At Bweramvura Primary, a game of soccer is underway on a field overlooking the ridges and valleys that give Rwanda the name “Land of a Thousand Hills”. The scenery is stunning, but it is the sight on the pitch that is the most impactful: boys and girls playing together as equals. Not long ago, co-ed sports were forbidden. Girls were seen as unable to keep up with boys both physically and intellectually. Now, as a female student sends the banana leaf ball soaring into the upper right corner of the goal while her headmistress watches, it is clear that schools like Bweramvura are defying this archaic way of thinking. Wellspring is privileged to play a role in promoting female empowerment in schools across Rwanda through our training about the inherent worth and potential of young women.
There’s an old saying in Kinyarwanda that goes “Impamyabumenyi y’umugore ni umugabo we”. When translated, it means “a wife’s degree is her husband”, or that a girl doesn’t need an education, she only needs to be married. A parent at Bweramvura addressed this ideology, calling it an “outdated and wrong way of thinking”, but admitted that he shared this view until recently. After experiencing Wellspring’s training, he understood the potential of his daughter and sought to give her the same opportunities that he had previously only provided to his son. Now, both his son and daughter want to become teachers after finishing their studies. Their father is supporting them equally.
Stories like this are just one example of how Wellspring is working to combat gender-based discrimination in education. By empowering leaders like Primitiva, the head teacher of Bweramvura Primary, Wellspring is helping communities to see a powerful example of strong female leadership. For the young women studying at Bweramvura, Primitiva is a role model. She is a daily reminder of what they can achieve, given the opportunity.
Primitiva is ensuring her female students receive just as much support as the male students. Her teachers are trained to focus on both genders equally and they distribute classroom care duties without gender bias. Both boys and girls are responsible for cleaning and for leadership within the classroom. Likewise, seating isn’t separated by gender, which allows values and ideas to flow freely. These values are even integrated into lessons through discussion questions about human rights and the importance of education. Students now express that “all children have a right to complete their studies, no matter their gender.”
In this supportive environment, female students are becoming leaders in the classroom, receiving top grades, and placing first in district-wide reading competitions. The old way of thinking about a female’s worth is retreating into the shadows as each of these girls steps into the spotlight and demonstrates her skills, talents, and dedication. Young women in Bweramvura are dreaming big and, in the words of Primitiva, “they can make it happen.” As a P6 student spoke about her aspiration to become a doctor, a dream which came to light after her father fell ill and she saw him struggle with the holes in the healthcare system, Primitiva looked on with pride and spoke words of encouragement to the student.
Dreams like this are why Wellspring works to help schools and communities recognize the importance of girls. We see value and potential in each of these young women. We see the doctors and engineers and teachers they will become when given the opportunity to receive a quality education and, with our training, schools and communities are starting to see this too.