Helping vulnerable young people in Rwanda towards a brighter future
Survivors Fund (SURF) is pleased to announce that it has been awarded a grant by the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID). Delivered in partnership with the Association of Student Genocide Survivors (AERG), the £323, 000 project “Empowering Vulnerable Young Survivors who have left Secondary School to Create, Secure and Sustain Employment” (ELE) will help 9,000 vulnerable people to improve their lives. Marie, from Huye, Southern province, tells her story below – she lost her family when she was only 8 years old. ELE aims to help Marie, and many others like her, in overcoming the challenges they face as young adults today.
“Before the Genocide, I had two parents and 8 siblings. I was the last born in my family. We were living here in Huye. In the genocide, all of them died.”
This 30-month ground-breaking project , starting mid April 2015, will deliver support to 2,000 young adults, in the Eastern and Southern regions of Rwanda and reach out to a further 7,000 people (dependents and employees of new businesses). Recognizing the incredible challenges faced particularly by young women in Rwanda, the project will have a 70% gender focus on women. In doing so, ELE will empower women to engage more in local decision making, and increase the number of female entrepreneurs in Rwanda.
The achievements of Rwanda in rebuilding from the devastating genocide to become a leading light in East Africa are remarkable. Severe post-conflict issues and extreme poverty have been addressed in a systematic and effective fashion, yet today nearly five million people still live below the poverty line.
Youth in Rwanda represent a majority of the population (over 60%) and many are disadvantaged due to their low socioeconomic status. Young survivors, predominantly young women, face considerable problems and grave psychological, social and economic challenges in securing employment. Many survivors were very young when they saw their entire families wiped out in brutal conditions and they have in most cases had to face life alone as children and young adults and had to fend for themselves.
“It was hard for me to get good grades because I was always trying to find work and didn’t have the time to study.”
Despite the support networks that were gradually put in place through local and national government support and through NGOs, many have fallen through the gaps and today in their early to late 20s are struggling to either complete their education or find meaningful employment. As these kids begin to consider parenthood and adult life, ELE provides some of them with a significant opportunity to bridge the gap, and transform their lives from extreme poverty to self-sustaining lives allowing them to become strong and confident, to support their dependents and to participate fully in their communities.
Working in collaboration with AERG, (Student Survivors Association) ELE will reduce the extreme poverty experienced by young survivors and their dependents, by ensuring that they have the skills, resources and confidence to generate income. Many will have fallen outside of the AERG or other association membership, and so this will also be an opportunity for beneficiaries to reconnect with group life. The project goals will be achieved by facilitating training to develop viable livelihoods, empower youth to access legal and health services, and access capital for the establishment of new businesses. By enabling them to create and secure income, ELE will eradicate their extreme poverty and hunger, and support them to live more productive, self-sufficient lives.
“Some days in the month, I will go the whole day without eating. I can get by only when I find casual labour, and I cultivate cassava and beans.”
The project strongly builds on the model of support that SURF has developed and learnings from programmes with DFID, Big Lottery and Comic Relief work with genocide widows, in partnership with AVEGA (Widowed Survivors Association), as well as SURF youth entrepreneurship projects, in partnership with AERG. ELE will coordinate closely with local government in selecting the beneficiaries and in facilitating the delivery of the project. It is anticipated that aspects of the trainings will reach out to the wider community and other young people, in addition to the resulting income generation projects providing jobs and improved conditions for all.
As the first large scale institutional funding secured with AERG, ELE is a necessary innovation in providing wraparound support to young survivors that are still suffering from the consequences of the genocide. The project will empower this vulnerable, and often forgotten target group, to build their confidence and create their own solutions to the poverty they face. It will also consolidate the work between SURF and AERG in recent years to help build this vibrant youth survivor organisation to become an even stronger player in Rwandan civil society whilst focusing on its core mission.
“If I could get the support, I would be willing to start a business. I would go into trading of clothes and shoes at the market. I need training and then support to have a business.”
In preparation for the DFID-funded ELE project, SURF and AERG staff travelled to Southern and Eastern provinces in April to collect the testimonies of young women who will participate in the ELE project. We show here a transcript of our meeting with Marie in Huye, that she agreed to share with us.
Marie Gorethe Nyirabeza is 28 years old, from Huye, Southern province of Rwanda.
Tell us your story
Before the Genocide, I had two parents and 8 siblings. I was the last born in my family. We were living here in Huye. In the genocide, all of them died. Every relative in my family died. After it was over, I was raised in different houses and families, passing from place to place. I started in primary school again very late, and later on FARG gave me a scholarship to continue my secondary school education. When I was in Secondary School, I was living with an old woman, but I started having trouble with her. The local leaders in this sector knew how hard my life had been, and when I no longer had a place to stay, the government supported me to build this house in 2012.
It was hard for me to get good grades because I was always trying to find work and didn’t have the time to study. I was finally able to get a scholarship from NSPA for University in Huye, but the classes were on nights and weekends. It was very difficult for me to get there, because I often needed to travel far and on my own at night. One night when I was coming home from school, an unknown person raped me and I got pregnant. I had to stop going to school. I am now 7 months pregnant.
Sometimes I eat and sometimes I don’t. Maybe, if I am lucky, I can eat once in a day. Some days in the month, I will go the whole day without eating. I can get by only when I find casual labour, and I cultivate cassava and beans. When I harvest, I can eat, but that is not all the time. There’s not any other support I get from anyone. I have no relatives alive anymore.
I try to live in harmony with people here, but the challenge of being alone makes it difficult to feel a part of my community. If I could get the support, I would be willing to start a business. I would go into trading of clothes and shoes at the market. I need training and then support to have a business. I’ve been unable to start a business so far because I don’t have any start up capital.
Have you ever wanted to receive counselling?
I have many challenges. I would like to receive counselling.
Do you have a legal case?
Yes. I have a legal case. Someone took the land of my mother during the genocide. I tried to go to local court but I found that it would create more problems because the person I was fighting against was stronger than me. I couldn’t win. If I got help, I would pursue it more.
When I was raped, I didn’t know the man and I waited to tell anyone what had happened. After a long time, I went to the local government to report it, but they told me it was too late. Nobody did anything.
What hopes do you have for the future?
That is a hard question. It is hard for me to see a future. It is hard to have hopes. But if I can get support, I want to develop myself. I want to start a business. If I could make enough money to continue my studies, I could become a manager in an organization