Rwanda: Indian Girl On a Mission to Change Narrative On Rwanda

Neysa Sanghavi has visited Rwanda three times in just four years. The result of her visits has been consistently engaging in projects that help people around the world know more about Rwanda.

For her, there is more about Rwanda than people around the world need to know other than just gorillas and she wants to use her experience to share with the world.

"For the last few years, people around the world perceive Africa as the last place one should be, and due to the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, Rwanda in particular is perceived as an insecure place.

As a result this made me try and do all I could with the help from my family, so as to share the little I had knew about Rwanda hoping that it would change people's perceptions" the 19-year-old said.

Sanghavi is a freshman at the University of Southern California, majoring in human biology and entrepreneurship as a minor.

In November 2017, she was appointed by Ernest Rwamucyo, Rwanda's High Commissioner to India, as a Brand Ambassador for Rwanda in India.

In her new role, Sanghavi shared Rwanda's story last year, with the Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi, who visited Rwanda to experience for himself the beauty and re-establishment of the nation.

She also shared the story with Ratan Tata, an Indian industrialist, businessman, investor, philanthropist, and a former chairman of Tata Sons, who congratulated her ability to prove wrong the different misconceptions about Africa.

"I would like to use this voluntary high profile designation to promote and increase awareness on Rwanda's story on economic growth, social transformation, the resilience of the Rwandan genocide survivors, and work towards enhancing people-people connection between Rwanda and India" Sanghavi added.

Coming to Rwanda

Sanghavi picked interest in Rwanda thanks to Chinua Achebe's seminal "Things fall apart" that got them discussing African cultures during her history classes in high school at Singapore International School.

She recalls however, sitting in class for just a usual history class, with a teacher facing them ready with her notebook. The story of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, which was the day's lecture, attracted her attention to know more about Rwanda's history.

Given that her mother Dr Sejal was working in Rwanda at the moment Sanghavi wanted to witness for herself whether what people thought about Rwanda was actually true.

In September 2016, she made her first visit to Rwanda with her main purpose of carrying out a pilot study of the Rwandan history, and proving whether the negative opinions people around her were raising were valid.

She had planned to do this by meeting different survivors in person and hear from them as direct victims of the atrocities.

"I met a number of genocide survivors to hear their stories in person. My aim was to learn about the social and cultural norms of the country, in particular, to learn what has changed about them in the aftermath of the genocide and how the viewpoints of the Rwandans had evolved with time." reads part of her book.

At the end of her week-long visit, she was in a position to convince her friends and the rest of the world that what they thought was a misconception.

"I was happy after my first trip because I had a take-home document for my friends, and I was hopeful that what I had seen would equip me with the means to demolish the image back home of Rwanda being merely "violent" and "under-developed".

For her second trip, in June 2017, after a profound research about Rwanda, in particular the Genocide, she stayed in the country for four days learning and meeting more people that would help in implementing her projects as well as give her guidance.

Study Rwanda Project

Knowing that social media has been the leading medium of communication in today's era, Sanghavi plans to create a website which will act as a channel through which many people around the whole world can view Rwanda.

The cover of Sanghavi's book 'Rwanda on the Rise'.

This website she said will contain different content, different tourist attractions and showcase day-to-day lives of Rwandan nationals.

"I know that it is through social media sites that people mislead others about certain things. I envision my project of study Rwanda as one that will act as a testimony, depicting the re-establishment of Rwanda after the atrocity" she said.

She has documented a book titled "Rwanda on the Rise" and the book depicts Sanghavi's experience in Rwanda and the contrast of her experience with what the majority think of African countries.

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