Jeanne is 20!!!

Today was a very exciting day as it was our little Jeanne’s 20th birthday!!! Sadly, Jeanne had been very unwell in the days leading up to her birthday, however, she was determined to have a fun day out at Agahozo Shalom High School.

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In the morning, we presented our 4 workshops to pupils, who all took a keen interest in the different disciplines and had some very challenging questions for the team.

In the afternoon, the school was hosting their annual science fair and invited us as special guests. Both pupils and teachers had set up different experiments and demonstrations to present at the fair. Our team set up stalls in which students could come and ask questions that may not have been answered in the morning workshops. This was an excellent opportunity for the team to have more personal conversations with pupils who were interested in that particular subject. Our team leaders, Hannah & Lydie closed the science fair with a speech about the importance of STEM and the future possibilities you can pursue.

After a long drive home, the team went out for a lil treat dinner for Jeanne birthday (she was still unable to stomach a beer *gasp*), but when we arrived back at the accommodation, she was very surprised to be welcomed with a giant cake and the whole team singing HAPPY BIRTHDAY!

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Day 12

On Tuesday morning we had the opportunity to listen to the stories and talk with some influential women in STEM as well as the Vice Chancellor and Principal of the University of Rwanda. The Vice Chancellor, Phil Cotton, thought it important to give both women an official introduction to highlight the importance of the stories they were about to share. Our first speaker was Judy Dorsey a mechanical engineer and founder of Brendle Group. The company aims to prevent as well as using engineering to solve the effects of climate change and sustainability issues. The team found her story inspiring as she faced challenges of becoming an engineer in the USA 30 years ago. In particular, she found bias in industry when wanting to start a family, therefore, started her own company which has now completed over 300 projects in 30 states. Judy’s final words were to eliminate the ‘either/or’ mindset and instead introduce the fact you can be a mother AND an engineer!

65838584_664559777343725_1018401093081628672_nOur second speaker was the deputy director of the Rwandan Association of Women in Science and Engineering (RAWISE), Eva Ujeneza. She shared her story with the girls of growing up in Rwanda after the genocide and the struggle to afford education. Despite these struggles, Eva had the support of school teachers, her family and followed her gut instincts when it came to pursuing maths instead of more traditional careers. This led her to AIMS (African Institute of Mathematical Sciences), where she achieved her Masters in Applied Maths and is now pursuing her PhD. Her main message was to take risks and to not be afraid when it comes to pursuing your goals, even if it’s different to someone else’s idea of what you should be doing.

Although both women had very different backgrounds and upbringings, there was a clear similarity in their resilience and determination to achieve and prosper in a career in STEM.

 

The team have arranged a ‘secret santa’ to exchange some gifts at the end of the project (which is fast approaching 😦 ), therefore, the Glasgow girls sneaked into town to try buy some presents at the local markets! Ellis ended up buying more for herself, however, we discovered a new talent of Monica’s…haggling (she is BRUTAL). The team shuffled off to dinner, shopping bags full and happy.

The FemEng in Rwanda Team 2019  🙂

Day 11

Today we had another school visit planned with the bus leaving at 11am. We managed to incorporate a trip to Rutenderi bridge built by Bridges to Prosperity as it was in the area. The old bridge was constructed from two logs with many people losing their life trying to cross. The new bridge allows for a safe crossing and for the locals to transport their agricultural produce to the market. This was a great opportunity for us to see the work they do after receiving a talk from them last week.

 

The Rwandan girls bought sugar cane from a young local boy selling it at the bridge. The Glasgow girls tried some but were not so keen!

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We had lunch at a local buffet restaurant recommended by the Rwandan girls before heading to Inyange Girls School at 2pm. We presented to a group of 450 pupils who were extremely grateful to be given to opportunity to learn more about engineering and university in general. It was a pleasure visiting them!

