HUYE, Rwanda, 07 January 2010 - Aphrodite, 14, and her friend Joselin used to spend their days working on a rice plantation. It was back-breaking work, toiling in the hot sun from dawn until dusk.
Then, advocates from a legal aid and advocacy organization visited the district and talked with local authorities. The organization, the Youth Association for Human Rights Promotion and Development (AJPRODHO), lobbied for the girls to go to school.
"That day," say the girls, "our lives changed."
Teaching the importance of education
Thanks to support provided by UNICEF, AJPRODHO works with local authorities to ensure that children remain in school and that families receive the necessary support they need to keep them in the classroom. AJPRODHO also raises awareness about children's rights and the importance of protecting children from abuse and neglect.
"Poverty and ignorance amongst parents often results in children being sent to work," explains Ezra Gasangina, a legal aid specialist working with AJPRODHO. "These parents do not see the value of education, money is more important to them. You cannot blame them; this is why we work to raise awareness amongst communities on the importance of education and children's rights."
AJPRODHO also supports poor families in meeting the costs related to education, including uniforms and school meals.
Child rights and protections
Promoting child rights and ensuring that children enrol and remain in school are two important areas of UNICEF cooperation in Rwanda. Another is strengthening Government and civil society mechanisms to keep children safe from abuse and neglect.
"AJPRODHO has also been working closely with us to set up Child Protection Networks around the country," explains Francesca Morandini, Chief of Governance for Child Rights for UNICEF Rwanda.
"I am very happy to be back in school, and relieved I don't have to go back to the rice plantation," says Joseline.