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Rwanda: Empowering young people in Gihembe and Mahama refugee camps to reach their full potential

Advancing the rights of young people through the provision of adolescent and youth-friendly health information, services and life skills is one of the key priorities of the Healthy & Empowered Youth Project. It is also a strong pillar of the country's development. To contribute to that goal, UNFPA works with partners to empower and engage young people and advocate for the full participation of young people in order to reach their full potential.

With funding support from the Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA) the aid agency of the Government of Republic of Korea, and in partnership with the Government of Rwanda through the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Youth and Culture, Ministry of Education, Ministry of Gender and Family Promotion, and the Ministry in Charge of Emergency Management (MINEMA), UNFPA is implementing a 3-year project named “the Healthy & Empowered Youth” in the three districts of Rusizi, Karongi, and Nyamasheke; as well as in the refugee camps of Mahama, Kigeme, Mugombwa, Kiziba, Gihembe, Nyabiheke, and their host communities, with the aim to empower adolescents and Youth in Rwanda to realize their human right to equality, sexual and reproductive health and freedom from violence and discrimination.

  
To implement ASRH program, Alight works with Peer educators to orient their peers to the Health Center services 

 

Launched in August 2020, the Healthy & Empowered Youth Project has two main objectives: to increase demand for, and supply of sexual reproductive health and gender-based violence services for adolescents and youth in Rwanda, and to empower the most vulnerable adolescents and young people in Rwanda to access education and socio-economic opportunities. In only the first year of implementation, the Healthy & Empowered Youth Project counts numerous achievements, including in the humanitarian settings. To witness these achievements, a two-day joint monitoring visit to Gihembe and Mahama refugee camps was organized under Alight coordination. The joint field visit involved the UNFPA Representative, the KOICA Rwanda Country Director and Deputy Country Director, Good Neighbours International, Alight Country Director, and their technical teams. 

This joint visit serves to get first-hand accounts of the beneficiaries’ testimonies of how the Project is impacting their lives. It is also a good opportunity  to reaffirm stakeholder commitments to the planned project results and to advance ownership and support for the Project” said Mr. Gyong Shik CHON, KOICA Country Director.

                                                                                                                                                                                                 
    UNFPA Representative, KOICA Rwanda Country Director & Partners during JMV at Gihembe camp

 

Under the Healthy and Empowered Youth project implemented in Gihembe refugee camp in Gicumbi district, Northern province of Rwanda, 50 young mothers received economic empowerment support through this project. They were supported to enroll in Technical Vocational Education Training (TVET) at KEITETSI School located in Gicumbi town and their training program is expected to end in December 2021. The successful graduates are awarded a completion certificate that the Ministry of Education accredits as well equipment and materials to sustain livelihood activities. The first-time young mothers (FYTM) also receive counseling and attend Parent-Adolescent Communication (PAC) sessions to support reunion within families.

young mothers are supported to enroll in Technical Vocational Education Training

 

‘’I would like to thank the sponsors who provided us with the opportunity to regain the hope of life. Here we learn different things that will empower us in the future. We appreciate the school management, for accepting us even in hard conditions of studying while also caring for our children.’’ Said Divine Muhoza, a teen mother in Gihembe refugee camp.

Meeting with First Time Young Mothers allowed the delegation to observe the meaning of acquiring vocational skills that helps their livelihoods and income generation, which is in line with the Rwandan national priorities on the role of TVET and focusing on young girls and women. 

                                                                                                                                                                                     

 Mark Bryan Schreiner witnessing the TVET skills at KEITETSI School in Gicumbi town  

 

“We appreciate MINEMA for welcoming us in the camp and enabling partners to connect with the beneficiaries and take stock of the project results.  We are privileged to be joined by KOICA leadership today, and together commend the hard work of all partners achieving inspiring results during this 1st year of this project.” Mark Bryan Schreiner, UNFPA Representative.

Alight, as one of the implementing partners of the Healthy & Empowered Youth project, works with 24 Volunteer Youth in Mahama camp (male and female, aged between 18-24 years) to implement ASRH program activities mainly through a Peer Education approach similar to the implementation approach Gihembe. PEs in Mahama work with Alight-Mahama Health Centre (HC) to orient their peers to the HC services, namely, pregnancy test, VCT, condom distribution, working collaboratively with HC staff in community demand creation, and awareness-raising and referrals.

“As young people, teen pregnancies among our sisters is a big challenge, but it also concerns us, boys. Youth-friendly services have helped to get the right information and to understand how to make the right and informed decisions. We have a room here where we meet to  watch TV and discuss SRH and GBV issues, now we know that we can overcome the challenges we face, and the role we need to play ” said Kabayiza Innocent, a Peer educator in Mahama refugee camp

The 3 years Health & Empowered Youth project supported by KOICA provides assistance to different activities in 6 Refugee camps and 3 districts of Rusizi, Nyamasheke, and Karongi. In Gihembe and Mahama refugee camps the activities include Economic Empowerment Support to the First-Time Young Mothers (FTYM), Life Skills and Sexual and Reproductive Health Mentorship through Peer Educators, and School Health Clubs. Special focus is bring provided to Adolescents & Youth Living with Disabilities in Refugee Camps, as well as prevention and response services to Gender-Based Violence.