 

We headed back to the accommodation, having a quiet night as a couple of the girls were feeling under the weather. After having dinner at Simba (our favourite local restaurant) we had an early night in hopes of feeling better tomorrow.

Day 9 & 10 (the weekend!)

After the very late night, the team were excited to get a lie in, getting up around 9 as opposed to the usual 6:30am.

In Rwanda, there is a tradition called Umuganda, which roughly means “coming together for the common purpose to achieve an outcome”, in which on the last Saturday morning of every month, Rwandans gather and work on community projects and cleaning. Businesses are closed and transportation is limited as the communities nationwide come together to make Rwanda the cleanest country in East Africa. This is not mandatory, but several of the Rwandan girls took part.
Many of the girls travelled home for the weekend, so after a lunch together, the Glasgow team were free to choose how to spend our weekend days off, so naturally we went and got our nails done! While waiting at the salon, it was interesting for the Glasgow girls to watch the styling and braiding of African hair. The salon was pretty busy, so by the time all six of us finished, with colourful nails/toes, it was time to start thinking about dinner.


Instead of visiting our usual restaurant, we decided to explore a new area. Unfortunately, after quite a long walk to the restaurant we found online, we realised it had closed down! We soon found a little bakery, and bought samosas, bread stick pastries and mini pizzas, and sat on the side of the road enjoying these delicious pastries, before returning home for the night.

On Sunday, after an 8 am breakfast (many of the Rwandan girls attended church), the Glasgow team set off for our treat day. We walked to the Hôtel des Milles Collines. This hotel is famous for sheltering 1,268 Tutsis during the genocide in 1994. The hotel became the basis of the film, “Hotel Rwanda”. Using our personal spending money, we enjoyed the all day brunch buffet and relaxing by the pool. We all were a bit more tanned, filled up with dessert, and relaxed, ready for a new week of school and site visits.

In the evening, we travelled to a suburb of Kigali with Lydie, the Rwandan team leader, as her family had invited us all over for dinner. Her dad is a TV journalist in Rwanda, and her mum an ex school teacher who now runs a small shop. Two of Lydie’s 5 siblings also joined us in the living room for food and good conversation. Lydie’s mother had prepared a huge number of dishes, including avocado salad, peas, cassava bread, fish, finishing off with a bowl of fresh fruit for dessert. It was explained to us that in East Africa, the person hosting the dinner should make way too much food, and if all the food is eaten, it is a sign that they didn’t make enough. It’s also common to make a variety of dishes in case the guests don’t like something.


In Rwanda, the national language is Kinyarwanda. Due to the colonisation, schools were taught in French, another official language of Rwanda. In the early 2000s, English was added to the schooling system, and in 2008 it fully transitioned from French to English. This means the younger population, and all the Rwandan team, were taught in English and are fluent in our language, with varying levels of French. This is the opposite for the older population, who speak primarily French and Kinyarwanda, and varying levels of English. While Lydie’s father understood a lot of English, he preferred to speak in French, while Jeanne translated. The rest of us ~tried~ to use our National 5 french to identify a minimal amount of conversation (basically bonjour, merci and anything to do with food). The conversation was very interesting and we learned a lot about Rwandan traditions, and ideology. At the end of the night we all took the bus home, tired and full of good food, ready to fall asleep.

The FemEng in Rwanda Team 2019 🙂

(A very long) Day 8

We had an early start this morning, having breakfast at seven o’clock sharp for the bus at half seven. We travelled to the southern province Muhanga, where the company Zipline is situated. This was a very important trip for us as we have been doing workshops in the schools on this brilliant company. Zipline delivers blood to approximately twenty district hospitals across Rwanda using drones. We learned about the journey of the blood packages from the initial request from the hospital up until delivery, and the technology used. It was a pleasure to spend some time there and see behind the scenes of their company.

