HUNDREDS MARCH FOR HOPE ON THE LAUNCH OF NEW VIOLENCE PREVENTION PROGRAMME IN RWANDA

Erin Stern, Study Coordinator of What Works Impact Evaluation of Indashyikirwa, on preventing GBV and building healthy relationships in families

A few weeks ago, on Friday 4 December 2015, a swathe of people decked out in orange – the colour of hope and the theme colour for the International Day to Eliminate Violence Against Women in Rwanda – made their way through the Northern Rwandan town of Musanze, clapping, dancing and chanting songs to the string and bow of the umuduri, calling for an end to gender-based violence. They had all come to be a part of the official launch of Indashyikirwa, a DFID-funded project designed to empower women and engage men, to prevent violence against women and girls (VAWG).

Indashyikirwa – which means agents of change –is a three-year project, coordinated by CARE Rwanda, Rwanda Men’s Resource Center (RWAMREC) and Rwanda Women’s Network (RWN), which is giving couples and opinion leaders special training to challenge the attitudes, norms and practices that catalyse violence in relationships. Couples are given relationship skills and will be taught and supported by RWAMREC to act as community mobilisers and ‘change agents.’ Indashyikirwa also supports the Rwanda Women’s Network (RWN) to create support spaces for women in the response sector, and conduct training and advocacy work around VAWG prevention with key opinion leaders. An evaluation of the programme is being funded and conducted by What Works, to ascertain what elements are successful and could be replicated elsewhere.

One couple who have completed two sessions of the Indashyikirwa couples curriculum spoke out at the launch; “It is a beautiful gift you gave to me. It has started to bring change in my family because of the take home reflections. We need to take home and practice what we have been talking about in the sessions,” the wife said.

Her husband added: “I was coming every day late at home, even 11 pm. I didn’t care. But now I have learned how to come home earlier because I know that it’s important for the family. Now the children start to get used to me because I am coming home earlier, and I have more time with them. I am happy because of trainings I am getting. And now I am participating in different work at home because I came home earlier. I am sure that many things will come with the future sessions.”

In response, Richard Badacoka of the Rwanda Women’s Network (RWN), emphasized how “Indashyikirwa is a three-year project, you can see in less than a month of starting, we already have these testimonies. Slowly we will have something great.” Richard Badacoka was the Master of Ceremony of the Launch, and opened with a reflection on the theme of the 16 days of Activism for Rwanda, which was to take the roots out of gender-based violence (GBV) from the ground up. Other presenters at the launch included the Representative of the Executive Secretary of Gacaca Sector, Hakizimana Innocent, the Director of CARE Rwanda, Bena Musembi, the Executive Secretary of RWAMREC, Eduouard Munyamaliza, and the Director of RWN, Mary Balikungeri.

Clementine Uwimpaye, a representative of the women’s council in Gacaca Sector, who had also just completed a 10-day opinion leader Indashyikirwa curriculum facilitated by RWN, spoke out: “We have started the journey, we can say that we need to be examples as opinion leaders as others will see what we do, the change within us, which will help people to change because we have started by ourselves.”

The Head of DFID Rwanda, Laure Beaufils, also spoke about how addressing GBV is one of DFID’s top priorities because “it is one of the most pervasive violations of human rights in the world, one of the least prosecuted crimes, and one of the greatest threats to lasting peace and development. Gender-based violence has tremendous costs to communities, nations, societies, families, public well-being, health and safety, school education, productivity, law enforcement, national and local budgets and programmes. This will provide evidence which can be used to support decisions on whether and how to scale up the programme in other parts of Rwanda.”

The Representative of Musanze District, Martin Nitrenganya added, “a family which has violence can never develop”. He applauded the efforts of Indashyikirwa and urged the community to take advantage of “this blessing we have received. Let us please take it with two hands and try to take care of it because it is a precious gift…let’s take proper efforts in building healthy relationships in our families.”

The Representative from the Ministry of Gender, Marie Claire Uwaamahoro, further discussed how “Indashyikirwa will be focusing on how we can balance our power, the root cause of quarrels in the family, which is very special for this project.” She emphasized how ending GBV is everyone’s responsibility: “let’s all put together men and women, boys and girls to take out the root of GBV. And together we will achieve something big.” After such encouraging and committed speeches from this diverse range of beneficiaries and stakeholders, many people came together to sing and dance to officially close the Indashyikirwa launch.

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