As recently as September 2014, up to 200 pre-school children were being left daily in the Rubavu District of Rwanda when their carers crossed the border to work in the DRC. Local teenage children were also being paid to skip school to care for the toddlers.
Today, Uyisenga Ni Imanzi (UNM) is celebrating a dramatic decrease in the number of children abandoned in this manner – as a direct result of their pioneering work with the local community.
UNM organised and coordinated a multi-stakeholder response, working with the community to identify sustainable solutions. This has led to an 90% decrease in the number of children left and a return to school for the would-be babysitters.
In particular UNM has overseen:
- the creation of 12 community cooperatives who are working together on new income-generating activities (IGA); these cooperatives currently comprise 187 parents across 5 sectors, all falling under the Rubavu District;
- the division of these 12 into three groups of four, who each contribute 400RWF per day to a central seed fund;
- the formation of a separate multi-stakeholder group – including the police, army, local authorities and media – whose role is to ensure that families are supported. The cooperatives monitor the progress of the project and initiatives on a daily basis and report back to the group of stakeholders;
- the creation of informal day care centres in the community staffed by adults rather than children.
Chaste Uwihoreye, Director of UNM, said: “It is wonderful that we have been able to bring so many local people and organisations together to offer an alternative to parents who need to work.
“The money raised by the cooperatives cooperatives will be continually plowed back into the income-generating activities – ensuring that this project is sustainable and provides a long-term solution, and long-term security, for families.”
The community has also agreed that the cooperatives will be used as platforms to discuss issues around child care, including psycho-social support, violence in families and legal challenges affecting children’s rights.
Meanwhile the project has attracted a lot of positive attention and support from the Government and agencies such as UNICEF, who have been trying to resolve the border problem for some time. As a result of this progress and community-led success, the Government’s Child Protection Department (at District level) has invited UNM to support the process of registering undocumented children in the Rubavu district.
UNM has also been requested by the Government to train ex-combatants in the Muhoza center, Musanze District, on child protection and the importance of family.