Rwanda: Club Rafiki

Using the power of dance to connect with marginalised young people

Rwanda is a small landlocked country in Central Africa. It has a population of eleven million in an area of 26,000sq km (half the size of Tasmania).

It is a country recovering from a civil war which culminated in the 1994 Genocide.

Despite being one of the world’s poorest countries it has made remarkable progress since 1994. At the end of the war it was totally devastated but has rebuilt itself such that it now ranks 151st out of 187 countries on the UN Human Development Index (compared to Australia ranked two). It has also made real progress in achieving key UN Millennium Development Goals.

Overwhelmingly its economic and social progress is due to the efforts of its people and leaders.

Rwanda has few social and recreational amenities for young people and in particular for girls. Yet young people have a great deal of time on their hands. Schools run on two shifts per day and youth unemployment is high. HIV and teenage pregnancies are challenges faced as is the use of illicit drugs.

Club Rafiki has Rwanda’s only Hip Hop dance school for youngsters. It also has a sexual health centre with HIV prevention and family planning education programs.

indigo foundation works with Club Rafiki to support an urban dance school (Hip Hop, Reggae, Funk, Rap) where young people from disadvantaged backgrounds can have fun, get vigorous exercise and generally engage in a constructive activity. The young people also learn valuable life skills such as working in teams, learn to commit to attend classes regularly and on time and build their self esteem and confidence through participating in public dance performances. And coming along to the dance classes puts them in touch with the Club’s other great programs.

Club Rafiki has linked the dance school with the health clinic such that dancers are provided with information about HIV prevention, family planning and positive health practices.

The Club is now training dancers to participate in outreach programs to spread messages about safe sex practices to their peers in the wider community.

My talent, My health

In 2013 one of the Club Rafiki dancers died of AIDS. His friends and the Club decided that they could do more. They developed a program where 35 dancers were trained as peer educators. They have been given knowledge about HIV prevention and sexual health and given skills in communicating persuasively with their peers.  To encourage these interactions the Club has planned a series of events, dance competitions, debates basketball and football competitions. At the first of these on World AIDS day in 2014 some 800 people attended. At these events young people are given the opportunity to be tested for HIV.

background information

Dance classes commenced in early 2012 and eight classes are held each week enabling 120 youngsters to participate. Fifty percent of dancers are girls.

Participating in public performances is an important element of the school. These are held in schools, shopping centres, markets and other public places. The performances give the dancers goals to work towards and build their pride and confidence. They particularly enjoy performing publicly for special occasions, in dance competitions and for family and friends.

The Club has developed a program whereby dancers are taken to rural communities to entertain villagers. They attract large crowds who join the fun. After a period health educators step forward and talk with the crowds about safe sexual health practices.

The Club also offers HIV testing on these occasions. In a series of recent tests of 300 youngsters 3% tested positive. These people were referred to government treatment services.

In 2013 one of the dancers died of AIDS. His friends and the Club decided that they could do more to address this scourge. They developed a program whereby 35 dancers were trained as peer educators. They have been given knowledge about HIV prevention and sexual health and given skills in communicating persuasively with their peers.  To encourage these interactions the Club has planned a series of events, dance competitions, debates basketball and football competitions. At the first of these on World AIDS day in 2014 some 800 people attended. At these events young people are also given the opportunity to be tested for HIV.

The Club is keen to extend its outreach into the community beyond its Nyamirambo location. It has demonstrated that it has programs to benefit many in the wider community but lacks the funds to do this.

That the Club has been able to attract substantial numbers of girls as dancers is a significant achievement. Parents, numbers of whom are Muslims, have been reluctant to allow their daughters to attend such a program having no past experience with such an activity. The Club has worked hard and creatively to achieve this goal.

To achieve the above indigo assists with ongoing funding for the dance classes and with funds for the purchase of equipment such as speakers, large wall mirrors, shoes for youngsters who do not have these etc.

The equipment such as the sound system is able to be used by other organisations associated with Club Rafiki. It enables the Club to further enhance its contribution to its local community.

our partner - Club Rafiki

Rafiki is Swahili for ‘Friend”. Club Rafiki is a community owned and managed, non government, not for profit organisation. It operates in Nyamirambo, a particularly disadvantaged area of Kigali, Rwanda’s capital.

It was founded in1975 by the Dominican Brothers but was totally destroyed in the Genocide. It has been re-established by the local community and now provides programs for children and adults including a library, a kindergarten, adult literacy classes, hairdressing training, family planning education, HIV testing and prevention, outdoor activities such as basketball and a playground and, with indigo’s support, an urban dance school.

The library having electric light and internet access is used by students as a study location as many homes are without power.

The dance classes are seen by the Club not only as worthwhile activities in their own right but also as ways to attract young people to the centre and to engage them in some of the other Club programs.

latest updates

Please have a read of the latest update from January 2015 from Club Rafiki’s My Talent, My Health program.

future needs

As Rwanda’s only Hip Hop dance school the demand for places is great.

The Club wants to extend its outreach programs on a regular basis to locations in and around Kigali. It believes this would offer great benefits to young people and enable them to be reached with positive health messages.

Local funding is not available. The challenge is to increase the funding from outside Rwanda.

Project Coordinators: David Wheen and Mandy Wheen