A Monumental Day Ahead

The class of 2013 getting ready for a photo before the rain comes.

It’s 5am and the girls in my dorm are getting ready to see their peers accept diplomas: The first ever graduation of the Gashora Girls Academy of Science and Technology here in Rwanda istoday. To understand why I feel like a balloon floating on euphoria you have to hear a little bit about how far these Gashora Academy girls have come.


Anocciat is highly appreciated by her teachers now, but it wasn’t always that way. After fleeing the genocide in Rwanda, Annociat’s mother gave birth to her in Uganda where they lived in a refugee camp. Just like food and water, education was a rarity. Very few were able to go to school but Anocciat was one of the few who attended. It took her 3 hours to walk to school and 3 hours back but she made the journey everyday. She soaked in what education she could but her teachers were keen on making things hard for her just because she was Rwandan. They beat her in front of her classmates, crossed out her right answers on exams and put in wrong ones, all the while saying things like “go back to Rwanda”. Through all of these difficulties, Annociat says “I still held on, worked hard because of true love and passion I had for education and learning.


In Enatha’s village, no girls ever go to school. Why? Because people assume girls just get pregnant at school. When Enatha was 7, she asked her father if she could go to school. He told her “Go ahead and try.” So she did. Everyday, she would walk the far distance to school in bare feet since her family could not afford shoes. She would get to school with bloody feet and the children would tease her and break her down but she continued to go because, in her words, “I went there having in mind that I have to do what others have failed.” In an attempt to stop her studies the villagers burnt down her family’s coffee plants, “which were our source of everything.” Her father was traumatized and her mother thought about committing suicide, not knowing how they were going to survive. “After this situation, everyone was telling me to go and practice prostitute in order to get the materials to go to school and I said no that is not my dream.  I struggled, but still working hard was my goal in order to get what I want to be.” Enatha says the experience has pushed her to attain good grades so that her parents will not give up. Although her village is still not happy with her going to school, Enatha says she still attends school because “I have to make a difference and support my community so that they can move from the darkness. Living in the dark, always push me to strive reaching in the light, and I will reach there. This I believe.”

Enatha is striving towards a career as a doctor.

To be a part, however small, of helping these inspirational young women achieve greatness is something I am grateful for. I can’t believe my luck in being able to volunteer for this school that has allowed girls like Enatha and Anocciat to flourish and pursue their goals. This is the school that has sent girls to the prestigious African Leadership Academy: the school that has had girls flourish from being non-English speakers, to receiving high marks on the English SAT section. This is the school that teaches 270 girls how to become physicists, biologists and doctors in a country where only a small percentage of women occupy these positions currently. The Gashora Girls Academy is an epicenter for positive change in Africa. Being a small part of the accomplishments here at this Academy is one of the best things that has ever happened to me. Seeing these incredible girls accept their diplomas today will be like watching a new and refreshing history unfold and the beginning of something beautiful.

Positive Change is Like a Papaya


Positive change is like a papaya. It starts with a seed and when planted, it grows, flourishes and takes shape. When the fruit is ingested, it benefits the whole body and mind with it’s nutritious qualities. Positive change is happening here at the Gashora Academy like a landscape full of papaya trees springing up into the sky. The sisterhood I see here is an unquestioned source of strength and unity that lingers palpably about the classrooms and dorms. This is a place where empowering women is the absolute norm; it is so a part of the daily life that I forget about it sometimes. So I often step back and think “wow, that student’s perspective on contraception is revolutionary” or “wow, that t-shirt says ‘End hunger, empower women farmers” “How cool is it that we show films like Half the Sky and Girl Rising?” 

