Volunteer Fieldwork: Malaria Prevention Play

Malaria Prevention Play with RAPP — WATCH THE VIDEO!

(a) the objective of the activity

We were to draft a short skit to be performed in Nyamirambo about prevention and treatment methods for malaria. This was to fulfill funding requirements from PSI and the target audience were at risk children and pregnant women. The play was an attempt to raise awareness about malaria symptoms, medication and prevention measures (sleep with a mosquito net, cut high grasses, close windows in the evening, pour out sitting water).

(b) the results of the activity

Later in the morning, we shared our ideas with the actors who had come in for a rehearsal and collaborated to make a final piece. That afternoon, RAPP actors gathered a large audience by using loud music, onstage activity and prizes to appeal to people passing by. The muzungus (white people, GYC international delegates) were also a source of attraction. Then, the skit was performed by these actors and the GYC volunteers to an audience that was gathered around a store front in the village. A discussion was led by RAPP trainers afterwards to ask the audience what they learned from the skit and if they would employ these methods in the future.

The next day, GYC volunteers accompanied RAPP trainers as they scouted out a location in coordination with the local government official for a second performance. Some of the group went to a primary school, unloaded the equipment for the performance in the afternoon and then made an announcement to all of the students. They were gathered in the middle of the school yard, and the RAPP focal point, Phillippe, encouraged all of them to tell their parents about the performance later in the day when they went home for lunch. He successfully rallied the crowd and raised their anticipation for the performance and in turn the GYC international delegates were eagerly greeted by dozens of excited students.

(c) challenges faced and how you overcame them

The language barrier was difficult to overcome when explaining the concept for the skit that GYC volunteers had come up with. With the help of our Rwandan delegate who helped to translate and the use of body language and expression, we were able to communicate the ideas which were ultimately well received. There were some logistical challenges that we had to overcome throughout the day such as a meeting scheduled in the middle of rehearsal and a miscommunication with the local authorities and the owner of the location where we would be performing. During the GYC meeting when we were gone, the actors further cultivated the skit to localize it to our performance venue and then shared with the volunteers what they had done while they were gone. Upon hearing of the discrepancy with the local government and store owner, the project supervisor had an open discussion to fix the problem.

Due to scheduling arrangements beyond our control, we were unable to attend the second performance at the primary school.

(d) next steps planned and recommendations for this activity for the future

Although there are not set plans for continued use of this play, the group now has it in their repertoire and call on it when necessary. Along with every performance RAPP does, it would be helpful to return to the two communities where this play was shared and assess if any changes have been made as a result of seeing this play. If there were messages that were not successfully communicated, adjustments should be made to the play itself. Especially it should be assessed whether having the foreigners in the play had a beneficial impact. If yes, then this should be considered for future actions and collaborations with GYC.

(e) Are there any recommendations for you as alumni as to how you can continue to support this activity in the future?

For this particular project, it would be extremely beneficial for the alumni to write a script of the play and submit it to RAPP so that there is a hard copy to reference if this play will be used again. In comparison with other RAPP “scripts,” this would consist of a detailed synopsis in lieu of specific lines as this allows the actors to personalize and localize the performance. Although it should be noted that there could be a message problem if the actors are not continually monitored for the content of what they are saying.

National Human Rights Commission

Meeting at the National Human Rights Commission

In line with our meeting with the NHRC in Summer 2009, we were briefed again in 2010 by Ms. Hope Tumukunde who is the NHRC’s Commissioner in charge of Gender/Womens’ Rights. Ms. Tumukunde commented about the current human rights situation in Rwanda from the perspective of the NHRC. Commissioner Tumukunde’s presentation focused in large part on the elections and how Rwanda’s peaceful, musical/joyful, campaigns and elections, during which people can move freely from one rally to another, show that Rwanda is achieving success in this realm of free, fair, and participatory elections. She also mentioned that while there are some examples of insecurity in the country, including some witnesses and Genocide survivors being killed following or in advance of gacaca trials, overall the country remains one of the most secure in Africa and that this should be noted as an achievement. In the realm of access to justice, she mentioned that single, contracted judges now preside over cases, and that there has been decentralization of the justice system. She also highlighted Rwanda’s high achievement in granting equality to women, and for certain economic and social rights, such as universal health care, 9yrs of basic education, the 1 cow per household program, along with others.

