UGHE Impacts Girls in Butaro Through the “Her Story Project”

UGHE through the Department of Campus Operations and Community Engagement partnered with Image Rwanda to train 10 Butaro girls for the “Her Story Project”. The project aimed to empower girls who had dropped out of school due to poverty and teen pregnancy. The project prioritizes building a community for creatives and storytellers, with a goal of increasing the number of women at the center of the project. The young girls worked on their storytelling projects, received mentorship on photography and storytelling, and started getting casual photography work from local community clients. UGHE  and Image Rwanda are currently working on opening a local studio for the girls, which will allow them to continue providing photography services to clients in the Butaro community and Burera District, as well as mentoring. 

Today, UGHE held an exhibition event where the beneficiaries of “Her Story Project” showcased different stories through photography revolving around water, sanitation, and hygiene challenges in Butaro, the importance of early child development centers, the importance of Girinka Munyarwanda, the impact of working in cooperatives, the impact of electricity, and the impact of COVID in Butaro, among others.

 Beneficiaries of the “Her Story Project” also participated in the recent research day with the UGHE community, where the top three photo voice presentations were awarded prizes of Rwf 50,000, Rwf 30,000, and Rwf20,000 respectively.

Below are photos and stories created by the beneficiaries for their exhibition:

Photography Projects and their Description 

Umwariwayezu Anitha – Ancient religious traditions in Butaro

The “Umuvumu” tree was planted to mark the site of the ancestral rites

Nyabingi is a cult based on the belief in a spirit or spirits called Nyabingi, capable of entering a human being and mediated by the priests and priestesses of the cult. Practiced since the 19th century, it is believed by many to have disappeared or not practiced anymore, but not at all. Butaro is believed to house the roots of this cult, and they surely are still firm and alive. Whether you believe in the supernatural, or not, this project takes you on a journey of rituals that the descendants of priests and priestesses still practice and how these go deep into their lives. I also take you to different archaeological sites that hold strong history and myths about this cult.

Ufitihirwe Aline – The role of UGHE in Butaro Sector

Community members who resided where the campus is currently built were housed in a model village 

I remember when the university started in 2014, they called it Harvard in my neighborhood, even though most people didn’t even know what or where Harvard was. We just knew it would bring many foreigners to Butaro, but nothing to do with us really. I chose to work on this project to tell a story of how the University proved us wrong, and how beneficial it became beneficial beyond its gates. In this project, I explore and share stories of people whose lives were positively changed by the presence of the University of Global Health Equity in Butaro.

Mukarukundo Clemence – Climate change and environmental disasters in Butaro

Gafumba was affected by soil erosion in December 2021, where landslides and overflooding damaged the houses and community activities.

Our earth has been changing during the last years, and mostly due to human activity. The print of climate change is visible from any corner of the world, and Butaro is no exception. The environment has been visibly altering, and the region has been experiencing disasters clearly due to climate change. In this story, I not only talk about the effects of climate change in Butaro but also about some important initiatives that are being implemented by people to make sure that they minimize these effects. After all, it is everybody’s duty to play their part in protecting the environment.  

Uwiduhaye Delphine – Gira Inka and its benefits in Butaro

Nyirabagarura gave a cow after what she was given from Girinka gave birth and it increased their friendship with each other

A cow. Such a majestic creature in the Rwandan culture. It is not only a sign of wealth but also believed to be, almost, divine. In 2006, President Kagame launched the program Girinka (Literally translated as ‘Have A Cow’). Girinka’s aim is to give every poor family one cow that will help them increase their crop production by using manure, and increase their income and their nutrition at the household level and country-wide as well. When the cow gives birth, then the family donates the calf to their neighbor family that is also in need. And so on and so forth, it becomes a chain of donations. In this story, I explore how this program has changed the lives of the beneficiary families, but also the aspect of social cohesion that this concept has brought between families. 

Uzarerwanimana Josiane – Electricity in Butaro 

Electricity in Butaro has prompted Rwigenera to modernize the shaving business using modern machinery, enabling him to provide faster customer service. 

Around 40% of the population still witness a dark evening at the end of every day since they don’t have access to electricity. When you are born in a home with electricity, it is often hard to imagine living without it. Remember the last time there was a blackout at your place? Well, it was a permanent power blackout during my whole childhood. Despite the lack of enough infrastructure for power grid electricity, this project explores the efforts that are being done for improving the situation, but also the alternative initiatives that are here in Butaro to use renewable energy, such as solar power. I also explore how electricity affects the daily lives of people living in Butaro, and their aspirations for a much more developed Butaro. 

Nikuze Marie Louise – The concept of cooperatives and their benefits for Irish potato farmers in Butaro

Members of the Abatiganda-Butaro cooperative set up the plot of land for potato plantation

It is said that wherever there is unity, there is always victory. There is so much impact that has been brought by cooperatives in the agricultural sector in Butaro, considering everyone would plant, harvest, consume and market their crops on their own. But cooperatives have now become a potential vehicle through which the members can create employment and expand their agriculture, develop their business potential through education and training; increase savings and investment, and improve social well-being. This story is also my own, since I, myself, am a farmer and have harvested the fruits of being part of a cooperative, for the last 5 years. 

 Imanizabayo Jeannette – Water shortage in Butaro 

Shema and his friends got up early to go and fetch water. Although this water is not clean at all, their families have nowhere else to draw water for daily use.

Water is life. Without access to clean water, sanitation is almost impossible to achieve, and the consequences expand to every other aspect of life. It is almost ironic that a region like Butaro with its magnificent lakes and marshlands lacks access to clean water, but unfortunately, this is the case. When it comes to children, this becomes an even more serious problem, since it affects their health, nutrition, education and learning abilities, thus impacting many aspects of their lives. For me, this is a story at heart, because in my everyday life as an inhabitant, but more important as a parent, this is a challenge whose consequences I must battle every day 

Niyomufasha Diane – Lake Burera and its magnificent islands 

Standing on Buyanga Hill overlooks the beauty of Lake Burera and the volcanic park across

It is sometimes hard to appreciate the beauty of nature when you were born and lived your whole life in it. It becomes normal with time. But for me, learning to be a storyteller helped me to start appreciating the beauty of Burera once again, and this is the reason why I chose to work on this project. It is true that Lake Burera and its tiny islands give an almost magical view to those that pass by, and obviously give beautiful habitat for the fauna and the flora that live there. I will say no more, the photos speak for themselves. 

Kubwayo Jehovajile – Oasis, a new kindergarten concept in Butaro  

Gikundiro, 4, doing her evening homework. Attending Early Childhood Development education improves her passion to learn at an early age.

When I was 18, I gave birth to my son. I was too young to take good care of him, and I was still in school. My mother sent me away to go live with my father – since they are separated – and she stayed with my child. When he turned one, she took him to Oasis, and this almost became his second home. The kindergarten took very good care of him, and he didn’t lack a thing for him to grow as a happy kid, despite my absence. I chose to showcase this documentation because the work that Oasis is doing in Butaro deserves to be highlighted and appreciated. I spent quality time at the kindergarten while I was working on the story, and here are a few highlights. 

Twarayisabye Valentine – Positive and negative impact of Covid in Butaro

2020 has been a very unusual year for almost every person around the globe, and Butaro was not spared. The pandemic has changed the lives of people here, and that will probably stay forever. Even though one wishes that this pandemic would have never come, mostly because of its negative impacts, there were some good things brought by it. This project documents both sides of the situation.