UGHE Celebrates International Women’s Day 2024: Investing in Women, Accelerating Progress   

International Women’s Day on March 8 is a global celebration of women’s achievements, resilience, and contributions to humanity. This year’s theme ‘Invest in women: Accelerate progress’ was the focus of the day, emphasizing connection between women empowerment and gender equity. UGHE celebrated the day by shedding light on these essential aspects and empowering women within its community. 

UGHE’s Commitment to Gender Equity 

Dr. Joel M. Mubiligi, UGHE’s Interim Vice Chancellor, emphasized the university’s commitment to gender equity and justice. He highlighted the Center for Gender Equity as a blueprint of breaking down barriers and shaping a culture that uplifts women and challenges gender bias.  

 He stated, “from our dedicated students, researchers and educators to our exceptional support staff and administrators, women play a pivotal role in every facet of UGHE’s mission. As we celebrate this day, it is a reminder of the progress we have made and the work that still needs to be done to ensure gender equity.” 

UGHE recognizes the demand for, and value in having more women scientists, and addresses this through equity-driven education paired with an ambitious gender equity agenda. Its six-and-a-half year MBBS/MGHD degree program deliberately recruits a 70% female cohort, a framework that proactively addresses existing gender disparities in science. 

Community Celebrations at Butaro Campus and Reflections on Women’s Day 

Students and staff cutting a Women’s Day Celebration cake at the campus.

To mark the day, UGHE’s celebration extended beyond words, with various activities taking place at the Butaro Campus. Students, faculty, and staff joined hands to appreciate the incredible women at UGHE. Students shared their personal reflections on what Women’s Day means to them. 

Faith Chukwudunmbi Adigwe, an MGHD’24 GSRH student from Nigeria, expressed her commitment to creating empowering art and advocating for the importance of investing in women. She said, “I hope to put out feminine empowering art as I always do while raising the flag of the importance of investing in women. 

Yvette Nkurunziza, MGHD’24 GSRH student from Rwanda, emphasized the role of women in addressing health challenges and promoting each other’s well-being stating, “Women’s Day means that women can contribute to addressing health challenges being faced by fellow women.” 

David B-Imas Saizay, MBBS’29 student from Liberia shared his joy in celebrating Women’s Day, reflecting on the capabilities and positive impact that women bring to communities. He said, “Women are change makers and have the power to effect positive impact not only to individuals but also their communities.” 

Empowering Teen Mothers in Burera 

Teen mothers attended the women’s day celebration event at UGHE Butaro Campus. 

Women’s Day celebrations at UGHE are inextricably linked to recognizing and empowering women in the community where our university is located. As a result, the Department of Community Health and Social Medicine, in collaboration with the Center for Gender Equity, hosted an event to empower adolescent mothers in Butaro. In the event attended by local leadership representatives and health center professionals from across Burero District, participants had an enlightening discussion about ways to address teenage pregnancies and empower young women in the region.  

(Left to right) – Panelists Grace Iliza, Amina Niyizandengera, Secret Atukunda, Theodore Twagirumukiza and Uwineza Lizbeth.

Uwineza Lizbeth (GSRH MGHD student) stressed that “until these young women are empowered, have knowledge on contraceptives, their rights and their body – addressing teenage pregnancies will still be a problem.”

Theodore Twagirumukiza, Head of Health Center Kirambo, highlighted that “the lack of knowledge on GSRH is one of the gaps leading to teenage pregnancies.” He continued, “There are health providers at the health center who are ready to help every woman in need of reproductive health care without judgment. I encourage young women, and all women, to not be ashamed to seek support from qualified health care providers.” 

 Secret Atukunda, an MBBS’28 student, urged parents and family members to engage in open conversations with adolescents about reproductive health. She said, “parents and family members, we encourage you to spend time with your adolescents, create an open environment for them to share their reproductive health challenges and experiences so you can know how to help them. There is no shame in having reproductive health dialogues with your children. 

Amina Niyizandengera, a teen mother from Butaro stressed the need for educating parents to support their children and create a conducive environment for addressing reproductive health challenges. Parents must also be educated because if they lack knowledge about how to educate their adolescents on sexual reproductive health and how to assist them in this area, they will continue to struggle alone without the help they need from their close relatives, leading to the myths and bad practices that may result in teen pregnancy. 

A Collective Responsibility 

At the end of the panel discussions, Grace Iliza Ndatinya, a Community Health and Social Medicine Lecturer at UGHE, gave a call to action for the shared responsibility of addressing teenage pregnancies, emphasizing, “It is our collective responsibility to address challenges that affect women’s progress such as teen pregnancy. 

UGHE’s efforts to address sexual and reproductive health needs for young women in Butaro include increasing access to sexual and reproductive health education in secondary schools through the Bwiza Initiative, one of which is to empower female high school students in the Butaro Sector by educating them on menstrual health and teaching them how to make affordable, reusable sanitary pads. An inclusive approach is used to educate boys and teachers on how to support menstruating girls.  

The commitment to investing in women and accelerating progress remains at the forefront of UGHE’s mission, cultivating a community where every individual can thrive, regardless of gender.