On March 9th, 2018, Caritas Rwanda, through its USAID Gimbuka Program, has organized a concertative meeting on the “Determined, Resilient, Empowered, AIDS-free, Mentored, and Safe women” (DREAMS Project) activities in Rwamagana District of the Eastern Province of Rwanda. This was a very good opportunity for the program team to expose and explain to Rwamagana elites the main objectives of this initiative. Therefore, the participants brainstormed about the partnership needed for better program implementation and success.
In her opening word, Mrs Umutoni Jeanne, the Vice Mayor in charge of Social Affairs of Rwamagana District was thankful for Caritas Rwanda activities, as they are in line with Government of Rwanda priority which emphasizes on the Girls’ empowerment. On this point the audience was reminded that everyone is in close relation with Women: “Ikivugo cya mutima w’urugo”. With regards to Women international day, Mrs Vice Mayor said that the messages that are circulating on Social Media such as Whatsup show that there is a long way to go towards the full Gender Balance in the Rwandese, most especially among young people, whereby Gender equality is still misinterpreted! The Vice Mayor, said: “All the days are ours (women), but the celebration at international level comes once a year. Therefore, the related activities are ongoing, not only on the special celebration day.”
She also said that the meeting was very important and came coming at the right time. And She invited the audience to pay due attention and contribute to that important meeting, as Rwamagana is among the district with high rate of teen mums! This is an indicator that Rwamagana still has many problems within the families. Therefore, it is difficult to plan and secure the proper and basic education to the children. The Vice Mayor gave a typical case of a student who recently gave birth during the final exams, though she succeeded, she could have performed better if she had not conceived up in that period.
With regards to Technical and Vocational Education Training (TVET) as one of approach used by Caritas to ensure the economic resilience of beneficiaries, she notified that this approach is very important as some of the girls get stigmatized when they get pregnant and fear to resume the studies, so that was the right way for tackle that.
Concerning the Sexual Gender Based Violence (SGBV) cases, the Vice Mayor said: “We expect the high confidentiality of the data as that may be crucial case when misused. Such information may be more stigmatizing to the beneficiaries than would be if not supported.
The Vice Mayor has reminded the concerned staff among the participants that during their day to day activities, people should be more sincere, reliable and have Christian spirit while selecting the right beneficiaries.
In addition, the Vice Mayor addressed sincere thanks to the Catholic religious leaders for their great contribution in the job creation in the Rwandese society. She articulated that, by saying that if at all everyone acts like them, the world would be paradise! Furthermore, on the FP subject, she said that services are being provided but the sensitization is not passing as it was before. So, she urged the partners to help the GoR in passing the message and services of FP. On this point she said: “I had an experience from Northern region of the country, where people provide FP services in the areas out of Health Facilities., If we can do like that, It may help very much. I am saying this not to include the unplanned services right now but, please consider it in the program implementation. On the side of Rwamagana District we are committed to partner in order to reach the right people and provide the services as planned. Thank you!”
After, the Rwamagana Vice Mayor speech, as scheduled on the meeting plan, the Caritas Rwanda/ USAID Gimbuka Program Team Leader, Mr Jean Ntakirutimana took over the stage and presented his speech to the audience. In his presentation, Mr Jean presented and introduced the DREAMS initiative to the participants. Whereby, he said that program is an ambitious partnership to reduce HIV infections among adolescent girls and young women in 10 sub-Saharan African countries.
DREAMS is about multiple solutions surrounding one problem. With support from the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Girl Effect, Johnson & Johnson, Gilead Sciences, and ViiV Healthcare, DREAMS is delivering a core package that combines evidence-based approaches that go beyond the health sector, addressing the structural drivers that directly and indirectly increase girls’ HIV risk, including poverty, gender inequality, sexual violence, and a lack of education. The Gimbuka Team Leader reminded the audience that many adolescent girls and young women lack of a full range of opportunities and are very often devalued because of gender bias, leading them to be seen as unworthy of investment or protection, Social isolation, economic disadvantage, discriminatory cultural norms, orphanhood, gender-based violence, and school drop-out all contribute to girls’ vulnerability to HIV. Therefore, DREAMS has the potential to change how the society can work together in order to ensure an AIDS-free future for adolescent girls and young women.
The USAID Gimbuka Program implementation will be in 5 districts with highest HIV prevalence, teen pregnancy, and sexual violence:
- Rwamagana District in Eastern Province: implimented by Caritas Rwanda;
- 3 districts of Kigali city (Nyarugenge, Gasabo and Kicukiro): implimented by Global Community and AEE and
- Nyanza District in Southern Province: implimented by FXB.
As regarding to Caritas Rwanda implementation of the DREANS activities, the targeted zones in Rwamagana District are 10 sectors (Musha, Gahengeri, Fumbwe, Nyakariro, Karenge, Muyumbu, Rubona, Nzige, Gishali, and Kigabiro) as well illustrated hereby on the map below.
In addition, this was a good opportunity for Mr Jean to explain deeply on the DREAMS core package, approach that will be used and the partnership needed from the district elites for the success of the program.
The following time was given to Mrs Marie Rose Nyirakamana, the M&E, and BCC Coordinator. She took short period of time to share with the audience the recruitment strategies and selection criteria of DREAMS beneficiaries. After that, the team had very good time to discuss and share good experience for the better performance and service provision to the Girls in need.
In the meeting closing word, Father Yves Sewadata , the Deputy Secretary General of the Caritas Rwanda addressed his recognitions of the participation and contribution of the audience, and mentioned the following key points thereof:
- Caritas is most of the time providing the services such as assistance material, social and moral mutual aid to construct the houses for poor, and many other urgent actions
- Nowadays, Caritas Rwanda has extended its activities in helping people to be more poverty resilient
- Caritas is working under 3 departments: Department of Social Welfare, Department of Health and Department of Development.
- In this program; Caritas has signed an agreement with USAID for the implementation of the activities in line with improving the life of Rwandan.
- All of the activities are implemented with the close partnership with local leaders, Caritas network partners
- He also articulated that, this initiative is not service duplication of efforts, because HIV is already a problem to the society and most of our young people are still suffering from it.
- Caritas Rwanda is very thankful for those who will be involved in this program implementation.
- The forum is already there and it is working, the lessons from here are the amelioration of the services and making the forum more known.
- Let us all keep hands in hands to share information and data to facilitate the implementation.
- Close collaboration is needed in the right program beneficiaries identification especially because it is the base of success of the program
- I am thankful to you all for your contribution in the program.
Mary Rose NYIRAKAMANA, USAID Gimbuka Program M&E &BBC
In collaboration with Aloys MUNDERE