“What Do You Want To Be When You Grow Up?”
“What do you want to be when you grow up?”
A simple question that, when asked to a child, can spark many answers.
I want to be a lawyer.
I want to be a superhero.
I want to be a police officer.
I want to be a father.
I want to be a mother.
Each of these dreams is tailored to the child who voiced them. They are creative, unique, and achievable (yes, even the superhero one). Each of these children can achieve their dreams because they have received a quality education that has prepared them for their future.
But this isn’t always the case—especially for girls.
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. From the outside, many people can look at this saying and recognize that it is outdated and false, yet the ideas reflected in its words are still deeply ingrained into community mindsets.
In many communities across Rwanda, the scales are tipped vastly in favour of men, sons, and boys. Parents will often choose to send their sons to school instead of their daughters. Why? Because it is believed that the girls will take the education and wealth that was gained from their schooling and steal it away for their family-in-law when they are married. Educating girls is seen as a waste because parents think it will not benefit them.
But this idea is inherently wrong.
As Wellspring begins our work in Rubavu, we are seeing just how deeply this issue runs. Without an education and with their circumstances set against them, girls are left without hope for their future. Teenage pregnancy rates are astronomical and families are disowning their daughters, leaving the girls homeless and at high risk for sexual exploitation and trafficking. Without a family or any means of income, many of the girls turn to prostitution in a district that has one of the highest rates of gender-based violence in the country.
This needs to change. It’s time for the girls to shine.
Through Wellspring’s School Development Program, we are working with schools and the wider community to help everyone recognize the inherent worth of girls. We know this approach works because we’ve already seen changing mindsets across the Gasabo district, where Wellspring has worked in schools for many years.
At Bweramvura Primary, change has been astounding. After our training, we spoke with a group of parents. One parent addressed the ideology that does not value women, 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.
So let’s return to the question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”
When asked, a P6 female student at Bweramvura launched into a passionate explanation about her dreams. She explained that her father was ill and she had seen him struggle with the medical system in Rwanda. She wants to become a doctor to help people like her father. She wants to give back to her family, to her community. As more and more girls began to speak up about their dreams, a theme emerged. They all wanted to give back, to help others. Even at a young age, they displayed servant hearts.
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.
At Bweramvura, 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. We know this can happen in Rubavu too, but we need your help in order to provide the necessary community training. Will you partner with us to see mindsets transformed and girls empowered?