Final Thoughts

After a great weekend in the Kayonza district we headed back to Kigali to collect our luggage and say our final goodbyes to our Rwandan cohorts.

Before heading back to the University Campus, we had been invited round to the home of a couple who we met at the United Nations conference. We spoke to them more about FemEng and what we had been up to these last three and a half weeks. We had very interesting and empowering conversations. They welcomed us all into their home and offered us canapés and Mississippi mud pie (which was delicious!!).

After a few hours, we headed back to the Campus and hugged goodbye to the Rwandan girls still at the accommodation. At last, we arrived to Kigali International airport with not much time to spare. We stopped at a café for a quick meal, and to spend our Rwandan francs that we had left over, but minutes after ordering we heard the last call for our flight to Brussels!!! We anxiously devoured our sandwiches before passing through security and arriving at the boarding gate just before the doors shut.

We enjoyed our long-haul flight with the entertaining movies that were available, one of our favourites was ‘Bohemian Rapsody’. After all the walking, bus journeys and 8 hour stopover in Brussels we finally arrived at Edinburgh airport, tired as ever but happy to come back to our family and friends.

FemEng in Rwanda 2019 has now come to an end. We are all so glad to have been part of this pioneering project that keeps expanding across Rwanda every single year. This year was very successful for us all as we managed to reach over 3,500 school children and made a significant impact. We cannot wait for what the future holds for these promising youths. Big thank you to the University of Rwanda, high school and University of Glasgow team for working so incredibly hard throughout the duration of the project. The project wouldn’t have been such a success without the effort of each and every single team member. Thank you to the staff members at the University of Rwanda for all their help in making the project a success. And huge thank you to Ellen Simmons for founding the project in 2016.

The University of Glasgow team look forward to attending the annual James Watt dinner in October to represent FemEng and share our experiences further.

The FemEng in Rwanda Team 2019 🙂

Safari Trip!!

After a great night’s sleep, we had a very early morning as today was the safari day!! We were informed that the best time to start the safari was early in the morning as this is when we would have the highest chance of seeing any animals.

Waking up to the lovely surroundings of the Womens Opportunity Centre definitely had the team in high spirits, even when we headed for breakfast at 5am. We had a nice change this morning from the usual hard-boiled eggs and chapatis, as we got some fresh fruit and a mini fry up!

We soon got on the bus and headed to the Akagera National Park, arriving at 8am. We were assigned with a tour guide who came into the bus with us and took us around the park, giving us fun facts and helping us keep an eye out for animals along the way.

We had an amazing day as we saw so many different animals like zebras, giraffes, hippos, baboons and even some elephants!

Seeing the animals in their natural habitat was a great experience for us and we will definitely all look back on this day with fond memories. Sadly, we didn’t spot any lions or rhinos– but this didn’t come to a surprise to us as we knew that there is very few of these in the park. In the two years that our tour guide had been working there he has only seen the lions four times!

Finishing the safari in the late afternoon, we were all very tired so had a quiet night back at the Womens Opportunity Centre having some dinner and drinks. A few of us even managed to get a hot shower before the water went cold!!

The FemEng in Rwanda Team 2019 🙂

Day 21

After a crazy closing party the night before, most of the girls were looking forward to a long lie and spending the last few hours with the Rwandan team. As an amazing end to a very successful project, Hannah, Lydie and Ellen were invited to share the projects story with a UNESCO training programme, focussing on delivering quality gender-responsive STEM education. Ellen spoke about the importance of STEM and how she founded the project 4 years ago, while Hannah highlighted the successes of this years project, with the team reaching over 3500 children across Rwanda. Lydie discusses her plans to continue the projects outreach initiatives through a new student society called FutureYou, in order to encourage more children into STEM long after the project ends. At the end of our presentation, almost all of the countries represented at UNESCO said they too wanted to emulate a project just like ours!

We spoke alongside Josephine Malonza, an architecture lecturer at the University of Rwanda who is instrumental in coordinating the project (really, she is amazing!) Josephine was just the 18th woman in the whole of Africa with a PhD in architecture, therefore, used this platform to share her wisdom, particularly the importance of school teachers guiding students into the appropriate university career.

After saying a very teary goodbye to our Rwandan girls, the Glasgow team packed our bags for a 2 night stay at the Women’s Opportunity Center eco lodge. Designed in collaboration with Women for Women International—a humanitarian organization that helps women survivors of war rebuild their lives—the center uses architecture to create economic opportunity, rebuild social infrastructure, and restore African heritage. The center partnered with local enterprises to create water purification, biogas, and other sustainable systems that can be maintained by the inhabitants themselves. We were extremely looking forward to having a chance to relax on our last few days in Rwanda (with an ACTUAL hot shower).

