THE URUKUNDO INITIATIVE TEACHES YOUNG AFRICANS HOW TO GET THEIR GAME ON
March 13, 2023
“Risky sexual behaviours, drug and substance abuse are one of the behaviours or traits which I have seen derail successful young people in achieving their dreams” – Dr. Christelle Uwantege
Largely because there seems to be a correlation between young people that are exposed to risky sexual behaviours, drug and substance abuse and the apparent lack of focus on other matters which may include educational and personal development pursuits.
The ability to catch them young, before the risk factors multiply is so important, it also preempts many complications. Such as girls becoming young mothers – which in most cases results in high school drop out among other challenges. It also reduces mental health challenges, missed opportunities, the burden of alcohol, substance abuse and societal snares which usually entrap young people. Believe it or not, all of these factors can greatly hinder someone from achieving his/her highest dreams.
Christelle Giraneza Uwantege, chose not to become an observer of these negative behaviours derailing successful young people. She and her team worked together through Urunkundo Initiative to sensitize, educate and enlighten youths on the need to be more aware and take care of their reproductive health, mental and financial well-being.
Grab a seat and some light refreshments, as we go on this beautiful journey of social entrepreneurship with the co-founder of Urukundo Initiative.
Christelle Giraneza Uwantenge is a 25 year old medical doctor, making waves in Rwanda. She is the co-founder and chief marketing officer of URUKUNDO Initiative, a youth-led social enterprise making Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) information available through games.
She is one of the iAccelerator innovator winners of Cohort 2 – 2019, an innovation accelerator program organized by the Ministry of Youth and Culture, Imbuto Foundation, UNFPA Rwanda and Koica Rwanda. Christelle is a passionate advocate of Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights for girls, youth, and women and advancing social justice and equity in terms of education in her community.
Her dream as a little girl was to become a healthcare provider, an author of many books and a leader in her community. She envisions herself serving her community and contributing to the economic development of her country.
URUKUNDO Initiative is a youth-led organization committed to revolutionizing life skills especially sexual reproductive health and mental health education in Rwanda through play based innovations. URUKUNDO Initiative is under the mentorship of IMBUTO Foundation after being announced as the awardee of 2019 innovation accelerator (iAccelerator) competition organized by Ministry of Youth, UNFPA, KOICA and IMBUTO Foundation.
The Initiative adopted the approach of innovative play-based learning to supply young people especially the underserved youth with evidence-based sexual reproductive health and rights as well as life skills information in friendly and inclusive ways. In hopes that this will help combat health challenges faced by youth due to the information gap on the topic matters.
What keeps them motivated? It is the need to help the young generation. They stay committed to finding solutions to alarming problems in healthcare, especially in the lives of young Africans.
Christelle went further to share that ‘ annually, 21 million girls aged 15–19 years in developing regions (Rwanda inclusive) become pregnant and 12 million of them give birth. As if that is not enough, mental health issues, HIV/AIDS and Sexually Transmitted Infections prevails in Sub-Saharan Africa.
In Rwanda, the health challenges affecting youth are alarming. The Rwanda Demographic and Health Survey (DHS) report indicated that an estimated 23,544 teens gave birth in 2019 and the same survey indicated that 5% of Rwandan adolescents aged 15-19 have begun child bearing with projected increase due to COVID19.
The UNFPA reports that 1 in 5 Rwandan girls get pregnant or start child bearing before the age of 19! HIV/AIDS is 3% in Rwanda but is 7% in youth in urban areas like Kigali city. STI prevails and unsafe abortion rate is 46% of all pregnancy. Regarding mental health, the research highlighted that at least 1 of 5 Rwandans have a mental health condition. Mental disorders among youth aged 14 -18 years old are 10.2% (Rwanda Biomedical Center, 2021). Suicide in 15-30 aged youth is on the rise globally.
Taking into consideration the UNFPA’s recommendation that life skills and sexuality education should involve extra-curricular activities like games and plays, they adopted play-based learning as a youth friendly approach to challenge the status quo. They would like their educational game to reach every adolescent and young person in Africa.
