Muhanga District, Southern Province
“Health is very important to development because no development without health. When people are in good health, they create and innovate, they think about projects and realize them using appropriate materials and their arms.” –NZAGATUMA Aline, student at Groupe Scolaire Kibangu
Aline is a fourteen year old Rwanda girl who is actively involved in the GLOW Club at G.S. Kibangu, the school where I work. I would describe her as small and springy with the most beautiful smile that she is not afraid to share with the world. I read her response to the assignment and knew she would be a perfect fit to attend the Healthy Living Workshop in Kigali put on by Peace Corps GAD committee.
I asked the BE Club what they believed they biggest health problem in Rwanda was for their assignment. Hubert, the president, responded,
“The biggest health problem in Rwanda is HIV/AIDS. I think all people of Rwanda can listen advice of Government and to avoid sexual intercourse without condom.”
I appreciated his response because of his candidness and thoughtfulness. As a 16 year-old Rwandan boy he understood that he has a responsibility to help with health problems in his country. Hubert was also invited to attend the Healthy Living Workshop.
So early on Friday Morning May 22nd we met at the mini-bus stand in my village and we began our adventure. We met with another volunteer, Kim, and her students for lunch in Kigali and then we explored the city. We walked past the president’s house, saw some fruit bats, walked past the most fancy hotels, and saw the big banks. The highlight of the day was our ride up a glass elevator in Kigali City Tower. Most of the students had never been in an elevator before, so the experience was both wonderful and a bit scary for them.
The Healthy Living Workshop was held at a hotel near the Amahoro Stadium in Kigali. There were 18 volunteers in attendance, 3 leading the workshop and 15 who brought students. The students were from all over the country, with different backgrounds and opportunities. At first they were a little shy but by the end of the weekend they found new friends.
On Saturday the students had classes on Nutrition, Exercise, Body Image/Self Esteem, Mental Health, and HIV/AIDS. They discussed how these issues pertain to both men and women but in different ways. Empowering both women and men to lead healthy lives contributes to gender equality in a variety of ways. For example education on women’s health allows women to make well-informed decisions when it comes to their reproductive health, mental health, and nutrition. This gives women the power over their own bodies, which traditionally were often under the control of their husbands. Educating men on mental health and self esteem gives them healthy ways to cope with stress and other emotions which can in turn reduce violence and substance abuse. Also by educating young men about sexual health they can hold equal responsibility in practicing safe sex. Education about healthy living is critical to promoting gender equality for both sexes.
After the students finished their lessons, we made an action plan for our school. Aline and Hubert plan to teach these same lessons in their GLOW and BE clubs at the school, thus spreading the knowledge even further. They also agreed to talk to their basketball and football (soccer) teams about some of the information they learned and do some of the activities with them. As they educate more and more of their peers the benefits of the workshop will be seen throughout the community.
We finished the day with some wacky Olympics that included a dance competition, a dribbling race, and an egg on the spoon race. Both Aline and Hubert did a fantastic job and really put their all into the races.
It was a blue-sky morning as we walked over to the stadium on Sunday. The Kigali Peace Marathon was the big event, but our thirty students along with four of us volunteers ran the 5K Fun run. I ran around the stadium with Olive, a young female student. We kept a slow but consistent pace, and soon enough were back at the stadium. I told her to finish strong and we sprinted across the finish line. One of the students actually won the 5K race, which was very exciting. After lots of photos and some snacks we headed home. With more knowledge and lots of enthusiasm to share all that we learned with our friends at home.