Life in a refugee camp is not easy for girls and young women. There are many challenges to face, especially concerning reproductive health and the lack of opportunities to build a successful future.
Plan International works in 2 of the 5 refugee camps in Rwanda that house over 73,000 Congolese refugees. Only 9 years of basic education are available in the camps, so learning the skills needed to lead happy and productive lives as once they reach adolescence can be difficult.
Because of the work we do as mentors, eight children have gone back to school after being convinced of the importance of studying.
The Girls Take the Lead project trains girls aged 15-17 using the Better Life Options and Opportunities Model (BLOOM). BLOOM is a non-formal education programme developed in 1987 that has since been adapted and applied in more than 15 countries. The model delivers gender-transformative life skill training to adolescents - particularly girls.
The Choose A Future! (CAF!) curriculum at the heart of the BLOOM approach has 15 modules that expand young people's knowledge of goal setting, career planning, rights and responsibilities, reproductive health, and other life skills that are not fully addressed in the formal school system.
Trained youth mentors
After taking part in the project run by trained youth mentors, girls are encouraged to develop their own income-generating activities so they can earn a living and create a life for themselves.
Here, some of the girls and mentors explain how the project has helped them move forward with their lives:
Tantine, 17, participant
"A lot of things have changed since I joined this project. I used to be so nervous and could get angry so easily, but now I am able to handle any situation, however tough it might be. I liked very much the sessions about having a purpose and confidence with money.
I used to be so nervous and could get angry so easily, but now I am able to handle any situation.
“After taking part in financial lessons, I asked for 500 RWF from my mother and bought some avocados so I could resell them in the camp to make a profit. My ultimate goal is to one day earn enough money to pay for hairdressing lessons. Apart from managing finances, I also learnt how to avoid being forced into sexual activities by boys."
Lydie, 20, Project Mentor
"Because of the work we do as mentors, eight children have gone back to school after being convinced of the importance of studying through our campaigns, events and the other activities we do here in the camp. Before joining the Girls Take the Lead project, I was a bad girl in the camp. Everyone knew me for that.
Before joining the Girls Take the Lead project, I was a bad girl in the camp.
“What made me want to change was that my family hated me so much that I felt useless and could not see any clear future ahead of me... I realised that doing drugs had turned me into a person that is not wanted by any of my family.
“I also thought more about myself when I had my baby. I started wondering what kind of a person she would grow up to become if I continued doing drugs, and so I stopped. It now has been close to three years since I stopped."
Vanessa, 24, Project Mentor
"There is a difference between how I was before and after joining the Girls Take the Lead project and learnt about the BLOOM Curriculum.
Now...I am part of the group of mentors, I am so confident.
“I refused to eat. I would not care for myself nor my own children. I was in a big depression for so long because I was always thinking that I had made a huge mistake getting pregnant and giving birth at an early age.
“Now that I have been trained on the BLOOM curriculum and am part of the group of mentors, I am so confident. Thanks to the Girls Take the Lead project, I have changed. We started with a lesson called 'knowing yourself'. This helped me learn so much about various issues, which I did not know before and am proud to pass on. I would like to the project to be extended because it would be good to reach to more people."
Stand with girls
Girls everywhere are undervalued, undermined and underestimated. But they're calling time on inequality.
This is how girls get equal.