Posts tagged as: nyirasafari

Make Family Promotion Part of Daily Lives – First Lady

By Athan Tashobya

The First Lady, Mrs Jeannette Kagame, has urged government leaders to take family promotion and health as part of governance programmes in order to sustain future aspirations.

While officiating at the launch of a two-month Integrated Governance and Family Promotion Campaign in Kirehe District, yesterday, Mrs Kagame observed that despite efforts already made to promote decent family practices, it is imperative to make good governance and family promotion “part of our daily lives.”

The event brought together different government officials, development partners as well as thousands of Kirehe residents and those from neighbouring areas.

“The Rwanda we want is a transformed country where we see notable changes in people’s lives. It is, therefore, very important that we take into account every aspect of our people’s lives in a broader perspective,” the First Lady said.

“Programmes on family promotion, governance and health are complementary for inclusive development. That’s how Rwanda’s leadership want them to be.”

The five weeks drive is dedicated to a number of activities including: health awareness campaign (Heath Week), gender equality and reproductive health education programmes, in addition to governance and family promotion sensitisation.

Gender and Family Promotion minister Esperance Nyirasafari noted that such a campaign would help find solutions to complex issues affecting families.

Minister Nyirasafari said similar previous campaigns led to the construction of 40 early childhood development centres across the country, while 13 girls who dropped out of school were enrolled into vocational training colleges and offered startup capital.

Up to 12,632 couples, who were not formally married were encouraged to formalise their marital status.

Meanwhile, the Health Week targets to extend family planning services to over 25,000 women, in addition to offering free measles and Rubella vaccinations, according to the Ministry of Health.

The First Lady urged parents against abdicating child upbringing to government, but rather take first responsibility in ensuring that youngsters get proper feeding alongside other basic necessities to allow them to grow in full capacities.

“Let’s find time to talk about our children’s education, let’s provide them with all they need to grow and study well,” she said.

Mrs Kagame also challenged the youth to be cautious of their lives and make positive choices, for they may represent what they would become in future.

She also witnessed “Umuhango wo kworozanya” where beneficiaries of Girinka donated cows to their neighbours.

Girinka is a government scheme under which the poor receive cows.

One UN Rwanda representative Fode Ndiaye commended the government’s role in fostering socio-economic transformation of rural women, emphasising their role in not only providing for their families but also contributing to the communal and global food security-since the majority are farmers.

Continent Urged to Push for Bridging of Gender Digital Divide

By Julius Bizimungu

First Lady Jeannette Kagame and other representatives of governments and international organisations who attended the now-concluded Transform Africa Summit have expressed the need for strategic interventions to bridge the gender digital divide.

They were speaking during the inaugural Smart Africa Women’s Summit at the three-day Transform Africa Summit which concluded yesterday in Kigali.

Mrs Kagame said that Smart Africa goals cannot be achieved without the involvement of women and girls and that to achieve it concerted efforts of all parties are required.

“We, as citizens of the world, are called to leverage our diverse positions to join governmental and non-governmental efforts for the inclusion of women and girls in the heart of the current ICT revolution,” she said.

The First Lady congratulated all the participants that made it possible to draft the Smart Africa Women Declaration which is set for implementation, adding that she looked forward to full engagement of everyone to help bridge the digital divide, enabling women and girls to actively participate in the digital economy.

While technology has proved to be an enabler of economic transformation, the First Lady noted that modern society of digital age continues to show digital divide as women significantly have lower access to these technologies, and that countries should join forces to narrow the gender digital divide.

“Recognising the power of ICT to improve livelihoods, through increased access to information, products, and services, we simply could not ignore the need for platforms that celebrate, and encourage more women and girls, to pursue that field,” she told the participants.

During the event, Zambian Vice-President Inonge Wina commended Rwandan government for the strides made to empower women and girls in many sectors of the economy.

“I want to underscore the progress made by Rwanda in achieving gender parity and equity in all spheres of development, especially in ICT, which forms the core of business for this Transform Africa Summit 2017,” she said.

Investing in STEM education

For Africa to achieve gender parity and equity in this digital revolution, Wina suggested that countries must put more emphasis on education as well as infrastructure.

The Minister for Gender and Family Promotion, Espérance Nyirasafari, said there are principles which will drive the African continent from a digitally divided continent to an equally connected region.

“Today marks the start of convening the Smart Africa Women’s Summit that will bring to the front the interventions to be pursued to empower women and girls in ICT across the continent,” Nyirasafari said.

