For many of our beneficiary projects around the world, bikes serve as the vehicle that drives their mission, literally and figuratively. This is very much the case for Learn Work Develop (LWD) in Rwanda, our newest recipient partner. LWD's main focus is to guide and support teen girls who are not fully supported by their families. The bike component of the program helps fund these initiatives.
Through their Masenge Mba Hafi program, LWD provides emergency support to pregnant teens and at risk young women at a community level. "Masenge" means Auntie; there is one Auntie mentor in each village as well as elder sisters who work to identify, educate, and support abandoned or under supported girls in the community. The relationship at this level is important to help create a trusted bond between the teen and her mentors.
Teenage pregnancies have been on the rise in Rwanda, which encouraged LWD to establish the Masenge program several years ago. Similar to a Big Sister program, the elder sisters offer advice to younger girls in the village. Their focus is on sexual and reproductive health and gender based violence. The elder sisters are teen mothers who share their own experiences to help educate and uplift the young women who are often not fully supported at home. LWD has created 39 peer generated Masenge networks for young mothers to lean on and learn from.
Teenage pregnancy is viewed so negatively within communities that many families will disown their daughters forcing them into situations that are harmful to them and their babies. The Masenge may be called on to serve as a mediator to encourage support within a family. LWD works to bridge that divide, change attitudes, and help young women (and their families) make better choices before, during, and after becoming mothers.
The pandemic intensified this situation while also cutting many people off from local programs set in place to help. Once quarantines were lifted last fall, LWD jumped back into action to identify those girls in need of assistance and got to work. In January of 2021 they conducted field visits and found new and soon-to-be mothers without beds, food, or proper sanitary supplies they need to stay healthy and give birth. These items were then collected and distributed to beneficiaries last month.
For girls who have been forced from school, they ensure that they receive proper education. Last fall, LWD identified 79 children in one district who had dropped out of school because of childbirth. They helped reinstate 56 of those mothers and encouraged the other 23 to do the same.
LWD also offers TVET- Technical and Vocational Education Training to assist mothers with on-the-job training, teaching skills such as hairdressing, tailoring, and business administration to prepare them for sustainable careers to help provide for their new families.
Bikes for the World donated our first container to this project earlier this year, after a delay in 2020 because of COVID-19. These bikes should arrive in Rwanda this week and will help support the Masenge program while also providing valuable transportation to the community trying to steer its way out of the continuing coronavirus fallout.