The pilot cycle of The Uwicyeza Project has now come to a close and we are incredibly happy and proud to share with all of our supporters this short video documenting the incredible progress of our girl participants.
Get inspired and check us out!
Uwicyeza (ooh-wee-CHAY-zuh): (n) the one holding brightness; beautiful and radiant inside and out and making others beautiful and radiant.
The Uwicyeza Project is a comprehensive participatory educational model focusing on gender education and skills development for secondary school girls in Rwanda. Educational workshops are coupled with in-depth mentoring relationships facilitated by a team of Rwandan women mentors, providing students with critical knowledge supported by practical skills that will support them on their journey towards becoming successful and confident young women. The Uwicyeza Project is working with key local partners in Rwanda in order to advance our collective vision and mission for gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls across the country.
The Benefits of Uwicyeza
- Increased self-confidence
- Critical thinking and problem solving skills
- Improved public speaking and personal presentation skills
- Hands-on practical experience with project management that has a positive social impact
- Invaluable mentoring relationships with Rwanda’s successful women leaders
- Vital gender knowledge
- Awareness and understanding of GBV and resources available to victims
How it works
The pilot program of the Uwicyeza model will take 20 girls through the full training program in order to validate and test the project model. The model will focus on of a series of comprehensive workshops that are designed to prepare young girls both personally and professionally for the various opportunities and challenges they will likely encounter throughout their lives.
Participants will progress through a series of six interactive workshops that will focus on the following topics: basic gender education, gender-based violence awareness, career building and networking, leadership, community development and effective mentoring relationships. Upon completion of the core curriculum, participants will be split into four groups of five. Each group will be matched with a team of Rwandan women mentors of mixed ages and backgrounds, based on factors such as personal and professional interest, knowledge, and experience. Working together, each group of students will take on the final task of developing and executing a small-scale community development project of their choice, throughout which their mentors will provide guidance and assistance.
The project will use both formative and summative evaluation, and a full assessment and report will be produced at the end of the pilot to determine the success and scalability of the model.
The content developed for the core curriculum is based on the particular expertise and contextual knowledge of the Uwicyeza Project management team and advisory council, as well as on critical feedback received from previous workshop participants from the project’s target demographic. The following six thematic areas have been carefully selected to comprehensively address the most frequently requested topics as well as those that are particularly vital for young girls in the development of theoretical gender knowledge, personal confidence and critical thinking, complemented by practical life skills.
1) Basic Gender Education: This session will introduce participants to the basic concepts of gender and gender equality in the 21st century. Girls will be introduced to the academic definition of gender, as well as different approaches for achieving gender equality and balance in their personal and professional lives. They will also have the opportunity to openly discuss and brainstorm opportunities for how to become actively engaged in advocacy and awareness efforts to end gender discrimination within their own communities and country. This workshop is designed to foster critical thinking among participants and create a safe space for the girls to openly reflect upon and discuss their own lived experiences and personal observations of gender in the world around them.
2) Leadership: Leadership is a vital quality for any individual or organization to cultivate if they wish to make a positive social impact on their communities and countries. In this workshop, participants will explore what leadership means to them, and engage in interactive discussion with their peers to define specific traits that are necessary for every respected leader, whether in the home, community or government. We will discuss the special challenges and barriers that women often face as leaders, and possible solutions and strategies to combat these issues. Case studies of influential and effective African women leaders will also be presented, and students will assess their own individual strengths and abilities that apply to personal leadership. Each participant will then be asked to compose their own personal leadership statement and present it to the class. Before departing, each participant will also be assigned a series of leadership traits that they will strive to cultivate within themselves in their daily lives, focusing on one particular trait at a time per week throughout the course of the program.
3) Gender Based Violence Awareness: This session will help girls understand, identify and address various forms of gender-based violence (GBV) that they may face in their lifetime. Girls will learn about different types of GBV, including structural discrimination and personal violence, and will be made aware of their legal rights and responsibilities under the current anti-GBV laws that govern Rwanda. They will also be coached in conflict management and given resources on where and how to seek help should they or someone close to them ever become a victim of GBV in Rwanda.
4) Career Building & Networking: Girls will learn practical tools to maximize their networking abilities, and support them in the process of building their careers and making their dreams a reality. Students will learn how to effectively build professional relationships, conduct strategic outreach to organizations in their field of interest, and how to make the most out of volunteer experiences and unpaid internships. Other topics of discussion will include goal setting, time management, and standards of professionalism for career development.
5) Community Development: Social change within communities takes time, commitment, planning and dedication. Participants will be trained in the basics of community organizing, focusing on the five key steps required for the execution of an effective project: identify, plan, budget, implement, and evaluate. Before choosing a project, they will learn how to actively engage with key stakeholders within their own communities in order to identify areas of specific need. They will also learn how to design a strategic timeline, how to secure necessary resources wherever possible, and how to develop and nurture local support for a community improvement project. At this stage, students will be assigned to their project teams and begin thinking about their own community projects. Each group will be asked to submit a written proposal of their community project for peer review.
6) Effective Mentoring Relationships: At the end of the workshop series, girls will be split into three groups of five participants each and then matched with a team of mentors, comprised of 1-2 young women mentors and 1-2 accomplished Rwandan woman leaders. Mentors will be matched with groups based on shared interests, future career goals and professional background. In order to maximize the impact of this relationship, the Uwicyeza Project will conduct this session focusing on the role of mentors and what can be gained from an effective mentoring relationship. In this workshop, participants will learn basic etiquette and guidelines for communication and behavior. They will also create an individual set of goals for what they hope to get out of their mentoring relationship, and the Uwicyeza tea, will support each of them to create a personalized plan for how to ensure they are being resourceful, engaging, and respectful.
Mentor Matching & Final Project
The Uwicyeza Project seeks to build confidence and teach girls new skills not just through classroom learning, but by practical hands-on implementation that is driven by the students themselves. Upon completion of the core curriculum, participants will be split into groups and paired with a team of Rwandan young women mentors. Students will be asked to use what they have learned to identify a need or opportunity within their own community, and then apply these newly acquired skills in the creation and implementation of a small-scale community project of their choosing that is in line with community needs. Each group of students will receive a small financial subsidy for project development in order to support their group work. They will also receive weekly in-depth consultation from their team of mentors to help them refine their goals, strategies, and tactics for the project. Ongoing support will be provided throughout the following six weeks of their project implementation, and progress will be showcased and celebrated at a final graduation event.