneficial not only to girls, but to the leadership of the country. To this end, we have three questions that we would love to have addressed at this year’s Umushyikirano:

Benigne Mugwaneza: What is the government doing to empower and assist young girls with access to finance for their business projects, especially after gaining vocational skills?

Sarah Duhimbaze: What is the role of government in girls self-reliance?

Ritha Marie Clarisse Ubumwe: With regard to human trafficking, there is particularly a concern for trafficking of girls, most girls and women are trafficked because of poverty, ignorance and influence by others promising them better jobs abroad.
Is there a way the authorities can have a toll free line in a bid to address this problem? A line where the public can report any issues, this way creating further awareness and ensuring that those guilty of human trafficking crimes are brought to justice.

From bedroom to boutique: Handmade fashion with a Rwandan heart

When Christine Mbabazi started designing clothes in her bedroom in the Rwandan capital of Kigali, she had big ambitions. Now the owner of her own store Christine Creative Collections she has even bigger plans: turning her fashion boutique into a household name.

The brand is promoting African fabric and African designs, with my creativity, and developing it to the rest of the world, says the young entrepreneur.

Launched last March, Mbabazis startup produces and sells a wide variety of eye-catching fashion items, including bags, shoes and clothes. Mbabazi says Rwanda is at the very heart of her brand, so every creation in her store is handmade with locally-sourced materials:

I love the African fabric. [Growing up] I liked looking unique, [so] I used to cut my clothes in different ways I used to change them, I used to sew with my hands. It all inspired me to come up with what I have today.

Mbabazi, who is also a radio presenter, makes use of social media to reach new customers, but says she has found it difficult to convince people that traditional fabrics are acceptable in formal settings:

My friends saw me and saw I was very unique in parties, weddings, even at work thats how the word spread out. Its still a big challenge convincing people you can go to work when you have a African fabric suit but we are still fighting those small challenges.

Her next step is to take the brand, which she calls CCC for short, out of Rwanda:

I want to be exporting things made in Rwanda, so that when you are in Europe and you see something, youre like this is from CCC.

Airtel Rwanda partners with TechWomen on mentorship

Airtel Rwanda has kicked off a two-week mentorship programme in partnership with TechWomen Rwanda, an organisation that aims to encourage more women in Rwanda to take on careers in the fields of Science, Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM).

TechWomen is an initiative of the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. It is a professional mentorship and exchange programme developed in response to US President Barrack Obama’s efforts to strengthen relations between the United States with the Middle East and Africa. Commenting on the programme, Airtel Head of Corporate Communications and CSR, Ms Denise Umunyana said:

Technology increasingly becomes central to all our day-to-day operations and we believe it is important to have more and more ladies taking part in this field.

Two young ladies have been selected to take part in a mentorship programme with Airtel Rwanda and our focus will be in the fields of Information Technology and Network. This mentorship programme is not only about Airtel sharing its rich knowledge and expertise with the youth but more about ensuring a trained and well experienced workforce for future Rwanda.

Speaking on behalf of TechWomen Rwanda, Ms Angel Bisamaza, one of the alumni said:

We are more than grateful to partner with Airtel Rwanda in this mentorship programme that will help the young girls get the necessary expertise they need in order for them to take on technology as a career or enterprise business. This is one step close in closing the gap between men and women in the fields of Science, Technology Engineering & Mathematics.

We are pleased to take these girls on and mentor them. This programme also currently aligns with our social responsibility focus which is to empower youth in the field of Mathematics and Technology. We shall continue to engage in youth initiatives such as this and more because we believe that the youth today will be the future tomorrow.

Rwanda’s Girl Research Unit in Their Own Words

In Rwanda, a movement has emerged over the last few year that has seen girls creating their own platforms to tell their own stories. Ni Nyampinga is Rwanda’s first teen brand and it features both a magazine and radio show produced by girls for girls that centers on issues that directly affect them. In 2012, Girl Hub Rwanda decided to build on this movement by creating a team of girl researchers armed with the skills to gather and tell stories of Rwandan girls’ lives.

In partnership with Market Research Society (MRS) and UK-based organization 2CV, Rwanda’s Girl Research Unit (GRU) was established to provide training on research principles, recruitment in the field, facilitation of workshops and research, analysis and interpretation, and presentation of results from the research to clients. Five young women graduated in June 2014 with an international qualification from the Market Research Society in qualitative research skills and are now equipped with girl-centered research techniques.

Since June, the GRU has been conducting field research and analysis and giving presentations on their research methodology to audiences such as graduate students from the College of Education at the University of Rwanda. The girls usually work in pairs or small groups when conducting their research and then they analyze their findings as a whole group. Some of the issues the GRU has researched include:

  • Ni Nyampinga radio and magazine: how girls respond to the different magazine issues. This research and analysis resulted in shortening the length of the magazine—as demonstrated in the latest issue (Issue 11). It also resulted in including boys in the upcoming Issue 12.
  • How boys and men can contribute to ending violence against girls. This research fed directly into Issue 11 of Ni Nyampinga magazine.

We recently spent some time with two researchers, Frida and Aurore, who shared their experience so far.

How do you feel since your graduation in June?

Aurore:

Happy and proud: my skills and knowledge continue to improve and I’m proud that I’m learning so much. I hope to become a professional researcher in the future.

Frida:

We didn’t have a lot of independent research work before June because we were still in training. Since then, we have had the opportunity to work alone and to present our ideas to the team which has helped us develop independently. We have worked on several different projects that have improved our skills and that have brought us closer to being professional researchers.

What do you like most about being a researcher?

Aurore:

I enjoy being able to listen to, analyze, and understand different research findings and I love being able to communicate the thoughts and feelings of others in order to contribute to change. It’s exciting that our research findings can help develop NGO and Government programs and strategies.

Frida:

I like speaking on behalf of people who cannot speak for themselves. It is a rare opportunity for girls to be able to go into the field, speak to other girls, gather information, understand people’s perceptions about different issues and then present these views to those who can help empower the people.

Where do you see GRU in 2-3 years?

Aurore:

In three years, we will be more independent. We will not need as much feedback and supervision as we do now and we will be equipped with the skills and experience we need to be able to be hired as professional researchers. We also want to keep reaching out and sharing our experiences so that more girls are inspired to become researchers as well.

Frida:

I hope for the growth of the qualitative research industry in Rwanda. Qualitative research is being used in more government institutions and other organizations. It should not just be about the numbers but also the story behind the numbers. And these are the stories that the GRU can help tell.

Ni Nyampinga chats with the young women behind the Rwandan eco-friendly brand, Angaza Ltd.

Benigne Mugwaneza, Ni Nyampinga journalist, interviewed Maria Mayanja and Monica Umwari, Founders of the Angaza Ltd. Angaza. The eco-friendly company specializes in upcycling, which is turning another mans waste into cool and hip accessories for men and women. The young company is already taking the world by story, having been exhibited and sold in different countries such as Rwanda, USA, Germany and Netherlands. Check out the rest of the video to hear how they started and their plans to encourage Rwandans especially the youth about being aware of their environment