14-year-old Aime didn’t realise that she had the right to get an education until she started attending Nyabihu School for Deaf children.
Families in vulnerable situations in Rwanda, live day to day, with little money to spend on school The education of boys is prioritised over girls, which means that girls become trapped in a cycle of exclusion and poverty. But girls experiencing a disability, like Aime, face a double disadvantage.
In northern Rwanda, 92% of victims of sexual violence are girls with communication disabilities. These girls are often unable to communicate with those around them, so more likely to face abuse, early pregnancy, and forced child marriage.
No child should have to fight to survive every day.
This is why we work with our partners, EmCD and MindLeaps, to support children in the Nyabihu District of Rwanda through our ‘Natwe Turashoboye’ (We Can Also) programme. Backed by Comic Relief, the programme provides a crucial lifeline for deaf girls to overcome the deep-rooted stigma and challenges they encounter.
Led by inclusion-trained teachers, Aime and other children are able to learn about their rights through dance. Educating children about how to report a crime will mean that deaf children feel safer, respected and equal to their hearing peers.
Aime told us, “I want deaf girls to have access to justice if they have had their rights abused so that we can all live a protected and safer life.”
The classes give the children a safe and supportive space to express their opinions, share their struggles, empower them to make decisions for a better future, and play, grow, learn, and thrive.
When we interviewed Aime, she said: “I’m a bit shy so it’s challenging for me to approach people, but here at school it is a lot easier to communicate as there are people I’m familiar with, and they speak the same language as me.”
Aime’s interview is the first produced as part of our #OverExposed campaign and proves we don’t have to use images of children’s faces to tell their stories.
Some of the children in the dance classes will have experienced unimaginable trauma and abuse. It is critical that safeguard those children by not showing their faces or defining them by their environment. Instead, the needs of children are better highlighted through positive and respectful storytelling that safeguards the child’s identity, rights, and wishes.
The dance classes comprise 21 participants of mixed gender with ages ranging from seven to 22. Over three years, Natwe Turashoboye will give 126 children access to a safe space to express themselves. By dancing together, they are breaking down the barriers and stigma that experiencing a disability can bring and they can look forward to a safer, more equal future., and the ability to speak up in their communities and shape their own futures.
“It is very good to live with deaf children who share the same difficulties,” explains Aime, “I like it a lot. As someone who likes to learn, I feel very safe here at school and I feel loved by my fellow deaf peers and everyone who works here because they are all friendly and helpful. I like studying, dancing, and doing sports. I was very eager to learn how to dance and now I’m learning, I’m very, very happy.”
Ultimately, we must ensure children who face adversity experience the same protections, considerations, and rights as any other child in the world. The #OverExposed campaign is an opportunity to reframe our collective thinking by changing the visual conversation on how children are represented in campaigns to reshape their future for the better.
Join our #OverExposed campaign and show your support by making a pledge on our website https://chanceforchildhood.org/overexposed/
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Read more about the Natwe Turashoboye programme at: https://chanceforchildhood.org/latest-news/how-deaf-girls-are-shaping-their-own-futures-in-rwanda-our-new-project-with-comic-relief/