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← How women are revolutionizing Rwanda

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Showing Revision 6 created 03/06/2020 by Oliver Friedman.

  1. I came back to my home of Rwanda
  2. two years after the 1994 genocide
    against the Tutsi.
  3. The country was devastated.
  4. The children I was caring for
    in the hospitals
  5. were dying from treatable conditions,
  6. because we didn't have equipment
    or medicine to save them.
  7. I was tempted to pack my bag and run away.
  8. But I debated with myself.
  9. And because I'm really dedicated
    to social justice and equity,
  10. and there were only
    five pediatricians in total
  11. for millions of children in Rwanda,
  12. I decided to stay.
  13. But among the people
    who have motivated my decision to stay,

  14. there were some fantastic women of Rwanda,
  15. some women who had faced
    the genocide and survived it.
  16. They had to overcome
    unbelievable pain and suffering.
  17. Some of them were raising children
    conceived through rape.
  18. Others were dying slowly with HIV
  19. and forgave the perpetrators,
    who voluntarily infected them
  20. using HIV and rape as a weapon.
  21. So, they inspired me.
  22. If they can do that,
  23. I can stay and try to do my best.
  24. Those ladies were really activists

  25. of peace and reconciliation.
  26. They show us a way
    to rebuild a country
  27. for our children and grandchildren
    to have, one day,
  28. a place they can call home, with pride.
  29. And you can ask yourself

  30. where this shift of mindset
    has brought our country.
  31. Today in Rwanda,
  32. we have the highest percentage
    of women in parliament.
  33. (Applause)

  34. Wait till I tell you the percentage --

  35. sixty-one percent.
  36. (Applause)

  37. Today, we have the best campaign
    for the vaccination of children

  38. with, among our success, 93 percent
    of our girls vaccinated against HPV --
  39. (Applause)

  40. to protect them against cervical cancer.

  41. In this country, it's 54.
  42. (Laughter)

  43. We have reduced
    child mortality by 75 percent,

  44. maternal mortality by 80 percent.
  45. In early 2000s,
  46. there were nine women
    who were dying every day
  47. around delivery and pregnancy.
  48. Today, it's around two.
  49. It's an unfinished agenda.
  50. We still have a long way to go.
  51. Two is still too much.
  52. But, do I believe that those results

  53. are because we had a big number of women
  54. in power positions?
  55. I do.
  56. (Laughter)

  57. There is -- yes --

  58. (Applause)

  59. there is a study in the developing world

  60. that shows that if you improve
    the status of women,
  61. you improve the status
    of the community where they live.
  62. Up to 47 percent of decrease
    in child mortality.
  63. And even in this country where we are now,
  64. it's true.
  65. There is a study by a lady
    called Patricia Homan,
  66. who projected that if women and men
  67. were at parity in state legislatures,
  68. there would be a drop of 14.5 percent
    in child mortality --
  69. in America!
  70. So we know that women,

  71. when they use their skills
    in leadership positions,
  72. they enhance the entire population
    they are in charge of.
  73. And imagine what would happen
  74. if women were at parity with men
    all over the world.
  75. What a huge benefit we could expect.
  76. Hmm?
  77. Oh, yeah.
  78. (Applause)

  79. Because in general,

  80. we have a different style of leadership:
  81. more inclusive,
  82. more empathetic,
  83. more caring for little children.
  84. And this makes the difference.
  85. Unfortunately, this ideal
    doesn't exist in the world,

  86. and the difference between men and women
    in leadership positions
  87. is too big.
  88. Gender inequity is the norm
    in the majority of professions,
  89. even in global health.
  90. I have learned that if we focus
    on women's education,

  91. we improve their life positively
  92. as well as the well-being
    of their community.
  93. This is why now I dedicate
    my life to education.
  94. And this is totally aligned
    with my sense of equity
  95. and my pursuit of social justice,
  96. because if you want to increase
    access to health services,
  97. you need first to increase
    access to health education.
  98. So with friends and partners,
    we are building a beautiful university

  99. in the rural north of Rwanda.
  100. We educate our students
  101. to provide quality,
    equitable, holistic care
  102. to everyone, leaving no one out,
  103. focusing on the vulnerable,
    especially women and children,
  104. who are historically
    the last to be served.
  105. We transform them into leaders
  106. and give them managerial skills
    and advocacy skills
  107. for them to be smooth changemakers
  108. in the society where they will be,
  109. so that they can build health systems
  110. that allow them to care
    about the vulnerable where they are.
  111. And it's really transformative.

  112. Because currently,
  113. medical education, for example,
  114. is given in institutions based in cities,
  115. focused on quality health services
    and skills, clinical skills,
  116. to be given in institutions.
  117. We also focus on quality clinical skills
  118. but with biosocial approach
    to the condition of patient,
  119. for care to be given in communities
    where the people live,
  120. with hospitalization only when necessary.
  121. And also,
  122. after four to seven years
    of clinical education in cities,
  123. young graduates don't want
    to go back to rural area.
  124. So this is why we have built
    the University of Global Health Equity,
  125. an initiative of Partners
    in Health, called UGHE,
  126. in the rural north of Rwanda.
  127. (Applause)

  128. Our students

  129. are meant to go and change the world.
  130. They will come from all over --
    it's a global university --
  131. and will get the medical
    education for free
  132. at one condition:
  133. they have to serve the vulnerable
    across the world
  134. during six to nine years.
  135. They will keep the salary
    for themselves and their families
  136. but turn the education we give
    in quality clinical services,
  137. especially for the vulnerable.
  138. And doing so,
  139. they sign an agreement at the start
    that they will do that,
  140. a binding agreement.
  141. We don't want money.
  142. We have to go and mobilize the money.
  143. But they will turn this
    in quality service delivery for all.
  144. For this, of course,

  145. we need a strong gender equity agenda.
  146. And in all our classes, master's course,
  147. minimum of 50 percent of women.
  148. (Applause)

  149. And I'm proud to say

  150. that for the medical school
    that started five months ago,
  151. we have enrolled 70 percent girls.
  152. (Applause)

  153. This is a statement against
    the current inequity

  154. for women to access
    medical education in our continent.
  155. I believe in women's education.

  156. This is why I applaud African ladies
    who go all over the world
  157. to increase their education,
    their skills and their knowledge.
  158. But I hope they will bring
    that back to Africa
  159. to build the continent
  160. and make the continent a strong continent,
  161. because I'm sure
  162. a stronger Africa
    will make the world stronger.
  163. (Applause)

  164. Twenty-three years ago,

  165. I went back to Rwanda,
  166. to a broken Rwanda,
  167. that now is still a poor country
  168. but shining with a bright future.
  169. And I am full of joy to have come back,
  170. even if some days were very difficult,
  171. and even if some days I was depressed,
    because I didn't find a solution
  172. and people were dying,
  173. or things were not moving enough.
  174. But I'm so proud to have contributed
    to improve my community.
  175. And this makes me full of joy.
  176. So, African women from the diaspora,

  177. if you hear me,
  178. never forget your homeland.
  179. And when you are ready, come back home.
  180. I did so.
  181. It has fulfilled my life.
  182. So, come back home.
  183. Thank you.

  184. (Applause)