19 March 2017

Rwanda Radio Tackles Relationship Counseling and Sex Education

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(File photo).

Late every Friday night listeners in Kigali call Vestine Dusabe on Flash FM hoping that she will find a solution for their sexual concerns. Calls and text messages come from the rest of Rwanda, too. Between midnight and 2.00am they all tune in to listen to the award-winning Zirara Zubakwa programme.

Zirara Zubakwa has received the Rwanda Broadcasters Excellence Award every year now since it was launched in 2010.

It is a live programme that airs on week days and runs for two hours. Zirara Zubakwa is in the Kinyarwanda language - it means "happy couples", Dusabe says.

The idea for such a programme came to her in 2009 when, upon returning to Rwanda, she found a high number of divorces and couples sleeping in separate rooms. The root cause of it all she says is the absence of communication and partners who do not click sexually.

"There are so many unhappy couples, some getting married because of money, of family, some because they just want to wear a white dress for the wedding," she tells RFI. "Some women are so desperate to get married that they will accept the first man who proposes without reflecting on whether it is a good life partner for her."

Traditional sexual practice helps women

Dusabe is known throughout the land of a thousand hills and beyond for her work to promote gukuna, an ancient sexual practice in Rwanda.

"We talk about gukuna because we do not want our culture to disappear... . My two daughters I did it for them when they were 10 years old," she explains. She talks about gukuna on the radio, not every day, she says, but once or three times a month. She also travels across Rwanda to raise awareness of the lost sexual tradition.

Gukuna is an ancient custom where the lips of a girl's inner labia are gently pulled or stretched so that they become elongated. It helps to heighten a woman's sexual sensitivity.

"Every day, twice a day and within two months, you will see that the lips will become longer. The reason why girls in Rwanda like to do that is for their happiness when they are making love," explains Dusabe.

Gukuna helps a woman to kunyara, that is female ejaculation or squirting.

Couples' problems

The programme Zirara Zubakwa is not only about sexual education but also about issues related to married life and the problems couples are facing.

"We talk about how a woman is supposed to treat her husband, we talk about hygiene between couples", says Dusabe.

Even though she and her listeners enjoy open and frank discussions, they still have to careful about the language used. "We are not supposed to use some words if children are likely to hear them, like penis, penetration or vagina", she explains.

There were objections to the show when it started in 2010 with some calling its presenter a prostitute for daring to talk about sex on air.

The situation has much improved nowadays.

The show's mate-night slot means listeners and host can openly discuss sexual issues.

"We found that there is a lack of knowledge about sex among Rwandese people," Dusabe recalls. "They don't know how to do sex at all. Men come from a bar or work and just want to make sex without talking or romancing his wife.

"We tell the men that you're not supposed to just open the door and go inside, you have first to knock, when they say come in, then you can go in. On Friday night, we teach the men where and how to touch a woman. They are like students, they do it while we are on air."

Listeners often call her afterwards to thank her, on the air, for her advice. "I romanced my wife, I touched her... for so many years we were married, we never enjoyed sex the way we did today," are some of the comments

In the seven years she has been hosting Zirara Zubakwa, Dusabe says infidelity is the one theme that listeners have kept bringing up. Listeners turn to her for advice with messages like "I saw an SMS about love from someone else on her phone", "I caught him cheating on me, now I want to divorce him, what can I do?"

Youth problems

Wednesday nights are devoted to the problems young boys and girls are facing in Rwanda today.

"Nowadays most of the young boys and girls just want to have sex without love," Dusabe observes. The show provides an opportunity for them to discuss about HIV-Aids, sexually transmitted diseases, unprotected sex, unwanted pregnancies.

Dusabe travels across Rwanda and usually goes to villages to talk about sex education. She says there are sometimes up to 5,000 people waiting for her and, on one occasion, there were as many as 10,000.

Diaspora audience

The diaspora and neighbouring countries also listen to Zirara Zubakwa via the internet or mobile applications like TuneIn radio.

So Dusabe also travels outside Rwanda to pursue her work on sexual education and gukuna. She is invited to Uganda, Kenya, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Angola, too, as she speaks Portuguese.

Travelling West, Vestine has been to Belgium and is planning a trip to Canada to meet the Rwandan diaspora. Last year, she featured in Olivier Jourdain's movie Sacred water.


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