The Indashyikirwa Footprint: Personal reflections from working with an intimate partner violence programme in Rwanda

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Intimate partner violence (IPV) is still a persistent reality for many women in Rwanda and this has physical and emotional consequences, which impacts all of us as a community.  Indashyikirwa is an IPV prevention program being implemented by CARE International Rwanda, Rwanda Women’s Network (RWN) and Rwanda Men’s Resource Centre (RWAMREC) in Rwanda, and funded by DFID-Rwanda. Indashyikirwa is being evaluated externally as part of the What Works to Prevent Violence against Women and Girls Programme. As we enter into the last phase and completion of Indashyikirwa, I would like to share my personal takeaways from this four-year program.

My name is Annette N. Mukiga. As the project coordinator of the RWN activities, Indashyikirwa has created a huge shift in my understanding and perception of Gender Based Violence (GBV) programming in the following ways: –

  1. The first Indashyikirwa Baby: Importance of Building Personal Relationships

I had my now 2.6 year old baby as we were entering the program implementation phase and I remember colleagues from the project coming to visit and welcome the 1st “Indashyikirwa baby”. For me, it was a reaffirmation of the trainings we had and emphasized the need to build and invest in personal relationships with the community members we would be working with, such as the Women’s Space Facilitators and Community Activists.

  1. Personal Reflection: It starts with me

Before Indashyikirwa, my experience with prevention of GBV was working with communities with the implied assumption that this is not my problem, but I am rather going to assist other people to overcome their problems. With Indashyikirwa, the process encouraged continuous personal reflection as an integral part of the change that we wanted to see. I think this is key for working to change social norms; we need to constantly reflect on our own personal attitudes and behaviours, and how we are also influenced by societal norms.

  1. Talking About Triggers instead of Causes of GBV

The Indashykirwa program helped me to learn about triggers, rather than essentializing causes of GBV. For instance, the program emphasizes how power imbalances between men and women, poverty and alcohol abuse are not necessarily causes (i.e. not all people in these circumstances will resort to GBV) but can be triggers or contributing factors of GBV. With this lens, we need to come up with ways and tools of managing these triggers, which was a key focus of the Indashyikirwa program.

  1. Challenging Social Norms: Change is a process

Reflecting on the harmful social norms that we need to change and patriarchy as a system that needs to be eliminated (my personal hope as a feminist), I recognize that there are low hanging fruit (quick wins) and high hanging fruits, which is why we need different strategies to promote positive and sustainable change. As we began the program, I remember the heated and controversial debates around the possibility of a household being headed by both spouses and a colleague having issues with the idea of her husband carrying a child on his back. Throughout the program, many of us as staff developed different attitudes towards gendered norms, encouraged through the participatory approach of the programme trainings and activism activities. The fact that we were even questioning, discussing and visioning a different way of doing things is a powerful step towards changing the norms that we know.

  1. Research and Knowledge Generation: Integral to informing programming

The Indashykirwa program was a first for me in relation to working in partnership with a research team responsible for evaluating the project. My previous experience had been evaluators coming as external experts to impress upon the results of our work. At first, the research was an intimidating experience but as we engaged through mutual respect as partners, with capacity building and regular feedback of the data from both the qualitative and quantitative evaluation activities, I realized the importance of this kind of study to inform the quality and impact of our work. With this understanding and appreciation, I personally cannot look at evaluation research the same way; I am born again. The critical need for research and development practitioners to work in partnership to show what works and how it works cannot be ignored. I would like to call upon funding partners to recognize this mutual reinforcement, support and encourage such collaborations.

  1. Funding Flexibility: Value Addition for Impact

I have experienced many firsts with Indashyikirwa including a 9-month inception period for preparing the ground for the project implementation including; developing the intervention, pretesting of curricula and staff training. Flexibility of funding also allowed for new activities to address the gaps and challenges identified from the monitoring and evaluation research data. For long term projects, especially those piloting programmes as was the case with Indashyikirwa, this is very important, as it enhances the overall quality of the program and its impact. My negotiation agenda with funding partners in the future will definitely take this into consideration.

As we look to the future of Indashyikirwa as a program as well as to prevent and respond to GBV broadly, I hope that the learning we have gained from this program continues to inform us going forward. La Lutte Continua.





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