Rwanda – June 2022

Looking back, looking forward: 10 years of working with Club Rafiki in Rwanda 

By Alice Roughley, Partnership Coordinator

Through the ‘Our Girls’ program, Club Rafiki have been working to improve ICT skills for girls and young women. Clara* (16 years) from Mageragere Sector said “This new opportunity is incredible to me because it helped me increase my knowledge and skills on how to use ICT tools through online job searching and even chatting properly with friend on social media.”

This year marks 10 years of working with Club Rafiki in Rwanda – a moment to celebrate, a moment to reflect on how the partnership has made a difference, and a moment for deep conversations about how to strengthen our work together as we look forward. Club Rafiki is an independent youth-led organisation that works to improve education, health and well-being outcomes for young people in Kigali and surrounding rural villages. They run programs including a sexual and reproductive health clinic, an Urban Dance School, English language classes and the ‘Our Girls’ program focused on building leadership skills and defending the rights of girls and young women.   

We recently embarked on a review process with Club Rafiki as our current Commitment Agreement was coming to an end. indigo is committed to participatory monitoring and evaluation – working with our partners as part of a continuous process of learning and planning where we reflect on expected and unexpected outcomes. We ask, “What has changed”, “What’s working to make the difference we seek” and “What is most likely to be needed in future?” Normally we would do this as part of a field visit but pandemic travel restrictions have forced us to adapt and develop stronger practices for doing this remotely.  

Club Rafiki, as always, rose to the challenge of a remote review and reflection.  

Over several months the Club engaged in a thoughtful process that included Club Rafiki’s team, participants and indigo foundation jointly establishing and responding to evaluation questions. For example, they convened two different groups of youth participants in a round table format to discuss questions about achievements and future priorities. Discussions were conducted in English and recorded on video, an initiative led by the young people themselves. Questions and discussions were based on indigo foundation responsibilities, Club Rafiki responsibilities and the quality of the partnership and drew on sources including our 2017-2022 Commitment Agreement with Club Rafiki, Club Rafiki’s aims and strategic plan and indigo’s guiding principles. Together, separately, and then together again we reflected on the responses.  

So, did the review uncover any exciting findings? Well, yes it did, and while the achievements and areas for further development are too many to expand upon here, a few are noted below. 

Through longer-term investment and broad-scale engagement with young people in voluntary counselling, HIV and pregnancy testing and a range of programs to increase self-confidence, there have been some very real and significant changes. For instance, many thousands of young people are now educated about safe sexual practices to avoid unwanted pregnancy, HIV/STDs, and also about the dangers of illicit drug use. Through involvement in the Club’s programs, young people feel that they have more control over their future. It’s inspiring to hear girls say they are no longer shy but can speak and debate in public. It is also fantastic to see girls’ participation growing over time and to see boys increasingly accepting girls as equal participants in programs and activities.  

Many young people gained English speaking and writing skills, published books and won awards. Others have increased their employability and accessed employment opportunities and gained paid through work Club Rafiki’s programs and support.  

On an organisational level, Club Rafiki is now recognised by the Rwandan Government as a model for other youth centres. In 2018 and again this year, the President of Rwanda, Paul Kagame, visited the Club to open new basketball facilities. On his visit, President Kagame publicly commended the Club for the opportunities it provides to young Rwandans. His visit and comments are significant in building the pride of young people engaged with Club Rafiki and raising the Club’s standing within the Rwandan community. 

During the pandemic, Club Rafiki has been responsive, adaptive and resilient. Club Rafiki developed much stronger working relationships with local and central authorities including the Ministry of Youth and Culture and the Ministry of Health in response to Covid-19, including hosting community hand-washing facilities, a Covid testing hub and a Covid vaccination clinic for young people with Club participants assisting as volunteers.  

The Club’s responsiveness to at-risk young people, especially young women, was vital during the pandemic. They organised young people to deliver government-issued food packages to vulnerable families, conducting home visits and providing support, particularly to vulnerable girls. The Club also established collaborations with media outlets and facilitated special youth education broadcasts during the lockdown. 

While these outcomes represent a great many ingredients and contributions to Club Rafiki’s work, there is a strong indication that the values and principles indigo brings to the partnership, including longer-term support, trust and friendship and allowing the Club to determine its own development pathway, contributes significantly to the achievement of these outcomes. These values hold strong in this context. 

The review found that there are several important practical and values-based elements that contribute to the success of this partnership. Of note, core funding that allows Club Rafiki to innovate, pilot new projects and determine its own development pathway, as well as flexibility, allows Club Rafiki to make changes and respond to new needs such as during the pandemic. Club Rafiki also noted the importance of having a partner commit long-term stable funding, giving them a secure base from which to build their capacity. There are of course also learnings and areas we will continue to work on together, including helping Club Rafiki to strengthen its financial reporting capacity and its long-term strategic planning.   

Looking to the future, the partnership between indigo foundation and Club Rafiki remains strong. Their programs and outreach activities continue to be in high demand and through participation in Club Rafiki, young people feel part of a supportive peer group and develop a sense of social responsibility. The review found that the Club’s work and its people reach greater heights every year. Both we and Club Rafiki have learned and experienced much that gives us confidence that the partnership is well on track as we look to the future together.