Uniting Around Our ASYV Sisters, Mamas, and all the Women in our Lives

March 14, 2017

600 people standing in a line on the top of the school’s hill, looking down on the vast expanse of Mugasera Lake, the distant hills and our home, ASYV. Heads held high and standing tall: staff, Village Management, guests and students begin the steep procession down to the dining hall in a walk of solidarity for an important cause. International Women’s Day happens once a year. It’s a time to bring both girls and boys together to celebrate the successes of women and reflect on the significance of how women shape and define society.

Female empowerment is a top priority at ASYV. In Rwandan society, the vulnerability of females is often much higher than males for many reasons, including:

1. Disproportionate allocation of resources: when there are limited resources, they are allocated to boys first, so all the boys of a family will be sent to school before a girl.

2. Lack of access to feminine hygiene products: some girls will miss up to a week of school each month because they are menstruating.

3. Girls are given domestic responsibilities: when they go home after school, they have to take care of siblings, cook and clean which leaves them little time to study and do homework.

To combat this issue, ASYV takes 60% female students. With over 300 female students filling the dining hall, Women’s Day at ASYV was an event to remember!

The Women’s Day assembly began with the Gender Committee representative addressing the audience, followed by a song written and sung by Francois and Desange. Our female empowerment groups – Girl Up, the UN Foundation's adolescent girl campaign, and Female Solidarity, a student-run ASYV club, – came to the stage to share the power of being a female, and what is means to them.

“I am a doctor” one girl announces, “I went to medical

school, had grades that surpassed my male classmates

and I save lives – I am a girl”.

The day’s events went on with like-minded inspiring sentiments.

The Mamas and Auntie Phyllis sang a song written by Auntie Phyllis’s friend, Dr. Ysaye M. Barnell [see the bottom of this post for lyrics and more information] and Mama Hirarie shared a poem she wrote. ASYV presented two vulnerable women from the local Rubona community with goats as gifts to help feed and take care of their families and the Rubona National Women’s Council Representative took the stage to provide her thoughts on women empowerment. The event ended with Village Director, Vincent, and Executive Director, JC, encouraging the female crowd to stand up and make sure their voices are heard - and for the male audience to support and respect their ASYV sisters.

We at ASYV were proud to be amongst both women and men across the world joining in the day’s celebration."I raise up my voice—not so I can shout, but so that those without a voice can be heard...we cannot succeed when half of us are held back." ― Malala Yousafzai

Dr. Ysaye M. Barnwell’s "Chinese Proverb"

Where there is light in the Soul, There is beauty in the person.
Where there is beauty in the person, There is harmony in the home.
Where there is harmony in the home, There is honor in the nation.
Where there is honor in the nation, There is peace in the world!

Find out more at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sweet_Honey_in_the_Rock

Submitted by Lauren Gross, Village Fellow 2017