28 September 2017

Rwanda: How 21-Year-Old Umuhoza Plans to Fight Climate Change

Photo: New Times
Grace Ineza Umuhoza.
opinion

Grace Ineza Umuhoza, a third year student at University of Rwanda, wants to make a difference in society and is already devising initiatives on how to accomplish this.

As soon as she completed high school, Umuhoza launched 'Baby an Angel', a project that is designed to offer home services for babies and provide working opportunities for girls.

The 21-year-old designed it after conducting research on new mothers and found out that 'they do not have adequate home keeping services and that they are also worried at work because they do not trust the people that they leave their kids with'.

"Also, minor research I did in 2016 showed that girls graduating in hospitality and hotel management did not have jobs because they do not know where to turn to. I thought of a sustainable and reliable project that can connect the two parties and create an open platform for the youth and help working parents feel better at work," she says.

She began her project immediately and hired two employees to go about her business. Due to inadequate funds, she halted her project and decided to concentrate more on studies.

In July this year, Umuhoza was lucky to be among the 26 applicants selected from over 2,500 applications received from 45 African countries for the Moremi Initiative Leadership and Empowerment Development (MILEAD) Fellow Programme, a United Nations accredited organisation and one of Africa's famous global women leadership programmes, after she pitched her 'Baby an Angel' project.

The Fellowship is designed to equip young women leaders with additional skills that will enable them provide the bold and inspirational leadership needed to ensure Africa gets and sustains its rightful place in the global community.

"The opportunity was an open platform for me to present my project and get funds," she says.

With potential investors, Umuhoza's project will be back on its feet again and she is set to commence activities in October this year after she put them on hold.

"I hope that this project will contribute to the reduction of unemployment in Rwanda, especially for girls, and solve nanny problems and also, reduce the parents' worry about the wellbeing of their children," she says.

Last year, her project won the 2016 Africa Innovation Prize business idea challenge.

The environmentalist

Umuhoza is currently pursuing a Bachelor's degree in Water and Environmental Engineering at the University of Rwanda.

"When I finished secondary school, I had the option to go for civil engineering or water and environmental engineering but when I searched the Internet and saw the global wars of climate change, I realised that environmental engineers are the ones able to find solutions and that is how I opted to be an environmental engineer.

"During my course, I realised that in terms of land neutrality, Rwanda can do more, and that was my inspiration. The land environmental engineer is one that can take care of the environment and community because both of them can live in harmony in order to attain sustainable development," she reveals.

Umuhoza attended the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) in China this month.

It is an international declaration linking environment and development to sustainable land management, and it supports the youth in combating desertification around the globe by creating an open platform to share their experience and knowledge and also get some finances for small projects to contribute to the community.

"UNCCD stepped forward in opening a door for the youth around the globe in order to mitigate and adapt to this by also protecting the environment for us and the future generation," she says.

Her project aims at increasing the number of the youth in combating desertification.

"I am working hand-in-hand with the youth who graduated from University of Rwanda to design the project which will have a positive impact on the environment and the agricultural sector. This is the starting point in the process, to have more youth fighting for suitable land management in the region," she says.

She says that she hopes to contribute to problem solving of some of the environmental problems affecting the country, such as bridging the knowledge gap on land sustainability issues and providing adequate data.

"In rural areas, for example, people just know that Rwanda is a beautiful country but they do not know how to keep the land sustainable, and how to practice more in conserving the environment. This is a big challenge because rural people are more vulnerable to global warming but they don't know how to protect themselves from that.

"Also, the data information is wanting in Rwanda. From my small research I realised that we do not have adequate information, like how desertification is affecting Rwanda, how we respond to this, how much are we saving or losing, the soil erosion going on and so forth," she says.

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