This story is from the archives of UCLA Today, a discontinued publication.

Empowering girls to achieve in Rwanda

Faculty from UCLA’s African Studies Center will be focusing their attention for the next two-and-a-half years on improving the bleak future for girls growing up in Rwanda by building a partnership with a key teacher-training institute in east and central Africa.
Kigali signThe mission of the Kigali Institute of Education (KIE) of Rwanda is to graduate professionally trained teachers with experience in learner-centered instruction to fill crucial gaps in Rwandan primary and secondary schools. But statistics show that too few girls are completing secondary school in this predominantly rural country in Africa, which means that even fewer are enrolling in and graduating from teacher-training programs there.
With insufficient numbers of qualified female teachers in the Rwandan education system, young girls have fewer inspiring role models. Girls frequently receive less attention than boys in the classroom because teachers are not trained to draw girls into discussions dominated by boys.
To increase the number of young women with teaching degrees and update the teaching curriculum to promote gender equity and female empowerment, the African Studies Center has received a $1 million grant from the U.S. Agency for International Development (disbursed through Higher Education for Development) to partner with the Kigali Institute of Education (KIE) of Rwanda to help the latter achieve these goals in a self-sustaining manner.
Completing higher education would enable women in Rwanda to earn far more over their lifetime than women with secondary education or less, organizers said. With more education, more women would likely take active roles in society.
UCLA faculty and their Rwandan partner will do research to identify what's keeping Rwandan women from going on to higher education and better lives.
"The goal of the university-to-university collaboration is to achieve a sustainable impact on how girls learn and how teachers teach in the classroom in Rwanda," said Françoise Lionnet, director of the UCLA Center for African Studies, "thus inspiring girls to continue their education and become teachers. Although it is focused on education, the partnership ultimately seeks to empower women in all spheres of life." Lionnet, a professor of French and Francophone studies, comparative literature and gender studies, said the UCLA African Studies Center also intends to leverage the grant to raise additional funds.
UCLA and KIE faculty will also be doing research to identify the barriers to women’s enrollment in teacher training programs, as well as to women's overall advancement in Rwandan society.
Last January, Azeb Tadesse, co-director of the center, and anthropology professor Claudia Mitchell-Kernan traveled to Kigali, the capital and largest city of Rwanda, where they met with their partners to conduct start-up meetings and complete the partnership baseline assessment. A second round of activities will take place in May when KIE managers and staff come to UCLA to attend workshops on incorporating gender perspectives in teaching and learning activities, developing institutional capacity, bringing gender equity to instruction and research in education, and community outreach.
The official public launch of the project is tentatively set for sometime this fall.
To read the full story, go to the International Institute website.
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