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Community Engagement & Service

From Grassroots to Government: Women and Youth Empowerment in Rwanda

Kigali, Rwanda

School place picture

Photo Credit Rwanda Program Student Leaders from previous program participation.

The Program:

Conflict is known to disproportionately affect both youth and women. The same applies to the aftermath of conflict, with youth and women suffering the brunt of the hardships that follow. With this in mind, the argument for youth and women empowerment becomes even more pressing, with life and sustainable livelihoods being on the line. Rwanda has taken notice to this necessity for empowerment, especially with the post-genocide trevails that have been faced by the nation. However, what's most important in delving into is not necessarily stating "empowerment" as an end-all solution, but understanding what empowerment truly means. Regarding youth, the importance of them recognizing their own value is of paramount importance. For a community to accept youths as being vital pieces in the societal puzzle makes their own self-worth and potential increase. With challenges such as drug-addiction, homelessness, and lacking family members plaguing the youths of nations such as Rwanda, youth empowerment becomes a necessity. Collective empowerment, which usually happens in stable conditions with family members, must be supplemented with other alternatives to help youth be recognized as the necessary beings that they are. Regarding women empowerment, the definition of "empowerment" yet again becomes important. While many politicians and press outlets claim that higher female education rates immediately lead to better empowerment, there is a missing component that should be identified. This component is the idea that even with access to a resource (such as education) comes the truth that said resources is still not controlled. Such is true when many nations boast high female education rates yet yield low female parliamentary compositions. In many sub-Saharan African nations, women find their empowerment in their own small-businesses and ability to conduct cross-national trade.  

Week One: 
December 28 
Depart from Dulles Airport 

December 29 
Arrive at house, meet with chaperones 

December 30 
Kigali Genocide Memorial- Learn about the genocide and hold discussions with the museum representatives Ntarama Catholic Church- Learn about the brutality of the genocide Nyamata Catholic Church- Learn about the brutality of the genocide  

December 31 
Tour of Kigali and area surrounding the house New Year’s Eve activities in the evening 

January 1 
Never Again Rwanda- Learn about youth empowerment initiatives and hold discussions Niyo Art Studio- Learn about how the proceeds of an art studio empower street kids; watch traditional dance performances by street kids 

January 2 Tubahumurize Association: learn about how domestic violence affects social developments in Rwanda; hear stories from victims and economic empowerment opportunities that help make women more independent Women for Women International: Learn about how this organization provides a platform for women to become economically self sufficient after the genocide 

January 3 
Open a Door Foundation- Meet with young high school women preparing for college abroad UNICEF Rwanda- Learn about UNICEF’s work and working with the government to promote the rights of women and children in Rwanda  
Week Two: 
January 4 
Belgian Soldier’s Memorial- Learn about the repercussions on foreign powers during the Rwandan Genocide Presidential Palace- Learn about how the genocide was calculated January 5 REST DAY- Check ins 

January 6 
Les Enfants de Dieu- Interact with street children by participating in various events (soccer, dancing, stories) 

January 7 
Travel to Butare- Visit King’s Palace and Murambi Genocide Memorial 

January 8 
National University of Rwanda- participate in Unity and Reconciliation Club with university students RYSO (Rwanda Youth Student Organization)- Meet with university students and have a round table discussion on Rwanda and the United States  

January 9 
Meet with local government leaders in Butare to discuss social development in rural areas of Rwanda Rwanda Village Concept Project- Meet with a university student led organization focusing on public health issues in rural areas 

January 10 
Travel to Lake Kivu- Hike the lake island and swim Rest day and check-ins 

Week Three: 
January 11 
Travel to Kigali Twiyunge- Learn about the reconciliation process with this group of youth survivors and perpetrators 

January 12 
Nyamirambo Women’s Center- Learn about economic empowerment opportunities for women through sewing and selling goods Kigali Central Market- Explore the market and purchase various Rwandan wares and crafts Depart from Kigali for Washington, DC

Quick Facts

Destination: Kigali, Rwanda

Cost: $3,000

Dates: December 28, 2017 - January 12, 2018

Faculty Adviser: TBD

Cost includes: Airfare, lodging, meals, ground tranportation, guides, admission fees, visa, travel insurance, and administrative fees.

Cost does not include: Immunizations & passport fees. 


Meet Your Student Leaders!

Isabella Mezzatesta is a senior majoring in International Relations and French with a focus on U.S foreign policy and development. She was also a participant on the 2016 program to Rwanda that had a similar focus on women and youth empowerment. Isabella is excited to give other students the same opportunity she had and shed light upon a model country for social and economic progression. 

Ken Mann is a senior majoring in International Relations with a focus on global economics and development. He was a participant on the 2016 program to Rwanda that also focused on youth and women empowerment. Ken hopes to see more students at American University have the experience he had and be able to tell the amazing story of Rwanda’s strong and resilient citizens.