Day 2 of the National Umushyikirano Council ended on a high with President Paul Kagame calling for renewed commitment to work with a mindset of improved momentum to drive the country to its desired levels of development.
In essence, there were no resolutions issued at the end of the two days but there was a feeling of satisfaction because for every issue that was raised, there was a solution there and then, perhaps what remained was setting targets for next year.
The organising and reporting team from the Prime Minister’s Office promised to send refined resolutions by Saturday morning. One thing however was clear –everyone who participated left with a sense of urgency.
President Kagame’s message was straightforward. “We need to run in whatever we do, not walking and running it will be.
“I want to thank you all for the productive discussions we have had and the ideas shared in this 17th Umushyikirano. This will help us take another step forward in our journey of rebuilding,” President Kagame said in a brief closing speech.
“Let us go back with an understanding that Rwandans expect a lot from us. We know that we are on the right path but we need to keep the momentum and stay the course,” he added.
President Kagame said that everyone needs to understand that their responsibilities should be brought together through collaboration as collective duties for all Rwandans and as leaders they continue to strive for the development of the country.
For the two days, discussions focused on two topics –driving Rwanda towards double digit growth on day one and engaging families for community resilience but discussions and questions touched pretty much every issue and sector.
Nothing was left out –from infrastructure to education, health, society and business, no stone was left unturned but day 2 mainly touched on the issue of families and the need to address current issues affecting households and social cohesion.
The discussions were serious yet light as the panel of the day consisting of the Minister of Local Government Prof. Anastase Shyaka and the Minister of Gender and Family Promotion Soline Nyirahabimana were joined by Community Health Worker Florence Mukantaganda and Sister Immaculee Uwamariya, the founder of Famille Esperance to discuss the most pertinent issue affecting families today.
There was a general consensus that families today are grappling with many issues –from divorce to separations, family breakdown, sexual and domestic violence to teenage pregnancies but for every problem there is a solution.
Minister Nyirahabimana said that the government has put in place initiatives to address challenges affecting families, integrating them in the country’s development vision, with the understanding that a strong nation is built on strong families.
“There are problems in family but we also have solutions. The most important thing is the upbringing of our children that starts from the family. There’s nothing that should be valued more than family and together we can ensure better and strong families as we strive to achieve Vision 2050,” Minister Nyirahabimana said.
She pointed out that there are principle which each family must pay attention to if they must address the same issues that lead to family breakdown and disconnection between parents and children.
“We all know that there is a lot of work to do if we must develop ourselves and the country but we must understand that in whatever we do, we must allocate our time very well to create time for family and children. We must prioritise time for families,” Minister Nyirahabimana said after it emerged that many parents have replaced family time with work.
Sr. Uwamariya, who runs Famille Esperance, a local organisation that supports social cohesion in families and offers counselling and a safe haven for children affected by family breakdown.
“We are seeing a lot of issues in families today, emanating from the current challenges our societies face. Parents are too busy for their children and young couples divorcing or separating because they were not prepared for marriage,” Sr Uwamariya said, adding that part of their work is to help resolve family disputes.
“We started Famille Esperance to try and contribute towards building strong and happy families. My dream is to see happy families. We try to make sure that children who have not had an opportunity to grow up in happy and caring families find that environment with us,” she said.
Exuding grace and humility, Sr Uwamariya’s work and wisdom were the talk of the day as the nun went about her work and contribution to building stronger families in Rwanda.
Community Health Work Mukantaganda tales of saving lives and counselling the sick also won the day as she joked that even though she is not a doctor, as a community health worker she has been trained to provide initial care to the sick and give health advice in her society.
“We are not doctors but the training we got in two weeks has allowed us to give services in our communities. We are not paid for what we do. We do this out of the love for the country and the desire to contribute to ensuring good health in our societies,” Mukantaganda said amid applause.
Prof. Shyaka said that the contribution of the family to the country’s transformation over last 25 years cannot be under looked, which is why the government considers family a pivotal pillar towards achieving Vision 2050.
Fr. Anicet Ndazigaruye of Kibungo Diocese, who was among the contributors said that religious groups have the responsibility of supporting government efforts to resolve issues in families and build stronger families that can support the country’s development targets.
One of the key issues discussed on the second day was the issue of teenage pregnancies which are increasingly becoming a society challenge. One of the participants who was among the 3000 young people at Intare Conference Arena said that getting pregnant as a teenager led to stigma not only in society but she was also rejected by her own family and isolated.
The day ended with President Kagame wishing participants and Rwandans in general a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, declaring that 2020 will be a good year.
“Last year, I had predicted that 2019 would be better than 2018; we can see now that it was true. Now I can predict that 2020 will also be better than 2019. But this will depend on how much efforts we invest in; not just on our wishes,” President Kagame said.
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