We spent dinner on the shores of Lake Muhazi, while taking a boat ride over the lake and watched the sunset. Golden hour really did bits for our pictures!

We all debated whether to swim in the lake but eventually, Gratien our driver was the only one brave enough. After a few Smirnoff ices, we were all excited to get back to our luxurious beds for the night to prepare for a very early start to Akagera in the morning!

The FemEng in Rwanda Team 2019 🙂

Closing Ceremony (Day 20)

As they say, all good things come to an end.

After the breakfast, the team rushed to town to buy last minute secret santa, once more, and wrapping paper. We’ve started to master the true art of bargaining in the market. The team leaders used the free time to polish their presentation for the closing ceremony.

In the early afternoon, we attended the closing ceremony. The CST principal gave us a warm welcome and was pleased to see us again. Hannah gave us a presentation on the outcome of this year’s project. The team has delivered STEM workshops to more than 3560 pupils this year!! This number far surpassed our original target of 2,019. So over the 4 last years, more than 6000 kids gained information about studying STEM courses at university. We also got the chance to visit companies and listen to the stories of sucessful engineers.


None of this would have been possible without our sponsors, so we would like to say a massive thank you to them all. Robertson, Star Refrigeration, Western Ferries, IESIS and Hammermen of Glasgow.

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Lydie then explained her development plan for FutureYou, the FemEng equivalent society at the University of Rwanda. The society was founded a couple of years ago but has not been as successful as intended. The new aims for Future You are to provide information on STEM related courses to pupils and inspire the next generation, organise monthly public talks and workshops for students.


And finally Ellen Simmons went back on the history of  FemEng in Rwanda, its evolution from the creation to now and the future of Femeng in Rwanda. She was extremely pleased to see how well the project went this year. We are hoping to be able to emulate this project in other African countries.


On behalf of RAWISE, Dr Noella Karemera expressed their satisfaction on our collaboration with them. The Vice Chancellor Philip Cotton gave us a very inspirational speech encouraging everyone to follow their dreams. Each team member then received a certificate of participation presented by the Principle and Vice Chancellor.


Following the closing ceremony everybody went back to the hostel to pack and get dressed up for the evening celebrations. The Glasgow team got the chance to wear their new outfit made in Rwanda. We all enjoyed a lovely treat meal with multiple dishes including pizza, brochettes, samosas and chips. We exchanged , and everyone was really happy about what they received as it is a symbol of all the friendships created during the project. Each Rwandan girls received a pins with the Scottish flag and postcard from Glasgow. The evening was amazing, we took a large amount of pictures, and some impressive dance moves were performed. It was a great way to conclude the project, as the next morning it will be time to say goodbye to the Rwanda team.

The FemEng in Rwanda Team 2019 🙂

Last school visit!

After a morning of last minute souvenirs and secret santa shopping, the whole team met up for our last school visit of the 2019 FemEng in Rwanda trip. This school, Camp Kigali, was located right next to the University of Rwanda college of science and technology (the campus we were staying at), and was the school rescheduled from Monday. Our team set up each engineering subject in a different corner of the school hall, and students wandered around reading our posters and asking questions as we gave short presentations. This science-fair style set up helped, as the students had minimal English abilities and the Rwandan girls did the majority of the speaking and presenting in their native tongue, Kinyarwanda.

The afternoon started with another trip on the mototaxis! No longer scared, the ride on the back of a motorbike is exciting and fun for the Glasgow team, and part of everyday life for the Rwandan girls. We drove about 10 minutes, to a nearby area of Kigali where we met up with Materne Mateso and Frida Kamikazi. Ellen brought us into contact with Materne as he had helped discuss Rwanda with her when she first started the project, four years ago, as he was born and raised in Rwanda. He completed his undergraduate in food science in Egypt, before traveling to Glasgow to do his master’s in food security. After finishing his degree, Materne returned to Rwanda to found his company, FarmPal. This is an online platform for external investments into farming projects. The company assists and manages the farm projects, to reduce risks and ensure time management and completion during the projects. This benefits the farmers by giving access to capital that they wouldn’t be able to achieve due to harsh bank loan standards. Materne talked to us about his company, and about the challenges and rewards of being an entrepreneur.