Then we had some free time in the early afternoon, so had lunch at a local buffet restaurant and went to the Nyanza King’s Palace museum. We learned about the history of the Rwandan monarchy and got to visit replicas of the original palaces. We thoroughly enjoyed discovering the old method of building – the huts were entirely made out of grass! Our tour guide explained to us the traditional roles of the men and women at that time. An example is how the men would get to drink all the beer, but women were only allowed milk! The girls definitely weren’t best pleased!!

In the late afternoon we had two visits to the boarding schools St Joseph and Notre-Dame-de-Lourdes. When we arrived at St Joseph a lot of pupils were playing outside, some of the girls joined them for a badminton match before giving a presentation to around 150 kids. The workshops went well with there being a particular interest in software and computer engineering.

Arriving to the next school we were surprised by a very enthusiastic welcome from the 819 girls studying there. Each group gave their presentation to the girls and answered a lot of questions. The sister in charge of the school was pleased and thanked us. This was an amazing experience for us as the girls were so involved and had such a great interest in engineering. We made them laugh by having a grand exit by dancing along to their music, we even got some cheers!

Travelling home at 7:30PM, we unfortunately got stuck in a severe traffic jam. We were stuck in the bus for seven hours!! We got to witness the true art of Rwandan traffic, as our two-lane road turned into a five-lane nightmare!!! Getting back to Kigali in the early hours of the morning, we had to stop off at a local shop for dinner – we got some bread and spread! Arriving at the hostel after 3AM, we all had a bite to eat then went to bed.

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The FemEng in Rwanda Team 2019 🙂

Day 7

We got up early this morning to take a trip to the MASS Group offices. The bus was unavailable, so the full team had to take moto taxis for the first time. At first, we were hesitant but by the time we arrived we all wanted to take them again.

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MASS Group are a non-profit architectural firm whose mission is to research, build and advocate for architecture that promotes justice and human dignity. Unusually for an engineering firm 50% of their staff are female, of which we were given presentations by four women about their roles within the company and recent projects. They particularly focus on the research into using readily available materials for construction which are usually discarded. For their agricultural university campus which is currently under construction, they found it fitting to use earth from the ground as walls. Compressing the earth forms bricks as sturdy as cement. They also make use of volcanic rock for buildings in primary schools, a material which is common in ‘the land of a thousand hills’ but is usually deemed unsafe for building with. The girls were inspired by MASS groups effort towards innovation, safety and sustainability and are very excited to visit the agricultural campus (RICA) next week.

We took a short walk to visit some of the sights of Kigali and to appreciate some of the buildings in the area. The Kigali Convention Centre caught our eye as we were told its design was based on traditional African huts, while integrating the modern aspects of Kigali.

In the afternoon, we decided we wanted to make the most of the unique fabrics available in Rwanda. A local seamstress recommended by Lydie, the Rwandan team leader, visited our accommodation to take our measurements for our desired garments. We then took a walk into town with her to pick out some fabrics. We will take a visit to her workshop next week to try on the garments and make any final changes if need be. We are so excited to see the finished handmade product!! Stay tuned for pictures!!

The FemEng in Rwanda Team 2019 🙂

Day 5 & 6

On Tuesday morning we received a visit from Stephanie and 3 of her colleagues from Bridges to Prosperity. They are an non-profit organisation working across the world to built footbridges that connect communities together. This allows locals access to education, healthcare and gives them the ability to trade between communities. We are hoping to be able to visit 2 of their bridges during our time in Rwanda.

Unfortunately our bus driver was not available in the afternoonso the school visit we had planned had to be rescheduled to another day. This allowed time for us to work on finishing the posters for the upcoming school visits. We also took this time to hold a CV building workshop for the Rwandan girls. For most of them this was the first time they have made a CV and therefore we felt this was a beneficial activity.

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On Wednesday we spent some time in the morning to do our washing…by hand…in a bucket. Shockingly, the girls were not quite used to this, and a poor local eventually felt sorry for the girls struggling over their washing, and offered a helping hand.

