TI-Rw held a workshop on promotion of volunteerism in Rwanda

On the 22nd September 2016, Transparency International Rwanda held a conference at Grand Legacy Hotel to discuss on how best the voluntarism work can be enhanced and sustained in the Rwandan community. The conference brought together partner organizations from civil society, private sector, government and development partners which are working with volunteers.

Specifically, the workshop aimed to understand how volunteerism work contributes to the development challenges, organize discussion among organizations which have people who work as volunteers and exchange experiences to understand the challenges and lessons learnt in volunteerism work, and to use the knowledge exchanged during the discussions to establish new partnerships, develop new initiatives aiming to enhance the culture of volunteerism.

Volunteering is an intrinsic part of the social fabric in any society. Whereas definitions of what constitutes volunteerism vary, it is generally understood that a volunteer is a person who freely offers to take part in an enterprise or undertakes a task for the benefit of the community. On one part volunteering entails the self-motivated act of a person(s) contributing their time, skills, ideas and talents for charitable, educational, social, political, economic, humanitarian or other worthwhile purposes. On another part, given the importance of volunteerism in the development, such human devotion can also be initiated by governments or other non-government entities.

The conference recognized that volunteering is part of the Rwandan culture and values and that it has been promoted by the Government on the way to rapid development. After the 1994 genocide, volunteerism was taken to another level to deal with the aftermath of this tragedy. In this regard the government of Rwanda promoted structured volunteerism based on cultural practices, what is now commonly known as “home grown solutions”, these include “Umuganda”, “Gacaca”, “Abunzi”, just to name the few. In the same effort, CSOs promoted volunteerism initiatives in diversified sectors ranging from health, education, justice and human rights, etc…

Despite all such commendable initiatives, there is still lack of awareness and ownership by the community at large of the benefits of the volunteerism work at the individual, community and the country levels. Consequently, the extent of volunteerism initiatives remains limited. Indeed, only 21.4% of Rwandans report volunteering for a formal organization. Furthermore, the Civil Society Development Barometer (CSDB) 2015 shows that the extent of voluntary citizen participation in CSOs is weak. Similarly, the involvement of the Private sector in CSOs is minimal. The lack of the culture of formal volunteering is further underscored by the fact that human and financial resources are the weakest areas of CSO performance.

Volunteerism provides a drive for development efforts of Rwanda at a sustainable and resource-friendly way. On the side of the government initiatives about volunteerism work, the case of Umuganda shows facilitated volunteering which combines contribution to development with components of social cohesion. Mr. Geoffrey Kagenza, in charge of community development and umuganda at MINALOC mentioned that activities implemented through community work in Rwanda have helped the country to save 106.439.703 Rwf  since 2007.

In TI-Rw, sustainability and citizen engagement is strengthened through the work of volunteers. In an effort to reach the biggest number of the Rwandan community, engage them to prevent corruption and promote good governance, Transparency International Rwanda (TI-Rw) from May 2015, initiated the Concept of Concerned Citizens Committees (CCCs). The CCC is a group of citizens willing be part of the movement to fight corruption and related offences in Rwanda and working on voluntary basis to inform, motivate and mobilize their fellow citizens to challenge corruption and promote integrity in service delivery in their localities. Currently, TI-Rw  336 volunteers in 6 Districts who Mobilize and sensitize citizens against corruption through various community meetings (Umuganda, inteko z’abaturage, …..), Receive citizens’ complaints & provide them with basic legal advice and transfer some complaints to ALAC centers, and support in the monitoring of service delivery and public procurement:
through Suggestion Boxes and Social Audits.

The conference provided an understanding about different types of volunteering in Rwanda and different contexts in which these forms take place. Some the resolutions of the conference were the following:

  • Volunteers come in different forms and for different purposes. International, national, corporate, e-volunteers for short or long-term, so every person can find where he/she can fit.
  • Many organizations work on the promotion of volunteerism in Rwanda, but their efforts are still ill coordinated. It is important to joint efforts and work in collaboration;
  • The idea of African volunteerism may be further developed as a Pan African contribution to global development challenges;
  • The stigma that volunteers are unskilled people who cannot find wage employment must be denied and fought. A ‘professional’ Umuganda is a step in the right direction;
  • Volunteering is undervalued because it does not get enough attention and space in the public domain. More activities such as this conference are needed;
  • Volunteers are equally contributing to the organizations they are working for, it is important to recognize their efforts through reporting their work and providing them with space during different forums to voice their experiences and concerns

Based on recommendations from the conference, Transparency International Rwanda committed to:

  1. Mobilize key organizations working with volunteers to organize an annual conference to discuss impact, challenges & lessons learnt and joint planning  to promote volunteerism in Rwanda;
  2. Engage other organizations in mobilizing youth as a key demographic target group to promote volunteerism as a career startup;
  3. Conduct evaluation which would capture and recognize the commitment, impact and socio-economic benefits of volunteers’ engagement and award outstanding cases through prices.

 

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