“Increasing access, affordability, and safety of women in tech; empowering women and girls with digital skills, and increasing participation of women and girls in STEM are the principles that will help us bridge the digital divide in Africa.”

According to Nyirasafari, the highlighted principles were adopted by the Organisation of African First Ladies, academia and other women leaders under the Kigali Smart Africa Women Declaration which was discussed at the sidelines of the Summit.

Karen Bartleson, the president of Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), the world’s largest technical professional organisation, said that countries need to invest in STEM education if they are to rapidly bridge the gender digital gap.

“When young girls and women across the world are exploring educational and professional possibilities in front of them, they are increasingly seeing role models in science and engineering that reminds them of themselves. All of us here today are part of these dynamic role models. Providing educational support in STEM fields is very critical,” Bartleson said.

She added that a well qualified engineering workforce supported by the infrastructure and resources necessary to meet the needs of the population will be at the heart of Africa’s digital transformation.

About the summit

Smart Africa Women’s Summit was the main event at the closure of three-day Transform Africa Summit, which drew around 3,000 delegates.

The summit convened African government leaders and representatives, private sector players, development partners and organisations in ICT.

This year’s summit main focus was on Smart Cities with an aim to ensure African capitals embrace technology to effectively deliver services.

The conference had about 10 side events across multiple topics, including Smart Africa Women’s Summit, business leaders’ symposium, business to business session and Ms. Geek Africa 2017 competition, among others.

Govt to Adopt Children As It Phases Out Orphanages

Photo: The New Times

A child with disability learns how to write (file photo).

By Nasra Bishumba

Three years since the government kicked off search for foster families for children living in orphanages and subsequently started to close down the facilities, the Minister for Gender and Family Promotion Esperance Nyirasafari says several children living with severe disabilities may permanently be under government care because the magnitude of their disability lowers their chances of finding homes.

Nyirasafari announced this while appearing before members of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Social Affairs to respond to concerns raised after the lawmakers visited orphanages of children living with disabilities.

The closure of the orphanages is in line with the national childcare reform strategy aimed at transforming Rwanda’s current childcare and protection regime into a family-based system, where resources are targeted to support families and children.

When the programme kicked off, the National Children’s Council said that there were 33 orphanages with 3325 children countrywide. By August last year, 14 orphanages had been closed and 2294 children adopted.

The minister told the MPs that by the beginning of the exercise, of the total number of children living in orphanages, 95 were living with disability and efforts to find them adoptive families were proving to be hard, something that she blames on the responsibility that comes with taking care of such children.

“Of the 95 children, only 38 were adopted. The government had to take another 24 out of the orphanages and rent four houses for them, where they live and receive specialised care because of the magnitude of their disabilities. There are 33 other children with disabilities who are still living in orphanages. Should they all not get adoptive families, the government will continue to look after them,” she said.

The challenges

Nyirasafari pointed to budgetary constraints among challenges.

“The budget from 2012-2017 was between Rwf114- Rwf122 million. This money is very little compared to the number of children that it is supposed to help and the magnitude of their needs but we have been managing with support from some organisations like Handicap International,” she said.

She also talked of the issue of stigma whereby most of these children are rejected by society and written off as burdens.

MPs react

MP Barthelemy Karinijabo pointed out the need for the National Children’s Council (NCC) to look into the issue of providing financial support to orphanages depending on their needs.

“When we visited the institutions, we found out that NCC gives them the same financial support which was confusing because the gravity of each orphanage’s challenges and the number of children that they support or even the children’s needs are different. This needs to be looked into,” he said.

Karinijabo also advised NCC to put more efforts into building a better and stronger relationship with grassroots players especially sector and district authorities who, he said, are instrumental in keeping an eye on the institutions and any malpractices within.

MP Pierre Claver Rwaka decried the mistreatment of such children, citing an institution in Huye District, Southern Province which the committee said was not appropriately feeding the children.

“The way some of these orphanages treat children is appalling. We went to one called ADAR Tubahoze and we were shocked that children only have one meal a day. On asking why, the caretakers told us that the children’s disabilities made it hard for them to feed them. Can you imagine a child who is supposed to eat thrice a day only taking porridge in the morning and one meal at 2pm? This is unacceptable,” he said.

Rwaka said orphanages that were found to lack minimum requirements should be immediately closed and only reopened after they have fixed what is needed.

