Byiringiro helping children find protection through Child-Led Grass Root Groups.
“Children grassroots groups are our space to speak about issues concerning children welfare. And our role in finding solutions to problems children face”, says Patient. “We look around our communities and identify locations where children are mistreated. We write reports, after we talk to concerned families and authorities,” says Patient.
Patient Byiringiro, 14, lives with his parents and two older sisters in Mageragere sector, remote area of Kigali City. He joined one of 48 children grassroots groups’ supported by Save the Children’s Accountability for Children’s Rights Programme in 2015. The Children Grassroots Groups are child-led, and now operational in 5 districts out of 30 districts of Rwanda. The groups so far are comprised of 2809 children including 1468 girls and 1341 boys, all under 18 years. These children receive training support from designated facilitators to equip them with necessary skills that enable them to influence national child focused policies and programming.
Patient was voted by fellow children to represent them in public meetings and campaigns around the country. He says such experience has made him see many problems children face, which touches him deeply. ‘I see children my age or even younger being treated as domestic workers. I see many children wandering the streets without food and education, which hurts me deeply”.
“Children with disabilities have told us that they are not treated like the other children in homes and at school. We hope to change that mentality. I have hope in our groups; they will contribute towards every child’s protection in Rwanda.”,
“We can’t change everything in the life of these children,” explains Patient. “But at least we can support them through speaking to their families and authorities to do better. Helping children who have lived through extreme experiences is difficult work. That is why we are working with local authorities for more support,” he adds.
On April 6th 2018, Patient was invited to participate in the first ever child focused pre-budget hearing meeting, which brought together government institutions and civil society organizations, to reflect on the involvement of children in the national budgeting processes. Five children delegates including Patient were allowed to speak about their issues that affect them and future hopes.
‘I was very excited to be in a big meeting with big people. But mostly, I was excited about sharing my ideas concerning problems affecting other children in my home area. Our opinions will help the government to quickly respond to issues related to teen pregnancies, street children, school dropouts and children with disability. That doesn’t mean all our problems are solved, though,” Patient says.
Child participation in public budgeting and planning processes is a new initiative in Rwanda started in 2016 by Save the Children in partnership with the local child-led NGO-Children Voice Today, with funding from the European Union (EU). ‘We are enabling children to break barriers, through training which builds their boldness and confidence to speak up about their concerns to actively influence public budgeting and planning” said Marcel Sibomana, Child Right Governance Manager at Save the Children.
Every morning Patient walks for about 35 minutes to get to his school Groupe Scolaire Mageragere where he studies in senior two. He loves Entrepreneurship and History subjects. He is also passionate about music, and his dream is to become a district mayor.
Contributors: Catherine Kukunda, Emile Ndayambaje, Jackson Tuyisenge, Davis Ndungutse, Monique Niwenshuti
Editor: Annet Birungi