Challenges Rwanda partners with RICH to deliver gender-based violence training

Rwanda Coffee Project

Challenges Rwanda has partnered with the Rwanda Interfaith Council on Health (RICH) to train community leaders and key figures within our project to support eight coffee co-operatives.

Over the past few weeks, Challenges has been supporting the development of the training, including translating much of the content into Kinyarwanda. The training will be delivered during the next week, coinciding with 16 Days of Activism, a global campaign to try to reduce violence and discrimination against women. Two weeks of follow-up training will take place in December next month, with another week in January.

Part of the work Challenges Rwanda undertakes with the coffee cooperatives is to engage the surrounding community to collectively develop solutions to the social issues they face.

It is with this focus that Challenges Rwanda partnered with RICH, an organization that has become renowned for expertise in the fight against gender based violence.

The aim of this training is to enable community leaders to become “agents of change”. Delivering this style of training means these individuals will return to their communities to teach and apply what they learned, therefore expanding the desired impact of the GBV programme.

Participants will learn about existing sex and GBV laws, and how to use that information to care for and support victims of male violence, including the procedure for reporting and other actions.

Matching the global trend, there has been an increase in violence against women in Rwanda. The Rwandan national public prosecution authority registered 505 rape cases in 2017/2018, compared to 308 cases registered the previous year. This is in addition to 1091 cases of domestic violence registered in 2017/2018, compared to 736 cases in 2016/2017.

This training is also complemented by a drive to widen access to reliable reproductive health information, especially for teenage girls and young women following a spike in teenage pregnancies, according to the Rwanda Demographic and Health Survey.

As we prepare to roll out the training, Challenges Rwanda has also developed a plan to monitor and evaluate the larger impact of the training. We hope to see an increase in the number of people who are using the protocols set out to support GBV victims and to drive initiatives, led by the agents of change in the community, to raise awareness of, and combat, violence against women.

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Future bright for Rwandan coffee co-op after Challenges’ solar power initiative

Rwandan Meshpower Rwanda Challenges Group

In 2017, Challenges began working with eight coffee co-operatives in Rwanda as part of a forward-looking project to generate sustainable growth. With backing from the Scottish Government, this has project also pioneered the adoption of innovative solar technology, drastically improving the prospects of a remote coffee co-op severely hampered by a lack of electricity.

Since 2017, the Challenges team in Rwanda has been working with eight coffee co-operatives to build capacity, generate market links, deliver leadership training and improve sustainability.

But alongside this far-reaching project sits another innovative programme that beautifully demonstrates Challenges’ methodology of innovation, partnership and sustainability, as well as our commitment to clean energy!

Rwanda, and its large agricultural sector, is liable to be hit hard by climate change. It is something that its farmers and politicians alike are all too aware of. And as part of the Scottish Government’s climate justice campaign, capital funds were made available for a pilot programme for the innovative use of an innovative product, championed by Challenges.

Solar PV micro-grids are breaking new ground across much of Africa as individuals and organisations realise the potential for solar energy to connect difficult-to-reach communities. In 2018, Challenges partnered with Meshpower, a state-of-the-art micro- and mini-solar grid engineering company, to deliver such a system to one of the recipient co-operatives.

At Challenges’ we always measure our work by the impact it can create, the economic growth it can facilitate, and the sustainability for the future. Selecting which co-operative was not an easy task, but measured against these factors we chose Buhanga in southern Rwanda. Cut off from the national grid, Buhanga lacked electricity in its office, due in part to its remoteness and in part the expense of generators. But the business also suffered from break-ins, while the inability for staff to use laptops or other electrical equipment inhibited further growth. When we spoke to the management team at Buhanga it was clear to us all that the potential for the scheme and the opportunities it could create was significant.

The Meshpower Installation at Buhanga is a clean energy solution to a continent-wide rural problem: access to reliable energy. This installation, slated for completion in December 2018, now enables the coffee co-op to develop and open new methods of data gathering and storing, book-keeping, marketing and so on. It also gives them the opportunity for a modest secondary income as they can now charge a minimal fee for members of the local communities to charge phones or print documents. And it means that co-op staff will be trained in both the solar PV technology but also the equipment and software its adoption has enabled. The Buhanga coffee co-op now has a valuable income-generating asset that enables business growth and staff development.

As we monitor the success of this clean energy programme, as part of the wider Coffee Market Building for People and Prosperity project, we look forward to seeing this pilot rolled out beyond Rwanda, and used to create a case for ethical lenders and grant-makers to invest in similar initiatives at other sites lacking in sustainable and reliable clean energy.

When Challenges first approached Meshpower about this initiative, we had no idea this was the first project of this kind the business had undertaken. It’s also likely the first of its kind in the region … and maybe all of Africa! Who knows, maybe one day every co-operative office will hum with solar energy!

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