On her part, MP Thacienne Mukandamage called on district authorities to keep an eye on the orphanages in their jurisdiction, stressing that what was happening in most areas did not suit the nation’s children.

On the budget issue, Mukandamage said it was important to keenly look into how the money was being used.

“I don’t think that this money is little. The issue here is that the money is not used the right way because most people who run these orphanages are doing this for personal gain. They are running these institutions as if they are personal businesses,” she said.

MP Berthe Mujawamariya wondered if renting houses to accommodate children who have severe disabilities was sustainable.

“Renting houses doesn’t seem to be a sustainable solution when it comes to these children. We have heard that the chances of these children being adopted are very slim. Why doesn’t the government start building permanent homes for them?” she said.

This is not the first time Nyirasafari had been summoned over children living with disabilities. In October last year, the minister met the parliamentary committee on Unity, Human Rights and Fight against Genocide and tasked with finding well equipped and professionally staffed institutions for the children.

Teach Teenagers Contraceptives Use, Says Gender Minister

By Diane Mushimiyimana

There is need to expand birth control teachings among teenagers in part to control teenage pregnancies, the Minister for Gender and Family Promotion Esperance Nyirasafari has said.

Pregnancy among teenage girls in Rwanda increased from 6.1 per cent to 7.3 per cent according to the demographic and health survey 2014/2015.

“Youth are increasingly becoming sexually active,” Minister Nyirasafari said at a workshop in Kigali last week.

“For this reason, it is important that teens are provided with more information on how to do so responsibly by using various contraceptive techniques,” she said.

Her argument resonates with that of child rights advocates who say it is extremely alarming when adolescent girls are experiencing motherhood at a time when their main concern should be far less than those of raising another human being.

Research by different human rights bodies indicate that pregnant girls are pressured to leave school.

Leaving school threatens a girl’s future economic prospects and excludes her from a number of other opportunities in life, therefore perpetuating the cycle of poverty from generation to generation.

Early childbearing also increases health risks for mothers and their newborns, according to health experts.

In low and middle-income countries, babies born to mothers under 20 years of age face a 50 per cent higher risk of being stillborn or dying in the first few weeks as oppsed to those born to mothers aged 20-29, according to the World Health Organisation.

Minister Nyirasafari called on ‘social cluster’ government bodies and non-government partners to move from teaching only abstinence to expose teenagers to information on different forms of birth control, including condoms and other methods of prevention that are available.

She called for more sex and reproductive health information awareness among youth, including how to use different contraceptives.

In an interview with The New Times, Joel Serucaca, a reproductive health officer at Rwanda Biomedical Centre, said that adolescent girls can access any method of contraceptives as long as their health conditions allow.

Some of the medical circumstances considered before recommending contraceptives include history of severe cardiovascular disease, migraines, severe liver disease, HIV status among others.

Dr Serucaca mentioned that the myths of side effects like risking one’s ability to have children in the future when someone starts using modern contraceptives (combined hormonal contraceptives, injectable, implants) before age 18 can be addressed.

He cited the recently initiated Medical Eligibility Criteria by the WHO which indicates that teenagers can use any form of contraceptives of their choice because each contraceptive can be evaluated with respect to particular medical circumstances.

Youth are often afraid to ask adults for contraceptives, he said, so the Rwanda Biomedical Centre and their partners are seeking to strengthen ‘youth corners’ at health centres to make them provide the services effectively.

Kineri Ntore, a family planning officer at Gahini District Hospital, said that normally they receive anyone seeking contraceptives without exception but the youth are reluctant because of cultural and religious beliefs and fear of adults.

She added that they receive some young girls who want contraceptives but they are shy which can change when they are received in youth friendly environment.

The 2014 World Health Statistics indicate that the average global birth rate among 15 to 19 year olds is 49 per 1000 girls. About 16 million girls aged 15 to 19 give birth every year, most in low and middle-income countries.

Parents Urged to Preserve Positive Parenting, Norms

By Diane Mushimiyimana

The Minister for Gender and Family Promotion, Esperance Nyirasafari, has urged parents to ensure that children live in a family environment to learn the country’s positive cultural values and norms.

This, she said, is necessary for children to develop into productive and patriotic citizens. The minister was yesterday addressing the media in Kigali about the forthcoming annual national children’s summit.

