What inspired you to stop the violence?
Ange: The Rwanda Girl Guides Association is the largest organisation focused solely on girls. As a result, we’ve seen the issues girls face first-hand. Many girls face issues such as violence and are vulnerable to teen pregnancy whether they live in the city or countryside. Some guides have dropped out because they fell pregnant or got married. Others were too poor and unable to provide for their basic needs.
Why did you decide to include boys as part of the action plan?
Germaine: We launched the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts’ Stop the Violence campaign in Rwanda in 2011. At first our efforts were focused on girls, but we realised if we really want to make a change, we must include boys and men too. Once boys realised that taking a stand would help their sisters, mothers, cousins and relatives, they were on board.
Is that how the anti-violence club started?
Germaine: Yes! The boys decided girls had been working on the issue of violence for far too long and it was time for them to do something about it.
What happens at the anti-violence clubs?
Ange: Girl Guide leaders share the Voices Against Curriculum (a non-formal education curriculum for children in schools and communities) across the groups, using it to generate debate and discussion. The young people also discuss ways that they can make a change in their community, such as discussing the issue of violence with their fathers, brothers, educating them about why it’s not right. The groups have continued to grow and girls have joined too.
Shouldn’t girls be able to discuss the issue of violence with male family members?
Germaine: In theory, yes, but when girls exercise their rights in Rwanda, they are seen as exaggerating or making trouble If we want to change the mindset of men, the discussion needs to start with another man.
Ange: I agree. Men aren’t interested in listening to girls. They want to hear a man’s voice.
How are Girl Guides involved in anti-violence clubs?
Ange: The educators are Girl Guides. We’re always present, providing materials, flipcharts and educational modules.
Where do the clubs take place?
Ange: The anti-violence clubs take place in schools. However, we also reach out to the communities. We want to raise awareness about Stop the Violence across Rwanda.
What kind of impact are these anti-violence groups having?
Ange: We’ve seen a positive change in attitude so far. In some communities, the campaign is still met with resistance, but we’re trying to overcome this.
Germaine: When boys return from their holidays, they always share stories about how they’re educating their families about violence. I remember one boy telling me: “We used to have troubles in families, but now we understand why girls and women deserve equal rights.”