CHALLENGING GENDER NORMS THROUGH CHILDREN’S BOOKS
By Natasha Nishimwe.
Kigali, 2 March 2018 – Dr. Christine Warugaba has been writing children’s stories since she was a girl. After spending more than 10 years as a student in the United States of America, she returned home to Rwanda. A medical doctor by profession, Christine never forgot her love of writing stories for children. “While practicing medicine during the day, I would spend my evenings and free time to work on my writings”.
Eager to find her place as an author in Rwanda, she found a variety of publishers that were willing to provide advice and support. Eventually, a publisher introduced her to Save the Children’s Rwanda Children’s Book Initiative. “Rwanda Children’s Book Initiative would review the content and style of my new books to ensure that they are suitable for young children. They also trained me on children’s book content development,” she said.
Inspired by her learning experience, Christine set up a publishing house in 2014, called Furaha Publishers. She applied the lessons she learnt from the Rwanda Children’s Book Initiative, that helped her to improve her stories, illustrations and designs.
Over the past two years, Christine has published 15 illustrated children’s books, which almost all were purchased by Save the Children and distributed to USAID Mureke Dusome community based Reading Clubs across the country.
Christine wishes to see growth in the publishing industry through mentorship of children. “I would like to see the book sector grow sustainably with more books written by Rwandan authors. To do so, I am trying to discover and mentor young authors by organizing writing competitions in schools and encouraging young girls and boys to discover and use their talents,” said Christine.
Christine also wants to feature more women and girls as characters in her books who are aspirational and unafraid to pursue their dreams. In her books, 90% of them have a female protagonist.
“As a young girl, I loved to read but found that most books had male characters. With time, this changed in the West, but for our young publishing industry here in Rwanda, this has not yet changed. As an author, having female characters comes naturally to me as I relate to them. I want to empower girls with my stories so they have the confidence and knowledge that they can be anyone and do anything they want. As a publisher, I look for similar stories that will be inspiring to girls,” concluded Christine.
Since 2014, Rwanda Children’s Book Initiative has established an internal book review committee, which regularly reviews books from local publishers and provides feedback. Like all the publishers, Furaha benefits from this by receiving constructive feedback on creating high-quality story books that are then sold in the local market to benefit the children of Rwanda.