The eleventh summit is due tomorrow at Parliament Buildings in Kimihurura under the theme, “Positive Parenting: Foundation of culture.”

The theme was chosen by children from the village to district levels through children forum committees.

This year’s summit calls on all children to preserve Rwandan culture as future productive and patriotic citizens.

It also calls on all child protection stakeholders to help the community and children know how and apply positive norms and values.

The ministry highlights lack of parental care among the main challenges facing Rwandan families.

It notes that, today, most parents are too busy and give little time to parenting sessions aimed at instilling children with positive cultural values and practices meant to enable them to appropriately fit in the community.

“Positive parenting is bedrock of the wellbeing of Rwandan children in families. When children are deprived of this, this is when the country is faced with different issues such as street children, malnutrition, and lack of access to formal education, children sexual or physical violation, among others. This is why we want our children to be protected from all these misfortunes because that’s what they deserve,” Nyirasafari said.

The summit is a platform to advocate for children living on streets, orphanages, transit centers and other child care institutions to have their right to family care.

So far, through the tubarere mu muryango programme, 80 per cent of children who used to live in institutions have been integrated in families.

Street children are also gradually taken back into families, according to the National Council of Children.

Valuing child rights

Ted Maly, UNICEF country representative, said the children’s summit is something they value and have been supporting it over the past 10 years.

He said they will continue to make sure their aspiration are heard and considered for better treatment of children in the society.

“We are glad that Rwanda put children’s rights at the heart of the development and we are proud to be part of this. The summit is a meaningful platform and we hope the government will continue to incorporate children views in development plans and policies for children development,” said Maly.

Meanwhile, Minister Nyirasafari yesterday visited an exhibition stand at Petit Stade in Remera, where different projects advancing children were showcased.

Since 2004, the Government has taken commitment to hold a national children’s summit annually to enhance child involvement and participation in national development.

The 11th National Children’s Summit will bring together 416 children representatives at sector level; 30 child representatives at district level and their chaperons; 30 representatives of children with disabilities (one from each district); and 12 representatives of children from refugee camps.

The heads of social cluster ministries, heads of parliamentary and other government key stakeholders and partners in child rights protection and promotion are also expected to attend.

MINAGRI Tasked to Recover Over Rwf11 Billion From Farmers

By Eugene Kwibuka

Officials at the Ministry of Agriculture (MINAGRI) should move faster to recover more than Rwf11bn worth of fertilisers that was loaned to farmers, Members of Parliament have urged.

The call was made, yesterday, by members of the parliamentary Standing Committee on Political Affairs and Gender as they quizzed Tony Nsanganira, the state minister for agriculture, on issues in the sector raised in the 2014/15 report by the Ombudsman.

The report, which was released last year, indicated that farmers across the country still owe Rwf11,062,039,460 to the ministry for fertilisers that were distributed between 2010 to 2015.

“We need to know the tangible measures in place to recover this money. It has been a long time since the fertilisers were distributed. We should even consider legal action against those not willing to pay so they are forced to do so,” said MP Esperance Nyirasafari, a member of the committee.

MP Alfred Rwasa Kayiranga, the committee chairperson, also urged for a systematic follow-up on the farmers, to talk to them to find out why they are unwilling to pay.

“If people are not paying for the fertilisers, it probably means that they didn’t find them useful. If the fertilisers were useful, the people could have paid for them and went ahead to acquire more. The debt raises issues on how this programme is being followed up,” he said.

In response to the MPs’ queries, Nsanganira said that plans are underway to recover the money, explaining that the ministry has commissioned an investigation to determine how much exactly is owed for the fertilisers and who is responsible for paying the money.

A report of the investigation will be completed in a month, Nsanganira said.

“Once the report is out, everyone involved in delaying the payments will be held accountable. If it is found out that some members of the private sector have a role in delaying payments of the money they could be taken to court,” he reassured the MPs.

Since 2008, the government embarked on a nationwide campaign to promote the use of fertilisers.

Entrepreneurs were contracted to distribute the fertilisers to farmers who were expected to pay after harvest.

That’s how the over Rwf11 billion debt accumulated amidst challenges to recover the money from the farmers who used the fertilisers but were not eager to pay afterwards.

“People didn’t think enough about how to recover the money since we cared more about sensitising farmers to use the fertilisers. Today, we have to go back and look at how to recover the money,” Nsanganira said, explaining that entrepreneurs who were given the fertilisers keep saying that they wait for farmers to pay.

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