June 2, 2009

Rwanda Conscious Social Change Program: Project Number 1755

Location: Kigali, Rwanda

During our brief time in Rwanda, we have heard about a broad range of problems: young girls being attacked in latrines; female business owners unable to read, write, or use a calculator; disabled women trading sex for water; women forced into prostitution to afford food for their children; and many others. How can one organization possibly address such a broad range of problems? It’s simple: empower the grassroots to find and implement their own solutions. This is how Global Grassroots has been able to change so many lives. They teach women about the power they have in their own communities, work with them to identify the root causes of their local problems, and how to develop sustainable solutions. Further, this organization equips women with skills to develop a strategic plan, to fundraise independently and to operate as a lasting organization.

At every project we visited, we found women that had gained confidence in themselves, and, consequently, had begun to respond to problems in their local communities. In their own words, they have become “agents of change.” The success of Global Grassroots is best exemplified in the achievements f the four projects we visited during our stay. These projects are briefly described below.

Project 1: Helping School Age Girls Stay Safe

In a community thirty minutes outside of Kigali, a group of teachers noticed that girls were dropping out of school, and others were complaining of being attacked and harassed in the latrines. We saw that the latrines were crumbling, and lacked any privacy (no doors, ceilings, etc). According to the president of the group the boys and girls use the same latrines, which led to the violence. Because of a lack of privacy, girls were too embarrassed to come to school during their period. Today, through a partnership with Global Grassroots, this group of teachers has began to build new latrines (separating boys and girls) and to educate the community about issues facing young girls. Because of the networking skills this group learned through Global Grassroots the local government has also contributed tremendous support, and more latrines.

Project 2: Improving Quality of Life Through Access to Water

In another community, a lack of access to water forced women to walk two hours to collect water, children to miss school because they were busy collecting water, and handicapped women to trade water for sex. Having attended Global Grassroots training, a group of women from a local church decided to set up a rainwater collection system to provide water access to the community, as well as a source of income from the profits. Aside from providing the training, Global Grassroots provided the otherwise unattainable start up costs (such as tanks) for a project that still serves 200 families today.

Of the 22 Global Grassroots projects throughout the country, time only allowed us to visit two others. For one project, Global Grassroots helped the group buy 15 sewing machines to teach former prostitutes an income generating project to escape the sex-trade. The last project taught female business owners to read, write, and do basic math, making it possible for them to profitably manage their businesses. One woman, Zahara, happily told us that now she can help her children with their homework. The countless stories about women like Zahara are a testament to the phenomenal work of Global Grassroots.

To learn more about this project and how you can help, visit: www.globalgiving.com/1755.