In a village outside Rwanda’s capital Kigali lies the Safe School For Girls, a co-educational center committed to educating both boys and girls about improving the lives of women in Rwanda, reports the BBC. The school attempts to tackle the issue of harassment and abuse during the Me Too era.
On weekday afternoons after academic classes end for the day, boys and girls are split up into different classrooms where they are taught important lessons about social issues and gender-based violence. The boys learn about sexual abuse and how to report it while also learning how to respect women. The girls learn about financial independence and birth control in an attempt to reduce family sizes in coming years.
The boys are sent an important message that it is up to men to end the violence experienced by women and that they can help by reporting harassment and abuse.
One student, 18-year-old Rini Mutijima, explained what they learn at the school.
“If we happen to see such violence, we report them and make sure the people who have [committed the violence] are judged. For the girls who have this done to them, we make sure to support them, give them counseling and help them get back into society.”
The Christian Action Research and Education (Care) charity runs the Christian-based school and is hopeful that educating children from a young age about domestic violence and power imbalances between the sexes can have a positive outcome.
At the after-school club, another boy, 16-year-old Shoffy Manishimure, revealed the best part of learning about the issues girls and women face.
“The best thing I have learned to do is protect my sister. It’s my responsibility as a boy to protect my sister.”
Patience Manzi, a 16-year-old boy, added, “We learn history. We learn these things to know the past, and it helps us to prevent others from beating their wives.”
The programs at the Safe School for Girls take place at 147 schools around the country and have catered to more than 47,000 adolescent girls and more than 19,000 boys since 2015, writes the BBC. Educators focus on Rwanda’s history and the challenges faced by girls and women.
The small East African country has a long history of violence towards women; however, it is leading a paradigm shift for feminism in Africa as educators and government officials attempt to improve the daily life experiences of Rwandan women and commit to women’s representation at the national level.
Rwanda’s government now has the biggest share of women representatives in the world, with 60 percent of parliament representatives being women.