It took moving to Africa to get me to finally start a blog, since I want to be able to share this amazing experience with everyone. It also gives me another way to inform people about what is going on with my photography. So first I will let everyone know that if you are in Portland in February, to go check out the juried show “Black and White” at Newspace. I have an image in the show from my series, “A labor of love”.
A road in Kigali
view of Kigali from near our home
Now, to where I find myself right now, which is in Kigali, Rwanda with my husband and two kids. We have been here just over a week now, and most of that time was spent getting adjusted to the time difference, getting our house in working order (including finding a viable way to do laundry), and getting the kids started in their new school. Lucky for me the girls are very adaptable and brave, and after their first nervous morning, now jump out of the car and run off to their new friends.
my daughter jumping rope with our day guard, Desanges
And so a certain routine has started, including homework each night, but there are some twists and challenges in how to get everyday things done. We are also getting used to things like having a 24 hour guard at our house who we can hear walking around all night. When we were buying some basics for our house, we were told they were out of towels but might have some next month. Thankfully we were helped out by some friends at a local hotel. At this point our crew was in bad need of some showers. As my daughter says, “in Rwanda, everyday I sweat.” Really I find it to be the perfect weather here, warm and sunny (but not too hot) during the days, and just a bit cooler at night.
As to why we are here, a brief explanation for any of you that don’t know the background. My husband Dean works for the Nike Foundation, who in partnership with the UK government’s Department of International Development (DFID), run the Girl Hub here in Rwanda. For the next few months Dean will be the interim head of the country office here for Girl Hub, in addition to his other job as the Global Director of Communications at the Nike Foundation. In short, The Girl Hub runs programs that carry out the mission of the Girl Effect movement, which is the idea that adolescent girls are at a critical juncture in their lives, and if given knowledge and opportunity, can help break the cycle of poverty for themselves, their families, their communities, and their country.
Here in Rwanda that it taking several forms, one of which is creating a means by which girls can communicate and express themselves, through a radio show run by some of the girls, and with a magazine called, Ni Nyampinga. In the local language of Kinyarwanda, Nyampinga means a beautiful young girl who makes the right decisions; she is beautiful on the inside and out, is confident, and respects herself and others.
The Girls Effect explains that there are 600 million adolescent girls living in poverty in the developing world, and by giving one of these girls a chance, you start the girl effect. When girls have safe places to meet, education, legal protection, health care, and access to training and job skills, they can thrive. And if they thrive, everyone around them thrives, too.
In the words of the Nike Foundation President Maria Eitel, “We (The Nike Foundation) started out seven years ago with a goal to end the most pervasive and disenfranchising issue of our time — intergenerational poverty. When we started out, girls were not the obvious answer. A lot of exploration went into that, but the short story is that we ultimately we came to see that women were disproportionately affected and that had a huge impact on their children as well and we realized that the most critical intersection in a poor woman’s trajectory was happening as she transitioned from girlhood to adulthood. Adolescent girls are the highest point of leverage, by investing in girls, you can stop poverty before it starts.”
Our first week here was especially busy also because Dean was preparing for a visit from Nike Brand President Charlie Denson, to see firsthand the work that the Nike Foundation was doing in Rwanda, and to help celebrate the launch of the second issue of Ni Nyampinga. They also met with the President of Rwanda, Paul Kagame, who is a firm believer in the importance of giving girls opportunities and whose administration has been working closely with the Girl Hub to support their mission. Rwanda is working hard to institute their own programs to help mobilize the Girl Effect.
I have been an enormous fan of the work the Foundation does for a number of years, before Dean came over from the brand side at Nike. And I have been working with the Foundation to find the right opportunity for me to go document one of the Girl Effect programs. It was also my dream to be able to teach a photography class for some girls as part of that trip, much like I did for my project, The Long Journey. The opportunity for our family to come to Rwanda provided the ideal situation to move forward with this plan. It also gave me a much longer time frame to work than I would have had if I had come on my own, as I couldn’t see being away from my children for more than 2-3 weeks at the most.
There are a lot of exciting things happening around my photography and the class, and I look forward to sharing all of this, as well as my family’s adventures, as our time in Rwanda unfolds.
So now you know why we are here, and I look forward to what the next few months will bring for us, what we will learn, and hopefully what we have to give and share with the people of Rwanda as well. As we go I will share that journey on this blog. You can also follow our kids’ blog, as I know their school and many of their friends are doing.
For more updates, you can also follow me on twitter.
Murakoze (pronounced MooRahKohZay), thank you in Kinyarwanda – Paige