By Adwoa Kondu Yiadom, MIPP student
Muraho! Nitwa Adwoa. This is simply to say “hello, my name is Adwoa” in Kinyarwanda, one of Rwanda’s three official languages. I remember how I used to read blog posts from previous dispatches and how exciting it was for me. I was confident then I would be writing and sharing my experiences a year on. Here we are!
I was at the Pearson International Airport in Toronto at 7:45am on Friday, September 22, 2023, feeling all excited and ready to embark on my trip to Kigali, Rwanda. I was first in line and full of smiles. I walked straight to the counter to check-in. A lady on duty took my passport, and, in a few words, she said, “Sorry, you cannot travel today.” The rest is a long story. But my first flight got interrupted and subsequently cancelled with no refund.
I arrived in the city of Kigali a week later to begin my volunteer work. On the same day, I lost my phone. Thankfully, the individual who had taken it returned it to me by close of day, thanks to the Rwanda Investigation Bureau (RIB). The experience left me even more confident about the country and its security provisions, especially for foreigners. Despite the rough start, I wasn’t discouraged at all. I had been looking forward to working for the United Nations since the beginning of my Master of International Public Policy Program (MIPP) at the Balsillie School of International Affairs (BSIA), and I was happy to finally begin.
On October 2, 2023, I started my role as a Resource Mobilization Specialist with the Transformational Governance Unit (TGU) of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Country Office in Rwanda. Although this position was entirely new to me, I accepted the challenge and joined a team of over 50 people from various parts of the world, working together to support Rwanda in achieving its vision.
UNDP has been working as a key development partner for Rwanda since 1977, aiming to eradicate extreme poverty and reduce inequalities and exclusion by working closely with the Government, civil society, development partners, private sector, and communities. TGU is one of two key programmatic units and leads the work in the governance area. TGU implements governance projects in partnership with national counterparts. Current projects include Deepening Democracy through Strengthening Citizen Participation and Accountable Governance (DDAG), Strengthening the Rule of Law in Rwanda: Justice, Peace, and Security for the People – A2J, Strengthening Civil Society Organizations for Responsive and Accountable Governance in Rwanda, and Promoting Gender Accountability in the Private sector in Rwanda – (GES).
My first day was a whirlwind of learning and activity. I jumped right into a high-profile meeting with the Resident Representative and Deputy regarding the New Digital Transformation Window of the Joint SDG Fund.
I had engaged in donor prospecting and mapped potential donors while still in Canada. As such, I arrived at the UNDP office in Kigali with a tall list of donor prospects already in hand, consisting of donor government and foundations, local and international NGOs, and the Rwandan private sector. On day two, I presented my donor mapping list to my supervisor, who appreciated my proactiveness and tasked me with making a presentation on resource mobilization for the unit. I made my first presentation on “Resource Mobilization for Governance” on my ninth day.
I am currently working with all program managers collaboratively to implement programs in our five priority areas: gender equality, access to justice, disability inclusion, and strengthening the capacity of CSOs and the media.
Additionally, I plan to collaborate with the communications unit to get the TGU subscribed to international donor organizations, as well as to plan a donor breakfast meeting with our existing donors to strengthen our relationships and ultimately raise more funds.
Although resource mobilization is a completely new task for me, I am excited to contribute to the governance, growth, and development of the people of Rwanda.
The past few weeks have been challenging, but they have also provided me with an amazing opportunity to learn and make a difference. Looking back, it has been an incredible month, and I am eagerly looking forward to further growth and impact!
As I conclude my first blog, I would like to share one of my most memorable experiences so far, which was the opportunity to participate in UNDP’s Umuganda Tree Planting Activity at the Mbyo Reconciliation and Resilience Village. For me, it mattered because it was not just about partaking in the tree-planting ceremony. Rather, it offered the opportunity to set foot in the village that is home to both perpetrators and survivors of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi. It was an incredible and humbling experience as I listened to testimonies of healing and recovery from both perpetrators and survivors, something that I had only read and discussed in my human security courses.
I didn’t know – and probably will never understand – the unimaginable pain, suffering, brokenness, and trauma victims still suffer nearly 30 years later. I am thankful that through the Rwandan government’s efforts, UNDP, and various stakeholders, Rwanda has demonstrated remarkable resilience to not only heal and reconcile from the tragedy, but also to create a better future for its children and generations to come.
If you ever get the chance to visit Rwanda, I highly recommend visiting the Mbyo Reconciliation and Resilient Village. This is where survivors and repentant perpetrators coexist, part of Rwanda’s unity and reconciliation attempts to unify citizens and propel the nation forward as a whole.