All of these simple aspects add up to a school where girls learn to appreciate their full value. They learn to become well-rounded women seeking their own individual careers and identities through paths like politics, engineering and physics. And on the side, the school instills an understanding of women’s human rights issues that we face around the world and offers solutions on a day-to-day basis of how to end such problems. How great is that? News articles will be posted on the walls about current issues. For example, an article was taped up on the wall outside about obstetric fistulas. Obstetric fistulas are a devastatingly common health problem women face in giving childbirth, mainly in developing nations. Beneath the article a teacher had written “Want to be a doctor and eliminate this problem?” This school is where positive change is happening. Education really is the key. It is like planting papaya seeds and watching the trees sprout and flourish.

Kimironko Market

While in Kigali recently, my friend Jeanette and I shopped around a market place called Kimironko market. But first, it was difficult to get there. I could have used one of the few Kinyrwanda phrases I have logged in my brain and it would have reduced the amount of wandering we did around the chaotic bus stop with the hot sun beating down on us. “Isoko ri ri he?”: Where is the market? Oh well. Next time I’ll parrot my logged away phrases. So we’re going in circles around this bus station until we finally find the market. It looks to be pretty small at first but squinting into the dark crevasses between tall panels of wood covered in merchandise, it is clear there is more than meets the eye. We delve into the narrow columns of stores and peer up at the colorful Katenge fabrics draped across panels that reach up towards the dark ceiling. Sometimes the smell of meat wafts in from the butcher’s across the way but the further into the market you get, the smell subsides and more of a damp, earthy smell lingers. It is surprisingly calm and although vendors are anxious to sell us their beautiful fabrics, bags or earrings, they’re not too pushy.


The vendors, although needing to make a sale, are patient and kind, and show us fabrics with a gentle smile and a few broken up words in English and sometimes Swahili since Jeanette speaks Swahili. I bought some nice things including a bag from a sweet, short woman with a protruding pregnant belly who sewed in a lining and extra pocket for me right on the spot. We ended up taking our time looking at hand painted cow bone earrings at a woman’s stall (I think her name was Goleti) who’s English was impeccable. Rwandan’s are known for their hospitality and welcoming demeanor and so far I have found this to be very true. Kimironko market was a wonderfully African experience. I plan on returning to Goleti’s stall to buy more handcrafts.


Three Gashora Girls Start Their Adventures

One of the best moments I’ve experienced here was the other night. While sitting at the faculty table eating dinner, my friend Amy sat down next to us with some great news. Three girls from our very own Gashora Girls Academy had been accepted into the African Leadership Academy.  To understand what incredible news this is you have to first know a little bit about the ALA. So I turned to my friend and teacher extraordinaire here at GGA, Sam, and she filled me in. The ALA is one of the best schools you can find anywhere in Africa. It is a leadership school that opens doors to incredible opportunities. If you’re lucky enough and academically driven enough to have the honor of being accepted and attend the ALA, it basically allows you to go to college anywhere in the world including schools in the states such as Harvard and Stanford, usually on full ride scholarships. But they only accept around a few hundred people per year out of all of Africa. And THREE of our girls were accepted. So Amy, (who by the way is also a rock-star administrator here and very much responsible for the girls acceptance into ALA) asked all of us at the table if she thought she should announce the great news to the school at that moment and we all agreed it would inspire everyone in the room to hear about their peers being accepted to such a prestigious school. So she and Alain, our soon-to-be headmaster, went to the front of the 270 some students, microphone in hand, ready to announce the news.

The girls had been waiting weeks to see if anyone had been accepted, so when Alain simply said “Good evening everyone. Can I please have Peace come to the front of the room” everyone knew exactly what she was being called up there for: They knew she had made it: She had been accepted into the ALA. The dinning hall exploded with energy, girls screaming and jumping up and down in support for their friend. But they didn’t seem to be expecting another name so when Alan said the second name, everyone in the room exploded with even more cheering and jumping. The supportive energy in the room was amazing! And when even a third name was called the room of girls couldn’t stand it. They erupted and hollered and clapped and were literally jumping for joy. It was beautiful to see how positively the school impacts these girls and to see what they can achieve. Absolutely amazing. And my friend Sam was so proud because she had worked right alongside those girls throughout her time here.

