Opening the eyes of parents, to open doors to education
01 October 2018
For Julienne, it’s more than a knock on the door -- it’s a step towards opening a new world of opportunities for herself and other children in her community. Which is why this tenacious 12-year old Rwandan is going door to door, home to home, trying to convince resistant, sometimes hostile parents to allow their children to attend school rather than laboring at home, crushing their potential. “Parents who resist the most did not go to school themselves,” says the outspoken young advocate, “But school is where lives can be changed for the better.”
“Girls are still missing in education. I am motivated to bring them back.”
In a region where thousands of children are denied an education – many working in dangerous environments to supplement family incomes – Julienne takes her conviction to local streets, farms and wherever parents are within earshot, spreading her message that “All children, especially girls, deserve school and the right to choose any career that will make them contribute meaningfully to society.” Tall words for one so young, and even taller actions.
This bright, probing girl became a lioness of change through her school’s Right To Play Leadership Club – where creative play gave her the confidence to face hostility, the tactical skills to tackle entrenched problems with convincing alternatives, and the public speaking savvy to move opinion through inspiring theater performances. Fueled by a vision to change the status quo, Julienne led her fellow 125 club members, aged 8 to 14, to create the Let Girls Go Back to School campaign to, as she says, “Focus on a problem that affects us all.”
Applying a kaleidoscope of tactics to, in her words, “Show how education is vital to a secure future”, Julienne and her team visit homes to identify absentee children and engage with parents, bringing in community influencers to add weight to the message. They also conduct provocative public theatre skits that focus on children’s rights, and the power of education against the wasteland of child labor.
Julienne’s crusade is becoming the stuff of community legend, changing minds by giving skeptical parents reasons to rethink the benefits of education. Within three months, 78 children who had never attended or had dropped out of school have enrolled, with the supportive cheerleading of parents who were once adamantly opposed.
The club, now a community fixture, continues Julienne’s mission to dismantle barriers and open doors. Her own path looks particularly bright. “Our club taught me to look after myself, my friends, and others. Now I want to be a doctor, because I enjoy helping people.” Having discovered her own boundless potential, this courageous champion is empowering more children to unlock theirs.