New law seeks to get people involved in community
A bill currently before Parliament would require people to dedicate some time to the community through volunteer activities, starting by the youth graduating from secondary school, aged between 18 to 35 years. It would mean in practice that those concerned spend a period of time in whichever activities their local community has a need for.
The Rwanda Focus talked to the chairman of the Itorero ry’Igihugu task force, Boniface Rucagu, who is to implement the initiative which is rooted in Rwandan traditions and in the past was used to help improve livelihoods and safeguard the country’s sovereignty.
Who introduced the idea to introduce voluntarism among the Rwandan youth?
This is not a new program. I would refer people to article 47 of the Constitution, which reads that “All citizens have the duty to participate, through work, in the development of the country; to safeguard peace, democracy, social justice and equality and to participate in the defense of the motherland.”
Maybe some people, despite that they voted for this Constitution, didn’t remember this article, but they should understand that voluntarism is a constitutional obligation, not my initiative.
How long do you suggest those services would take?
We want the people to decide and have started seeking ideas among the public, where some suggest one year, others seven or five months.
So far, some of the youth graduating from secondary school complained the system would deny them the chance to seek a job, at a time they feel responsible and no longer dependent on those who paid their school fees.
First of all, it wouldn’t take all their time. We are thinking about using like three mornings per week, letting them do what they want in the afternoon, where they would continue work in their homes. We might even opt to organize them during afternoons, always making sure that we do not take all their time.
Secondly, they will not go far from their homes; they will accomplish tasks at their cells.
Which activities will this include?
Let me say that the objective is to build unity and development. It will depend on the need of a sector where they are from; if their sector finds it important to orient them in alphabetization, those youth will do that. If in their sector, domestic violence is common, the sector could use those youth to sensitize the population on the issue or if it is about family planning, they will serve as a good tool.
“All citizens have the duty to participate, through work, in the development of the country; to safeguard peace, democracy, social justice and equality and to participate in the defense of the motherland.” article 47 of the Constitution
Or their sector might have a need to plant trees on some hills; then the youth can do that. In fact, it consists of manual work and delivering basic skills to the community on the one hand, and the individual’s education on the other. Someone who studied nursing might help in that sector, a teacher might serve in education, a technician in his domain, etc.
Why are you focusing on the youth?
Adults in their specific domains will also be required to contribute to the country’s development. During his yearly leave, a doctor can agree to give two weeks per year, treating patients for free, and we will follow up how it works, giving certificates of appreciation to those who will go for it because it develops good citizen hood.
Is there any relation between the introduction of this initiative at this time and the fact that some donor countries have suspended their aid?
The bill on the mechanism to introduce this voluntarism has been in parliament since a year, before this aid issues emerged. On the other hand, if we have some problems in the country and we try to find homegrown solutions, what’s wrong with that?
Patriotism and fighting for one’s country’s sovereignty should belong to each and every citizen. I think people who don’t want this to be applied don’t have same vision.
The issue is to study how effective it can be, how it can benefic the participants and the country in general.