We were also introduced to Frida, who founded AMASHAMI, a company working with refugees on social change projects, particularly focused on young mothers. The programs run for these young mothers “focus on leadership skills, goal-planning, financial literacy, building a network, exposure, community engagement, skill-building, sisterhood building, and socio-emotional learning”. After some good conversation at the rooftop café, we said goodbye and thank you to Frida and Materne. The Rwandan team caught mototaxis back to the hostel as we were done for the day, and the Glasgow team travelled into the city.


We returned to the market area, where we met up with the seamstress who had been making our clothes. She had finished the alterations from the other day, and we tried them on in the corner of the shop. With only a few small alterations needing done, which were quick fixes, we all had our new outfits all done! Each of us requested different styles of clothing, and in different patterns and colours of the African wax material, so each had a unique outfit to remember our trip to Rwanda by.


The FemEng in Rwanda Team 2019 🙂

Day 18

This week started off nice and slow. The school we had planned to visit was forced to reschedule as the impromptu holiday on Friday required exams to be moved to today. Luckily we were able to reschedule the visit to the school, Camp Kigali, for tomorrow which was just a short walk away. The easy day allowed for us to go into town, shop for secret santa presents, and pick up a few souvenirs for ourselves.

After lunch we went back to the hostel for a chilled afternoon. Several of us did some laundry (hand washing) and some took a nap. With a bit more energy, Ellis, Jeanne and Monica decided to go for a trip to the Inema Arts Centre, just a short moto taxi ride away. This is a small art gallery in Kigali that displays art made by artists from all over Africa. After viewing the art, the girls stopped for coffee and a cake at a nearby rooftop coffee shop, enjoying the views before heading back to the hostel.

In the evening, all the girls walked to the Vice Chancellor, Phil Cotton’s house, as he had invited us for dinner. We were served a lovely meal of roast chicken, mashed potatoes, potato salad and mango salad (what a treat!). We even had ice cream and fruit salad for dessert! The evening was lovely and full of good conversation between the girls, Josephine, and Professor Cotton. It was a great way to end an extended weekend.

The FemEng in Rwanda Team 2019 🙂

Day 17

Sunday at last! A morning to relax and sleep in after a late night the night before.

Several of the Rwandan girls went home for the day so the Glasgow girls decided to go for a lazy brunch at Simba (our regular restaurant/supermarket). The avocados in a Rwanda are triple the size of those in the UK, and full of flavour, making an excellent avocado brunch sandwich.

At midday, the Glasgow team and two of the Rwandan girls (Lydie and Fabiola) headed to Josephine’s house. Josephine has been helping with project management for the Rwandan side of the project since the start, 4 years ago, and has been very helpful and welcoming. Her and her husband invited us into their home for a relaxing afternoon of good food and company. Josephine and her cook prepared a huge meal of Rwandan/Kenyan food, a delicious twist of the staples. Josephine’s 3 daughters (5 year old twins and a 11 year old) kept us well entertained. Josephine even showed us how Rwandan mothers carry their babies on their backs, tied with cloth. The two girls fell asleep tied to the backs of Fern and Hannah, so adorable!

After a nice relaxing afternoon in Josephine’s garden, we returned to the hostel. The local seamstress had brought the clothes we ordered for us to try on for final adjustments! Very exciting to see the bright coloured fabrics and different styles each of us had requested! Still full from lunch, we all had a chilled evening, face timing friends and family and relaxing.


The FemEng in Rwanda Team 2019 🙂

Day 16

Today we had an extremely busy day planned!

We departed the university campus early in the morning to visit Tumba Technical College. The students were in the middle of their exams however the lecturers were extremely keen to show us around the campus. Their sustainable energy systems were of particular interest to the team. They use solar power in order to provide electricity to the school and heat their water.

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After the tour we drove for a couple of hours to Musanze where Sonrise school is located.  Unfortunately this visit didn’t go quite to plan due to lots of roads in the area being closed off for the cycling cup. We were determined to reach the school on time so made the decision to walk for 45 minutes with our materials.

The school visit was extremely successful, at first the pupils seemed hesitant to ask questions, however after some encouragement from the head boy and girl we received lots of thought provoking questions. Many of the students were even interested to know how they could continue their studies in the UK.

Unfortunately because of the road closures our plans for the rest of the day had to be changed. Originally we planned to drive to Lake Kivu after the school visit, however  we decided as a team it wouldn’t be worth it as the sun would have set by the time we arrived.

Instead we visited the National Volcano Park which was located close to the school. The entrance to the park was decorated with a variety of large wicker animals which the girls took as a photo opportunity. Although the weather wasn’t the best it was amazing to see the volcanoes so close up.

