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Breaking Barriers to Care in a Rwandan Border Town

Girls face many barriers to adequate care and education, barriers that stand in the way of their progress. International Day of the Girl highlights the need to address such challenges, something our member organisations are tackling through engaging with communities to find the solutions relevant to them.

Karisa is just three-years-old, and lives with her loving family in a Rwandan border town. An area where many families are reliant on crossing into neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) for work, mothers are faced with an impossible choice. Border guards won’t let them cross with their children, a well-meaning policy aimed at reducing child trafficking. However, there is nowhere safe to leave children, and in order to support their families, parents need the work. Karisa’s mother has to choose between childcare and income.

Many such parents have found themselves with no choice but to leave their young children and babies by the checkpoint on the Rwandan side of the border while they go to work. Children and babies are left for many hours, either totally alone or cared for by young teenage girls who, also in need of money, would drop out of school to watch them for a fee. Being so young themselves, many of these girls could not cope with the babies and would consequentially abandon them, all while missing out on education.

But Karisa was lucky. Our member in Rwanda, UNM, saw this problem and decided to intervene. They helped mobilise parent groups to tackle the issue, who identified their children’s education and care as the most pressing issue. They decided to build a nursery for three to six year-olds, meaning not only were children able to access education earlier, but they had a safe place to go while their parents worked.

Karisa is now able to access schooling, and is developing skills such as reading, writing and maths. It’s an opportunity she has met with enthusiasm:

“It is better to be at school. I like to learn how to write. I like playing games with my friends. My favourite game is where we standing in a circle and take turns to sing.”

This International Day of the Girl, we’re celebrating empowering projects that help ensure girls like Karisa are protected and have access to education. With each additional year of schooling having the potential to increase a woman’s earnings by 10-20%,   this programme helps foster better futures. Importantly, it also ensures children are cared for, and that parents are able to support their families. With poverty one of the main separating issues for families, and with cases reported of children who had been left being trafficked themselves, this initiative also takes a proactive approach to preventing families from separating.

Learn more about how Family For Every Child prevents family separation here.

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