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Rwanda’s First Lady awards girls for their academic excellence

Children dance at the awards ceremony, which celebrates the educational empowerment of Rwandan girls.

By Katherine Uher

KIGALI, Rwanda, 24 March 2009—Rwanda’s First Lady, Jeannette Kagame, recently presented the annual Imbuto Foundation Awards in Kigali, which honour academic excellence among primary and secondary school girls.

This year, 376 primary school girls and 40 secondary school girls received awards at the ceremony, which was held at Groupe Scolaire Notre Dame du Bon Conseil in the Gicumbi district.

Ms. Kagame created the Imbuto Foundation to contribute to the health, education and economic empowerment of Rwandan girls.

The award winners each received a backpack with school supplies, along with a small cash prize. Fifteen of the secondary school girls – all in their sixth and final year – received a laptop and will be given computer training sessions.

© UNICEF Rwanda/2009/Uher
Henriette Muangampundu, 18, received a computer as her award for academic excellence at this year’s Imbuto Foundation Awards, in Kigali, Rwanda.

‘Girls must strive to advance themselves’

“I want to thank all the organizers and the Imbuto Foundation for giving me this award. This computer will be very helpful when I continue my studies at university next year,” said Henriette Mutangampundu, one of the winners. “Girls face extra challenges at school and sometimes lack self confidence. These awards encourage us to obtain higher and higher goals.”

Ms. Kagame emphasized the need for girls to be motivated to succeed.

“Girls must strive to advance themselves, their families and their country,” she said.

Empowering girls and women

In Rwanda, all children have access to a free basic education, but completion rates remain low, especially for girls. Gender-based violence, early marriage and teen pregnancy all contribute to preventing Rwandan girls from completing their studies.

Deputy Representative for UNICEF Rwanda Dr. Jane Muita commended the girls’ achievements and thanked the Rwandan government and Ministry of Education for its commitment to educating girls.

 “Results from last year’s parliamentary elections sent a clear message to the rest of the world that Rwanda cares about women’s empowerment,” she said, referring to the fact that Rwanda has the highest percentage of female parliamentarians in the world.

Child-friendly schools

Beyond the awards, many other initiatives are underway to improve learning conditions for students at Rwandan schools, with a particular focus on girls.

Special girls’ education task forces have been established in all 30 districts of Rwanda. In July 2008, the Gender in Education Policy was adopted by the government, which sets out to improve education for girls, reduce barriers for girls attending school and strengthen girls’ education awareness.

The Government of Rwanda has also adopted a UNICEF supported child-friendly school model as the standard for all schools nationwide. By 2012, 300 schools will be child-friendly. Schools following the model will have well ventilated classrooms, trained teachers, playgrounds and life-skills clubs.


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19 March 2009: UNICEF correspondent Kun Li reports on an awards ceremony that honours academic excellence among Rwandan girls.

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