One of the most enlightening elements of the discussion, in light of our current work, related to the work that the NHRC has done with the batwa communities. Knowing that the NHRC has a commitment to working for the specific issues facing the batwa communities (such as training them to understand their rights and drafting a report about their current situation), we feel that COPORWA can push for a greater alliance with the NHRC as it moves forward, and Ms. Tumukunde encouraged this effort.

In addition, given that we are focusing much on the role of the arts, Ms. Tumukunde noted that the NHRC uses the arts in its work to mobilize young people to take part in contests during which they use the visual arts to reflect on the definitions of human rights. We asked Ms. Tumukunde what, off the top of her head, is the definition the NHRC uses for “human Rights” and she replied “a complex of freedoms that everyone is entitled to.”

Some of the questions that the LAC youth had prepared but did not have time to ask the NHRC included, “Can you please comment on the allegations, which we have heard about from several anonymous sources, that poor people have been expropriated from their land in Kigali and placed in areas where they have little access to the same economic opportunities that they had when they were living inside the city?”

Media High Council

With Reporting from LAC participant Amy Doherty
In a visit to the Media High Council on August 16, the LAC members were able to engage in a lively and informative discussion with Patrice Mulama, the MHC’s Executive Secretary, who graciously delivered an engaging opening talk on  the topic we had requested:  “What is the Role of the Media in the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights?”
Mr. Mulama’s discourse began by explaining the history of the media in Rwanda, and expanded to include issues of human rights and how human rights and the media interact in Rwanda.
Secretary Mulama began the conversation with an overview of the state of the media in Rwanda and how it has evolved alongside the country’s development.   Describing the beginnings of Rwandan mass media through the Catholic Church in 1933, Mulama explained how the media has been used not only as a tool for communication but has also had frequent problems of objectivity and opposition.  These problems came to a fore in the years surrounding the genocide in 1994, as the opening up of political parties in 1991 brought the beginning of independent media such as the infamous RTLM, the radio station in Rwanda most closely connected to hate speech during the genocide.

Later in the conversation, Mr. Mulama explained the development of the Media Law in Rwanda and the efforts of the government to ensure that the events of 1994 are not given the space to recur.  The first post-genocide media law was created in 2002, which Mulama said “liberalized the airwaves”.  In August 2009 a new media law came into being, which punishes people who deny the media access to information with fines, provided the information is in the public interest.  In addition, the confidentiality of sources is taken very seriously in the heart of the media law, as is ownership concentration.
Related to the importance of human rights, Mr. Mulama said that the media is an important tool in the promotion and protection of human rights, and that if the media are not professional and responsible we will see a repeat of the media’s role in 1994.  In addition, Mulama addressed the Media High Council’s role in promoting transparency and accountability in government, saying that “information is a free public good” and that “if you don’t have information then you are powerless”.
The question and answer session was a very enlightening discussion that centered on the media law, the six-month closure of two independent Rwandan newspapers—including Umuseso—and the general role of the media in Rwandan society.
Some revealing quotes from the question and answer session include:
On the restrictions placed on some media seen as promoting “genocide ideology”: “You cannot tell me that today Al Qaeda can be allowed to operate freely in the United States.  But there are people who believe in the ideology of Al Qaeda.  It’s the same thing”
On the rationale for temporarily closing two independent newspapers: “They had begun to become tools of misinformation…tools of insecurity. Did we violate their rights?  Probably, yes.  But we thought we were saving millions of Rwandans.”


mini-Conference on Arts for Peace and Human Rights

With an objective to connect young human rights and peace activists with artists working in Rwanda, as well as to connect the artists with one another

