Introducing Winny

introducing Winny Rangira, Club Rafiki’s Youth Empowerment and Employment Officer

It was a lucky day in January 2019 when Winny Rangira came to Club Rafiki on a 12-month internship from the Rwandan Ministry of Youth. With a university degree in international relations, intern experience at Rwanda’s National Institute of Statistics, training in labour market assessment and a passion for youth empowerment, Winny was a natural fit for Club Rafiki. She quickly became an asset, driving a new area of focus for Club Rafiki – training young people in computer literacy and job-seeking skills.

With Winny’s internship coming to an end at the start of 2020, Club Rafiki feared they would lose this dynamo. They worked with indigo to secure funding for a new role, a Youth Empowerment and Employment Officer, which Winny took on with gusto.

Winny, on the left in red, supports women and young people with writing job applications and preparation for interviews

skyrocketing youth unemployment

Club Rafiki’s focus on youth employment has turned out to be timely with Covid-19 adding to what was already a crisis in youth unemployment. A report released by the Rwandan Institute of Statistics found that unemployment increased from 13.1% in February 2020 to 22.1% in May 2020.

Winny works with young people and local youth employment agencies to provide information about job opportunities, employment services, national and international scholarship and internship opportunities. Winny also supports young people to gain job-readiness skills – editing resumes, navigating online application forms, preparing for interviews, running career guidance sessions and providing training on starting or reinforcing a business. Club Rafiki provides free internet and access to computers to search for job announcements and prepare applications.

During the lockdown, Club Rafiki acted quickly to shift job seeker services online to reach young people who would normally use the centre. More than 1300 young people stayed engaged with Club Rafiki through the job desk, WhatsApp group, Facebook, Instagram, phone calls and SMS.

With the Centre now reopen, albeit with social distancing, Club Rafiki’s ICT lab continues to be a hub. Over the 12 months to July 2020, more than 4,000 young people used the ICT lab including participating in computer and social media training, as well as printing, scanning and technical assistance.

‘educating a female is educating a nation’

Empowerment of girls and young women is integral to Winny’s work.  Embracing the sentiment of Rwanda’s President, Paul Kagame, that “Educating a female is educating a nation”, Club Rafiki’s vision is to empower girls, to build financial and emotional independence and to transform community attitudes.

The Covid-19 lock down presented challenges for many girls and young women who had been involved in Winny’s programs. As they returned to the centre when restrictions were eased, many girls had unplanned pregnancies and were concerned about an uncertain future. Twenty-year-old Nadia summed up the difficulties girls faced:

I experienced misfortune caused by the pandemic … my studies and my social life. Before the outbreak, girls always advise each other on sexual reproductive health and rights…. but from the time Covid-19 erupted those kinds of opportunity was suppress and as a result we start to experience negative impact especially young girls who are exposed to undesirable temptation caused by the pandemic and consequently some end up making wrong choices because of poverty etc. Teenagers pregnancy among families and gender-based violence became common things in community, sexual and physical abuse increased, emotional abuse became familiar to many, alongside an increase in numbers of child labour and many families experienced a big relapse of income.

During the lockdown, Club Rafiki was a lifeline especially for those with IT access. Through Club Rafiki and Winny’s work, a number of these girls were supported, referred to appropriate services and reminded that they should hold fast to their dream for their future, free from stigma and vulnerability.

the power of meeting role models

For the young people Winny works with, meeting someones who have achieved in their chosen field can be powerful. This year, Winny arranged for Juan Nsabiye, a 25 year old fashion designer, stylist and blogger, to come to the centre to meet with the aspiring fashion students and share his journey.

She also arranged for Sherrie Silver, an international choreographer, dancer and actress,to spend time with students of the Urban Dance School. Silver taught a range of dance styles and encouraged the students to dream big and keep up their hard work.

impact and future plans

During the 2019-2020 year, 428 young people were trained in job-readiness and entrepreneurship, 70% submitted onlin job applications, 2% completed online courses and 9% received interview preparation training. 60 young people were trained to prepare an on-line job application, six young people have secured permanent jobs and five women achieved professional internships in public institutions.

Winny says the rewards of her work come in the form of seeing young people clarify their goals, develop their skills and of course, attain a qualification or a role. In the coming year, Winny is working to increase the number of girls in the program, run communication training to support job applications and organise more events at the Club, in schools and in the community.

by Alice Roughley, Partnership Coordinator