On the drive back to the accommodation we discussed going on a night out. Ellen had been in the two previous years she came and wanted us to experience the nightlife there.   Five of us from the Glasgow Team and Lydia went out for some drinks at a bar and then headed to a nightclub called Envy. We had a great night dancing and were extremely happy to find that the club sold food!! We all enjoyed some brochettes and cheesy potatoes before heading home.

The FemEng in Rwanda Team 2019 🙂


Day 15

Today Ellen joined us! She flew in to join us for the last week and a bit (unfortunately her suitcase didn’t make it). Ellen started FemEng in Rwanda 4 years ago and participated in the first two years while she was in university. Now being back in Rwanda for the third time, she knows her way around!


We started our day by getting a bit dirty! Boots, hard hat and high visibility vests on, we were ready for our site visit at the new campus for the Rwandan Institute for Conservation Agriculture (RICA). This new campus is designed by MASS, the civil engineering company we visited last week. The campus is still being built, getting ready for its first group of students in August (including one of our own Femeng Rwanda high school graduates!). One of the engineers guided us around the site, showing us the accommodation buildings, teaching buildings and eating areas. First years are also responsible for a small barn and taking care of the animals inside. MASS focuses heavily on sustainability and giving back to the local market. This is seen by the campus’ huge solar panel system, naturally cooled buildings (no need for air conditioning) and almost all locally sourced material. Dirt from onsite is compacted to form bricks that make up many buildings, and timber from Rwanda is used for several of the roof structures. All in all it was very interesting to see the way the location of a building and campus can determine so much!

After the visit, we returned our hard hats and HI-VIS and piled back on the bus to visit a nearby school, Gashora Girls Academy. Two of the high school graduates on our team attended that school, and were more than happy to help the current school girls give us a tour of the school. Since we arrived at lunch time, we joined the girls in their food hall for lunch before our presentations. We split up between four classrooms, each for a different field of engineering, and presented to the girls. Overall the students seemed very keen, asking many questions.

On the drive back from the school we stopped at Nyamata church. This church has now been turned into a memorial site, and is the location of the killing of over 50,000 people during the genocide. A guide gave us a tour around the site, telling us about the history and how the events transpired. Thousands of Tutsis went to the church in hopes that the holy land would help protect them. Unfortunately this did very little as they were slaughtered, men women and children. The church now has displays of the bones of the victims as well as photographs and clothing worn by those who perished. Displays also show possessions that the victims had including documents, jewellery and photographs. Many of the different church buildings are severely damaged due to explosives and fire. The site also has a mass grave which visitors can go down into and see the coffins of hundreds of victims. The experience was very emotional for all the girls, bringing the graphic facts to this very real event. After a long day and drive back, we arrived back on campus ready for some pizza for dinner and then bed.

Liberation Day

Here, July 4th is “Liberation Day” and marks the end of the genocide in 1994. The word “Kwibuka” is used, meaning “to remember”. On this day the country comes together to remember what happened and those who are no longer with us.  Every year, thousands of people pack into the Amahoro stadium in Kigali to witness military shows and the president’s speech. The whole country tunes in to watch the event on tv or listen on the radio. The sports stadium itself has great ties with the genocide, as it protected 12,000 Tutsis in 1994.


As we are in Kigali, the Glasgow team and a few of the Rwandan girls set out early to get to the stadium at 7am. Once the president is on the move to the stadium, all roads close so it’s important to get there in time! The event started with a military and police procession, and a huge marching band. The military remained on the pitch of the stadium, in perfect formation, as the various presidents and leaders of many African countries began to arrive. These leaders came to witness the celebration and give their respect and support to the country of Rwanda. Many more leaders from around the world were unable to attend, and instead sent their respects. The final person to arrive was His Excellence, the president of Rwanda, President Kagame. While he has been president since 2000, he was the leader of the Rwandan Patriotic Front, the rebel force that ended the genocide, and thus greatly loved and respected by the people of Rwanda. The event lasted several hours, with speeches and demonstrations from various national dance and music groups. The president gave a long speech concluding with the following quote “We left the past behind us and embraced the future by coming together as a family. We must remain solid in defence of these values through each and every generation. We will not lose our way again”. After this, the president and various leaders exited the stadium followed by the military procession and then at last the gates of the stadium and the roads opened and 30,000 people streamed out of the stadium to go home (naturally there was quite some traffic).



After lunch a few of us went into town to the markets to buy some souvenirs and gifts for the Secret Santa exchange between the Rwandan and Glasgow teams. With the help of a few of the Rwandan girls, we did some haggling to get a good price. After a long and exhausting day in the sun, with all of us managing to get a bit sunburnt at the stadium, a good meal for dinner was much appreciated.