…  And to initiate/further discussions about the relationship between the arts and peacebuilding, and about the relationship between the arts and human rights protection/promotion — in part to see if those terms “peace” and “human rights” mean the same thing to various artists and activists

And believing that all of this connection and exploration would advance the work of activists and artists, either working together or separately…

Global Youth Connect and AJPRODHO (the Youth Association for Human Rights and Development) partnered with ISHYO, one of Rwanda’s premiere creative arts NGOs, to create a mini-conference to join the 14 Foreign and 14 Rwandan youth from the GYC/AJPRODHO human rights learning and action community with 20 artists from and/or working in Rwanda. The participants of the conference ranged in age from 19-50 years old.  There were participants from Rwanda, the United States and Canada.  The experience level in the specific artistic disciplines were from 1 year to 36 years.

I think today helped solidify for me the inter-connectedness of human rights and peace building work with the arts in a new way.  I have spent too long seeing them as separate things so the linked relationship now has become more clear.

— Conference Participant, Final Survey

The afternoon included:

  • An interactive introductory activity in which all participants shared something about themselves
  • An introduction to the conference along with portions of the inspiring film, Acting Together on the World Stage, created by the Coexistence Program of Brandeis University.
  • A large-group review of the terms “arts, peace, human rights” and their relationship to one another, and a discussion about how they can be interpreted in varying ways.
  • Break-out Sessions in small groups brought the artists from various disciplines together for more in depth discussions about their crafts’ relationship to peace/HR.
  • A large group presentation/discussion of the break-out session findings, some wrap-up comments
  • A final survey/evaluation
  • A networking/celebration dinner
  • Typing of a contact list for continued networking of and communication with the participants

For More Info and Pictures! Please see the attached REPORT

LIPRODHOR – League for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights in Rwanda

It was our great pleasure to sit and discuss with Gertrude Nyampinga, the Executive Secretary of LIPRODHOR again, as we had met with her previously in the summer of 2009.

LIPRODHOR is organized with several offices countrywide with 96 volunteers/animators, researchers and lawyers who raise awareness about rights and their violations, and who try to create a network for seeking assistance and justice. Their mission includes prisoner’s rights, monitoring of elections, and, when in session, the monitoring of genocide trials at Gacacas.

“When you defend the rights of others, you are protecting yourself.”

— Gertrude Nyampinga, Executive Secretary, LIPRODHOR


Located within a secluded quiet part of Kacyiru, Ivuka Arts Kigali is anything but quiet.  Ivuka Arts has been loudly triumphing contemporary Rwandan art since 2007.  Bright murals and a welded sign adorn the congregated metal wall welcome visitors to the studio space.

A few members of the August Arts for Peace delegation were fortunate to meet with Colin Sekajugo, founder and director of Ivuka Arts.  Collin gave a brief rundown of the myriad of activities that take place at Ivuka.

  • Jewelry making classes
  • Gallery space that represents 21 artists
  • Studio space for emerging and established artists
  • RwaMakondera (Rwandan Horns) Children’s Dance Troupe

Ivuka is a self-described, “innovative project aims to restore Rwanda’s contemporary cultural heritage by honing the skills of promising young artists and providing a platform for their exposure.”  One way Ivuka achieves this goal is seen within Ivuka artist training program.  Ivuka provides free materials and training to emerging artists for an initial 6-month period.  In addition to that, Ivuka returns the full retail price of a sold work of art while the artist is in the training period.  Following the initial 6-month period, Ivuka takes a 20% commission (much less than the traditional 50% gallery cut), which is put into running the place.

Another way Ivuka hones the skills of promising young artists can be noted in the RaeMakondera Children’s Dance Troupe.  In 2009, the Children’s Dance Troupe performed at a Festival in Holland.  As Colin explained to the delegation, many of the children in the Dance Troupe had never visited downtown Kigali, yet the children were fortunate enough to catch the plane to another country.

While the delegation was visiting Ivuka, children from the Dance Troupe met to prepare for a wedding ceremony, mothers were making jewelry to sell, heads of NGO’s stopped in to buy artwork for their families, and tourists came into peek around the shop.