Members of this innovative team believe that they are influencing positive changes in young Africans, as young people are protected when informed. Their philosphy is reaching them through what they like, Games! Through their main product; URUKUNDO Life Skills Board Game, young people are supplied with friendly and evidence-based information on sexual reproductive health and life skills which is pre-requisite for them to avoid risky behaviors leading to alarmingly increasing teenage and unwanted pregnancies, unsafe abortion, gender-based violence and sexually transmitted infections including HIV/AIDS.
Their mission is to avail evidence-based Sexual and Reproductive Health and life skills information to young people to mitigate risky sexual behaviors through a wide range of innovations that are friendly, safe and trustful.”
‘Youth in the modern day society has always been considered the leaders of tomorrow, but unfortunately most youths engage in attitude that doesn’t qualify them to be called leaders in future’. Speaking on this Christelle told us some of the traits that now characterise some of these youths as well as the efforts they have made in combating some of these traits.
LESSONS FOR THE FUTURE
Christelle’s advice to someone who is struggling through executing great ideas or in entrepreneurship is to believe in yourself, believe in your idea and work hard to execute your idea and make it a reality. Highlighting her start up experience, she mentioned that they were able to produce URUKUNDO Life Skills Board Game physical game package, sell it to parents, individuals and different institutions. Thankfully, with different partnerships and collaborations, they have been able to win different global awards and distribute the physical game packages to vulnerable high schools in the country which includes refugee camps. Find an example of the global awards: Grand Challenge Canada and UNFPA Joint Innovation Challenge.
Another notable win for the team has been the Innovation Accelerator award by Imbuto Foundation, Ministry of Youth and Culture, UNFPA Rwanda and KOICA Rwanda which provided them the opportunity to participate in different incubations and mentorships and has helped them develop their board games into a global winning game.
Throughout their business venture, they’ve met different challenges but were always able to handle the different challenges of running and growing as a social enterprise. They handled them through team work, working together with their mentors to learn more on how to run and grow as a business in Africa and they always learn from their challenges.
In other to achieve this, reasonable time and effort was invested by all the team members of the initiative. As the co-founder and chief marketing officer, Dr. Christelle puts a lot of effort into their social enterprise. She works between 6-7 hours on a daily basis to support the business venture.
THE STORY IS IN THE DETAILS
“At URUKUNDO Initiative, we are a team of four co-founders and board of directors. We also have 5 full-time employees and 15 part-time employees.
At URUKUNDO Initiative, we keep our employees motivated and connected with the vision by giving them facilitation fees for their daily contribution to the program. We also support them with regular training and workshops in order to also contribute to their personal growth, increase of knowledge and skills.”
In other to expand and meet with the current positive trends, the initiative is developing an application which is board game oriented to be able to reach more young ones, since most youth spend most times with their electronic devices.
When asked who their role models are in the industry, she said; “Our role models and mentors include IMBUTO Foundation which was founded by the first lady of Rwanda, Her excellence Jeannette KAGAME, the president of Rwanda His excellency Paul KAGAME and also our different mentors from different organizations. Those organizations include UNFPA, Segal Family Foundation, African Impact Initiative and Rise Up for Girls.
Our role models and mentors are leading by example, by believing in the potential of young people. It’s amazing the support that they give young people, through the incubation and funding programs that support in acquisition of knowledge and skills to young people.”
GAME TIME FOR EVERYONE
The Urukundo intiative is open to collaboration and partnerships for all! Only requirement is to be Game ready! You can support their work or patronize the business by becoming on ambassador to young people including teenagers, adolescents and youth through owning URUKUNDO Life Skills Board Game. By purchasing a physical game package or settling for an electronic version that can be installed in your mobile device.This will encourage different people and institutions to explore the use of edutainment to educate young people about sexual and reproductive health and rights, mental health and prevention of drug and substance abuse in a trustful, youth friendly and evidence based way.