The New Times (Kigali)

23 August 2014

Rwanda: Govt Moves to Get Girls Off Streets

For quite sometime, the nation had focused attention on delinquent boys and hundreds of them have been taken off the streets in cities and towns across Rwanda and enrolled at Iwawa Rehabilitation and Skills Development Centre (IRSDC) to learn various vocational skills.

Yet across the country, many girls are engaged in anti-social behaviour such as prostitution and drug abuse but receiving far less attention and support.

While some non-governmental Organisations in the country are trying to reach out to them, many people feel that boys are getting preferential treatment at the expense of girls.

Following such concerns, government has announced plans to spend nearly Rwf400 million this year to revamp its own rehabilitation centres where delinquent girls can get help and fund private organisations involved in girls' rehabilitation initiatives, The New Times has learned.

The expenditure, which is planned in the current Fiscal Year 2014/2015, is part of the Ministry of Youth and ICT (MYICT)'s new multi-year plan to rehabilitate female youth who are now involved in anti-social activities.

Under the ministry's Strategic Plan for the National Rehabilitation Programme for Female Youth, a five-year action plan that ends in 2019, the government plans to build youth centres to sensitise delinquent girls on the dangers of delinquency and teach them different skills.

A recent assessment by the youth ministry found that the country's female youth delinquents are aged between 14 and 35 and engaged in illegal but non-violent activities such as sex work, drug use, and illegal vending mostly on streets.

The government has been under pressure to build a major rehabilitation centre for girls, just like the case of delinquent male youth who receive help at Iwawa Rehabilitation and Skills Development Centre (IRSDC), but officials at MYICT consider a similar centre "not necessarily replicable for girls".

Emmanuel Habumuremyi, the Advisor to the Minister for Youth, told The New Times Wednesday that helping homeless girls would require an approach that also puts into consideration their babies and pregnancies in certain cases.

"Dealing with rehabilitation of girls is a complex issue that requires multi-stakeholder interventions," Habumuremyi said.

The official said needs of delinquent female youth are different from boys' needs, especially since many of them have become single mothers as a result of sex work.

A recent study by the Youth ministry found that 72 per cent of sex workers in the country are supporting children and lack alternative employment opportunities to meet their needs.

The study estimates that poverty, being orphaned, family disputes as well as violence are among the major causes of female youth delinquency in Rwanda.

But with high rates of recidivism observed among the delinquent girls who get into trouble with the law-about 58 per cent of those who are incarcerated or passed through transit centres will return to delinquency, according to MYICT-the ministry wants a better approach to get female youth off streets.

Habumuremyi said the government will step up sensitisation campaigns against female delinquency at the grassroots level starting with families, work with private organisations involved in female youth rehabilitation, and build rehabilitation and vocational training centres to help reintegrate female youth.

"As a government, we may not have certain skills that civil society organisations have in order to successfully carry out rehabilitation activities. We, therefore, hope to partner with them instead of starting our own initiatives," Habumuremyi said.

In instances where the government will build or renovate girls' rehabilitation centres, the latter will provide services to at risk young female delinquents across the country.

The services will include provision of employable skills and positive attitudes that will help beneficiaries move back to their communities and be productive.

Joel Murenzi, the in charge of Mobilisation and Education at the Youth ministry, said one of such centres is in Muhanga District, Southern Province. It will be renovated and equipped in Southern Province's Muhanga District this fiscal year at the tune of Rwf200 million.

The current number of delinquent girls in the country remains unknown but the female youth rehabilitation centre in Muhanga is expected to provide 200 female delinquents with psychotherapy and vocational skills every year once it is fully refurbished, MYICT officials say.

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