Aug 9th Elections Observations

For just the second time since 1994 Rwandans came to polling places across the country on August 9 to vote for their presidential candidate.

See the Short Version of our Video from the Day.

See the Long Version of our Video from the Day.

While the incumbent, President Paul Kagame was re-elected with 93 percent support there were three opposition candidates—Jean Damascene Ntawukuriryayo of the Social Democratic Party received 5.15 percent of the votes, Prosper Higiro of the Liberal Party with 1.37 percent, and Alvera Mukabaramba of the Party for Progress and Concord with .4 percent—and plenty of election fervor to go around.

In the run-up to the elections President Kagame’s party, the RPF (Rwandan Patriotic Front, or FPR as it is known here in Rwanda by its French acronym), held countless rallies around the country that drew thousands, sometimes hundreds of thousands, of local residents.  On the eve of the elections the whole country observed a “blackout day”, where no campaigning was permitted, and all posters and other campaign materials were removed from the public sphere.  It was the first day since our arrival that we were not awash with “Tora (elect) Kagame” slogans and billboards reminding citizens to “vote responsibly”.

The morning of August 9 brought a very different feel to Kigali.  Businesses throughout the city were closed for the day, encouraging workers to go out and vote, and colorful polling places had sprung up in schools and businesses citywide.  Our group left mid-morning to venture with one of our Rwandan delegates to her polling place—which also happened to be President Kagame’s polling place—where we observed the process from the inside.  We then accompanied another of our delegates to his polling place in another of Kigali’s many neighborhoods.

Voting, which appeared to be quite an enjoyable activity for the people who arrived in this large polling place, was quite a sight.  The rooms of the polling places we visited were divided by sector, and each room was decorated differently and seemed to have a different feel.  Some rooms were decorated in blue, yellow, and green (the colors of Rwanda’s flag), some with a “traditional” Rwandan motif, and still others in colors and decorations as varied as Kigali itself.  Both polling places also played inspirational music over loudspeakers, with songs centered on voting, elections, change, and generally positive themes.  While the decorations and music made quite an impression, the real interest amongst our group was the people, who flowed steadily into both polling places and placed their ink fingerprint next to the candidate who would receive their vote.

After a morning of unofficially observing the polls our group went to the home of one of our Rwandan delegates for a delicious lunch and a taste of Rwandan banana beer, or urwagwa.  We spent the afternoon discussing what we had seen, watching election-related television interviews, and soaking in the feel of a day of incredible importance for the country.

Of Rwanda’s approximately 10 million citizens, roughly 97 percent of eligible voters came to vote on election day, which is a sharp contrast with voter turnout in both the United States (about 60 percent in 2008, the highest since the 1960s), and Canada (58 percent in 2008, the lowest turnout since 1898).  While we went into election day aware of the controversy surrounding Rwanda’s elections, President Kagame, and the RPF, we were nonetheless impressed by the order with which elections were carried out, and the enthusiasm surrounding the entire process.  The day left our human rights delegation with quite a bit to think about, and raised questions which we will continue to consider as we carry on with our learning and action community.

Partners in Health

Thursday afternoon we visited Rwinkwavu Hospital, where Partners in Health has set up one of its three district programs in Rwanda. Partners in Health (PIH) was founded in 1981 through Paul Farmer’s  program in Haiti and has expanded to ten countries and came to Rwanda in 2005. PIH provides health care and social justice for the communities which it serves. It initially started to help HIV/AIDS and TB patients, but now all basic hospital services are provided. In addition to medications, patients are given social services such as food support, school fees, transportation fees to and from the hospital, help for house reparations and agricultural training. The families of severely malnourished patients are trained to cultivate a kitchen garden which has many plants rich in important nutrients. They are supported for six months and if they are not self-sufficient after that time period, they receive continued assistance in keeping their gardens. While at the hospital, we also saw a children’s center where PIH establishes counseling groups of teenagers living with HIV/AIDS where they can encourage each other and learn about living with the disease. One part of their program is to create anti-stigma groups to help educate others.

