I am fortunate to be born into a family that understands the value of education and insisted that my sisters and I had to go to school. There are many reasons why children do not go to school, but girls are facing serious barriers. For example, girls must deal with traditional beliefs that place a higher value on the education of boys which means that when a family has limited funds for school fees, the boys are more likely to go to school. When I started primary school, it was free and mandatory, beyond that parents had to pay for school fees so as I moved from primary school, the number of girls in the classes became fewer and fewer.
Looking back, I am grateful that my parents made many sacrifices for us. Not only did I finish secondary school, but I completed my bachelor’s degree with a focus on agriculture and rural development. I chose to focus on agriculture and rural development because the lesson I learned is the women and girls are the backbone of Rwandan agriculture and the best way to empower them is to make sure they can earn an income from their hard work. Also, my mother who is a heartfelt Christian instilled in us that we had to give back to the community.
After my graduation, a master’s degree was out of the question – I could not afford it. Besides, I had to work to help the family. They had invested in me and now I had to give back. In March 2018, I answered an advertisement for a field officer position with Africa Development Promise. I remember going to take the pre-employment test and meeting three of my classmates who were there to take the test. I knew that the competition was tough, and I had to do my best – this was my opportunity to support rural women.
In May 2018, I started my job at Africa Development Promise. A few months later, I was promoted to a higher position and became the Country coordinator. I was very excited to work for an international NGO that was still in the start-up phase and whose mission was to economically empower rural women. Although it was a start-up, the organization has a culture of learning and invests in staff development. When the Executive Director asked if I was interested in pursuing a master’s degree in Development Practice from Regis University, I thought sure, but I cannot afford it, and are you going to send me to America? Little did I know that the ADP had an active partnership with Regis University’s Development Practice program, and I could apply for a scholarship. Also, the students meet in a global classroom on Zoom or in class at the Posner Center in Denver. Although, Zoom is popular these days, meeting on Zoom was new at that time and it shaped my way of thinking and doing things.
I am now in my last year of studies, completing my final thesis. I expect to graduate by the end of June 2021. It is hard to believe how fast time flies and how much I have learned. I have really enjoyed working with students from different countries, with different backgrounds and a diversity of ideas. We study together, challenge, and support each other. The MDP has also shaped the way I do my job because I can practice what I learnt. For example, I have taken tools from my participatory planning class into identifying cooperatives that Africa Development Promise plans to support. Using surveys and a series of focus groups we determine the stage of development, their performance – what has or has not worked, and their aspirations as a group. This method also gives us the opportunity to build trust with the cooperative because they can contribute to the process and we respect their competence.
I am fortunate to have the learning from the MDP and the experience of ADP – this has been a winning combination. As I graduate, I can give back to the cooperatives, share the knowledge I have gained from Regis University, and uplift the living conditions of people in my country. Thank you to ADP and MDP.