We then visited the SOS Technology school, which specialises in electronics, computer science and networking. This was a great opportunity to speak to older students, help them to decide about future university courses and discuss how their skills related to engineering.

 

The FemEng in Rwanda Team 2019 🙂

Day 4

We started off the day with the project opening ceremony where the Principal of the College of Science and Technology (CST) expressed his appreciation and reiterated the need for the project at the University of Rwanda. The Deputy Vice Chancellor informed us of the current statistics surrounding young women studying STEM subjects. In High School 50% of the pupils taking maths and sciences are female, however when they reach university this number drastically decreases to 22%. We also received praise and encouragement from two ambassadors from RAWISE, the Rwandan Association for Women in Science and Engineering. Josephine Malonza, the project coordinator between FemEng and the University of Rwanda, has given us the target of reaching 2,019 pupils in 2019.

Later on in the afternoon we decided to go to the Kigali Genocide Memorial. This year marks the 25th anniversary since the devastating tragedy happened in Rwanda. Unlike previous years, the entire group were willing to attend the visit despite the strong and raw emotions associated with the genocide. In April 1994, approximately one million civilians were massacred in a period of 100 days. Colonialisation created a divide of the population in Rwanda into two main ethnic groups, the Hutu and Tutsi. The Hutus aimed to wipe out each and every member of the Tutsi minority group under strong political influence through propaganda. Moderate Hutu’s were also killed by their friends, families and neighbours.

We were all greatly saddened hearing the stories of survivors and the shear brutality of the systematic massacre. Josephine gave us a tour of the memorial and provided great support to all team members. We encourage everyone to look more into the genocide, as such a tragedy should never happen again.

Following the visit, we took the evening to reflect upon the day and rest.

The FemEng in Rwanda Team 2019 🙂

 

Day 3

As today was Sunday, after breakfast we attended the local church St Etienne with a few of the Rwandan girls. Some of the other girls travelled back home to pray with their family. As always in Rwanda we were given a very warm welcome, all thoroughly enjoying singing along with the congregation. Some of us even shed a tear at the powerful service!

We then had a nice walk into the town where we bought materials that we would use to make posters in the afternoon. Once back at the accommodation, we had some down time with the Rwandan girls where we watched a film.

One of the schools we reached out to, Lycee Notre Dame de Citeaux, are still doing their exams but were keen to learn more about engineering. We created a poster (that we were very proud of if we do say so ourselves…) that included a brief explanation about all of the engineering disciplines offered at the University of Rwanda. Hannah and Lydie, the team leaders, are excited to deliver the poster as well as a presentation to the school pupils tomorrow morning before breakfast.

For dinner, we wandered to a different area of Kigali to a local restaurant where we had a lovely meal. The portions were very generous… we were stuffed! Some of the locals were keen to socialise and chat to us, even offering to help us explore Kigali later on in the trip!

After heading back to the accommodation, we filled up our buckets with water in preparation for tomorrows showers. Since our days are so busy, we are always in bed by 10pm (our 20’s are starting to get to us).

The FemEng in Rwanda Team 2019 🙂

Day 2

As some of the Rwandan girls were still busy with exams, breakfast was our first opportunity to meet them and prepare for another busy school visit.

Our visit to La Colombiere Primary School was very successful. We split into groups to deliver workshops to 5 primary 5 classes in different engineering disciplines. The pupils were extremely enthusiast about us being there and had advanced and interesting questions for us. One little girl made sure to come up afterwards to tell us she was dying to become a mechanical engineer when she grows up, as did many of the pupils by the end of the visit.

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Now that the whole team had arrived, we spent the free evening to participate in some team bonding and culture exchange. The Glasgow girls taught the Rwandan team ceilidh dancing, while the Rwandan team taught us traditional African dance… it may take some practice.

The Rwandan girls even had a little surprise gift for us!! We were all given handmade African earrings and a Rwandan souvenir made from bark from a banana tree!!!

The FemEng in Rwanda Team 2019 🙂