Our discussion after our visit created an opportunity for the Rwandan participants to explain their health insurance system to the international participants. We learned about how the government requires everyone to have insurance and provides varying levels of coverage depending on how much you pay. For example, if one has a yellow card, they can go to the local health center for free and have an appointment, but they will likely have to cover the cost of their own prescription medications. We also talked about family planning in Rwanda in general and in regards to HIV/AIDS.

USAID and Defining Development

On the third day of the LAC we had the opportunity to meet with the Democracy and Governance (DG) department of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).  The DG team discussed the projects it helps fund and the process of how money is allocated.  USAID partners with the Rwandan government, contractors and civil society organizations to carry out a variety of programs, ranging from economic development, peace building and reconciliation to justice and policy reform.

At one point one of the DG representatives commented, “You can’t have sustainable development without accountability.”

Because this delegation has a special interest in how the arts connect to human rights and development, the DG team specifically pointed out programs that utilize elements of the arts, such as the Rwanda Peacebuilding Project which utilizes theater and music to address human rights and democracy.

The DG staff were very interested and supportive of finding the connection between the arts, development and human rights.

They asked the LAC to follow up with a list of recommendations and suggestions regarding the relationship between the arts and the work USAID is doing. We have done this in one way or another through the Arts for Peace Conference.

After leaving USAID, the Learning at Action community spent the afternoon working in small groups to discuss the definition of development and the relationship between development and human rights.

In the end, we discussed how these concepts are different but related, can be both positive or negative, and the debate about their relationship is something that continues among organizations and individuals engaged in development and human rights work today.

During this conversation, one Rwandan participant commented, “There are so many people we need to focus on.  We need to focus so we can raise up together.”


Murakaza Neza to August’s ‘Arts for Peace’ LAC! & Our LAC’s working definition of Human Rights

August 2, 2010

with contributions from all LAC members

Discussing the definition of "Human Rights"

The International and Rwandan participants had the chance to meet and intermingle after much growing anticipation to the start of the August Arts for Peace delegation.  The North Americans and Rwandans introduced each other to the group.  In doing so, many interesting human rights questions were raised which we hoped will be answered during the next three weeks – a selection of which follows:

– how do we bring an awareness of Human Rights into our homes and break down stereotypes?

– can Human Rights protect all people from all things?

– how can different Human Rights programs, advocates and activists work together?

– can we create a universal definition of Human Rights?

– how does cultural diversity affect the Universal Declaration of Human Rights?

Together with our volunteer organizations and other partners, government officials and members of Rwandan civil society, the international and Rwandan participants form the Learning and Action Community (LAC). The LAC will work to explore a common definition of human rights as well as the sustainable achievements of the Arts in Rwanda and America’s activism, advocacy and development communities.  LAC members will learn from each other and identify and develop skills to research, raise awareness and take action to promote and protect human rights.

As an introduction to human rights, we created various definitions of what we believed human rights meant.  Each group was composed differently: an all Rwandan group, all North American, all women, mixed, etc.  In the end, a group comprised entirely of Rwandans formed the definition which received the popular vote as it possessed a sense of community, “the value of the human being which must be respected by others”.  Even though this definition was widely accepted,suggestions for its improvement included adding in the word “intrinsic” to explain the essential nature of human value and adding reference to our individual and collective “responsibility” so as to pinpoint the duties inherent in respecting rights.

Our final activity was to break into our five organizations (COPORWA, AJPRODHO, RAPP, ISHYO, and UYISENGA N’MANZI – for more information – see the Volunteer Organizations tab above) and figure out how the participants would work with them over the course of their volunteer fieldwork.

As the day progressed, all participants felt more and more at ease and an increasingly comfortable atmosphere emerged with various Rwandan songs and dances being taught.  After such a positive and successful day, the next three weeks are bound to be thought provoking and productive – creating many strong, diverse and innovative partnerships.  We look forward to reporting our tangible results!