I  just have to say, Sam is incredible. What she accomplishes at this school is inspiring. It is not just the astounding amount of work she accomplishes in one day around the school but also the relationships she has with the girls. You can tell the girls just love her and for good reason. They respect her, they learn a lot from her and they laugh hearty laughs at her fun-loving antics. I’m so inspired everyday seeing what she does. I could tell she was excited to see adventures and possibilities coming to fruition for the three Gashora girls that night.


I know that Africa is known for it’s beautiful, harmonic singing, but wow: the girls here have amazing voices. I attended their church service today and was very moved. Their voices came together seamlessly with unmatched beauty. Their melodies, sung in Kinyarwanda, would often end in a steady octave that hummed around the big, open community center and the whole procession was lead by the girls, a testament to their great leadership. One of the girls that sat down next to me and translated a few things here and there. Several of the girls who spoke in front described their immense gratitude for their education and I felt so glad that, even in a small way, I am a part of that.

I haven’t started the extra circular activities of sports and yoga yet but believe it or not, I am now teaching Spanish here. So many of the girls expressed such an interest in having a Spanish club that it looks like that is what I’ll be doing. My first class/club was yesterday. Teaching in a classroom where students are leaning their heads in to listen and absorb their education is quite something. I get the idea that these girls are really going places.

Going to Rwanda

(Note: This blog was written a few weeks ago but posted recently.)

“The Land of a Thousand Hills.” Soon I’ll wake up and be living in a new country, one that is completely different than the one I’m from. RIght now I’m in “Big Sky Country” but then I’ll hop over to the “Land of Enchantment” or “entrapment” as many of my friends frequently call it, then fly across the Atlantic Ocean to the place of rolling green hills. From Montana to New Mexico to Rwanda. Rwanda will be my home for five months.

The first thought that pops into people’s minds about Rwanda is the genocide. In 1994,  tensions between Hutu and Tutsi ethnic groups erupted. Over 800,000 people were killed within just three months. But Rwanda has made leaps and bounds overcoming the tragedy of 1994. Today, they have a stable government and the country is in-fact one of the safest countries in Africa.  

I’m excited to travel to a place where positive change is taking place. The plan, so far, which could change, is that I’ll be involved with the extra curricular activities of the school. So I’ll coach soccer and teach yoga to girls who come from all over the region to study math, science, leadership skills and English. I’ll also monitor a dorm and perhaps do some tutoring as well. Who knows what is in store! I’m not sure what to expect but I do know that the school is full of inspirational young women whom I can’t wait to meet.

Girls at the Gashora Academy come from every possible background and may not have the opportunity to use their brains if it weren’t for the school. The education of girls and women is an incredibly effective part of making the world a better place and the Gashora school is a piece of that better-place-puzzle. I can’t wait to be a part of it.

-If you’d like to learn more about the the Gashora Girls Academy, click on the link below or on Rwanda Girls Initiative on the menu option above.


About This Blog

   Welcome to the blog about my women’s rights endeavors. My first written endeavor will be quite the adventure and will span a fantastic length of time. In just a few weeks I’ll be going to Africa where I’ll be working at a girl’s school in Gashora, Rwanda. As you may know, empowering girls and women through education is one of the best ways to reduce global poverty and an essential tool in social and economic growth. Every person, every woman, deserves the right to an education. The school where I’ll be working allows girls from every kind of background the often unlikely opportunity to use their minds. They focus on math, science, english and leadership skills so that they can follow their own, unhindered path.

Those of you who know me know exactly why I’m so excited about going to volunteer at the school. Women’s rights, woot woot! But firstly it will be a time to learn and listen and get to know the culture and the country. So I would like to absorb the knowledge of Africa like the dry earth in the rainy season and from there I can reach new horizons. So here’s to Africa and to the journey that awaits.

Murakoze cyane,


© Copyright

JuliaView, 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without specified permission from the author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Quotes and links may be referenced but only if full and clear credit is given to JuliaView with accurate and specific direction to the original content.

Thank you.