One of Rwanda’s new generation, building opportunities for all
The Hutus and Tutsis of Rwanda and Burundi had struggled against each other for domination for decades, with both sides causing ghastly massacres and massive waves of refugees over the years. Alexandrine Mugisha’s family had fled from Rwanda to Burundi and were living as refugees when she was born. When over a million people fled Rwanda in 1994, the power had shifted, and Alexandrine’s family decided to return. She was nine years old that year, the year over 800,000 people were slaughtered.
She lives among genocide survivors and its perpetrators—the guilty who are still outside prison. Some these killers even hold public office while others who are innocent are still in prison. The two tribal groups continue to persecute each other. Jobs are even harder to find when a qualified employee must also match the employer’s ethnicity. Services go to clients that match the provider’s ethnicity. Scholarships are awarded by ethnicity. Bars serve the thirsty according to their ethnicity. The security, vitality, and prosperity of the communities suffer as a result.
Yet Alexandrine is hopeful because young people represent 60% of the population, and through them, she believes healing is possible. She wants to be a part of it. Among ten thousand others, she attends the National University of Rwanda, majoring in communication and journalism. Her first year, she earned the Best Young Female Poet Award. The first organization she joined was VSO, Volunteer Services Overseas, an organization aiming to end poverty and, in Rwanda, stressing education. Alexandrine has averaged two hours a day for four years with this group.
The next year she also joined Never Again International, working on projects that provoke critical analysis of the past and offering workshops and conferences that reinforce the common humanity in all people to insure that the cruelties of ethnic cleansing never happen again. The organization emphasizes the use of Internet technology to network and communicate globally. Alexandrine is now trained in Microsoft Office, Photoshop, and Adobe Audition.
In 2005, Alexandrine was among the twenty-six students who inaugurated the university’s own radio station, Radio Salus, organized by UNESCO and funded by Japan. She traveled to Uganda for special media training in 2007. She served as a dedicated journalist with Radio Salus for three years.
The student body elected Alexandrine to a position within the student union or guild, AGEUNR, as minister in charge of gender and health issues. She coordinated health insurance, dispensary, and hospital transfers. She helped advocate for students with unwanted pregnancies and worked with women’s associations to establish workshops on gender violence, empowerment, and equity, along with general discussions of HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and the problems associated with the use of tobacco. She stresses that her structural formats are not top-down but horizontal, allowing each attendee to have a voice. For her outstanding efforts, she received an IMBUTO award and a BPC Award from the Private Sector Federation of the World Bank.
Continuing with women’s health, Alexandrine spent three months as a communication volunteer with UNFPA, the main UN agency for “delivering a world where every pregnancy is wanted, every birth is safe, and every young person’s potential is fulfilled.” Other leadership training opportunities opened up and she traveled to Tanzania and Washington, DC.
After graduation, she became an external relations coordinator for Population Services International (PSI) which works closely with local organizations to create sustainable health systems among at-risk populations. Alexandrine helps build the company brand by improving its public image through traditional media channels, social media, commercial events, and conferences.