1st German-Rwandan Youth Meeting takes place in Berlin

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The first German-Rwandan Youth Meeting took place August 30, in the German capital city Berlin. On the invitation of the German-Rwandan Youth Network “Rwanda Connection” Rwandan and German youths, as well as friends of Rwanda participated in the first summit on youth activism for Rwanda.

The theme was “Youth Engagement for Rwanda: From youths for youths, let’s move our world”.

The event was opened by Rwanda Connection’s chairperson Elisabeth Kaneza during a conference meeting including presentations and a panel discussion.

Elisabeth Kaneza, who was born in Rwanda and raised in Germany, said that the first German-Rwandan Youth Meeting is an occasion created for the youths, the Rwandan community and friends of Rwanda to exchange and learn from each other.

She shared with the audience the remarkable progress of Rwanda, saying that the country is an example to many and that youths should play a role in shaping its future.

The first speaker Josefine Matysiak, a German student who did a voluntary year in Rwanda and co-founder of the youth association Zugvögel (flying birds) shared her experience as a returned volunteer.

She explained that her association is among the first to send Rwandan volunteers to Germany where they stay with German host families and exchange with other youths. Josephine emphasized that youth exchanges in development cooperation are still marked by a “one-way road” which prevents youths from non-European countries to easily travel to Germany.

The second speaker Michaella Rugwizangoga, a Rwandan student in the city of Kaiserslautern and co-founder of the youth network “Ejo-Connect” promoting youth exchange within the partnership Rhineland-Palatinate/Rwanda, gave a presentation on building bridges from youths to youths.

She asked the youths to be pro-active and engaged in networks and associations in order to have a say in issues which concern them. Michaella gave examples of youth initiatives aimed at making a change in Rwanda by using the skills and know-how they acquired abroad.

The presentations were followed by a panel discussion moderated my Abdoul Rahime Diallo, project manager at the foundation “Partnership for Africa” and former coordinator of the Diaspora Policy Centre in The Hague. The panellists were Elisabeth Kaneza, Michaella Rugwizangoga and Josefine Matysiak.

Moderator Abdoul Rahime said that he was impressed by the high number of participants and that this would reflect a notable public interest in Rwanda. During the panel the speakers answered questions from the audience and gave recommendations for promoting youth cooperation and exchanges at the same eye-level.

They agreed that the opportunity of travelling and experiencing new cultures should be accessible to all youths, irrespective of their nationalities. The gained experiences and skills would benefit their home countries and the world in general.

Participants among the youths asked for more opportunities were the role of the youth for the development of Rwanda should be discussed. Others wished to have similar events bringing together German and Rwandan youths.

Closing the conference Rwanda Connection’s chairperson Elisabeth Kaneza called upon the participants to actively engage youths and create more opportunities for their contribution. She reminded the youths that they should always work towards overcoming the inequalities preventing youths around the world to make full use of their potential.

“We are one world. Youths rarely think in terms of “us and them”. However, for some people the term “global citizen” is a reality while for others it’s not. This is a challenge we must face and fight to overcome. We are the ones who are going to lead this world. But this will only come to pass if we are ready to lead. If we take this responsibility. If we take this challenge.”

After the conference the guests were invited to an entertaining cultural evening during which a fashion show and Rwandan cultural dance were presented. Furthermore, the organizers shared with the participants culinary delights from Rwanda.

Among the guests of the event were representatives of Non-governmental Organisations, members of the diplomatic corps, the Rwandan community in Germany as well as friends of Rwanda.

The first German-Rwandan Youth Meeting was first launched on August 24, 2013 in the city of Holzheim in the framework of the Rwanda Day, with a workshop on youth empowerment and a cultural performance.

The Ambassador of the Republic of Rwanda in Germany together with the Rwandan Minister of Local Government and the Rhineland-Palatinate Minister of Internal Affairs participated in the meeting and shared with the youths their experiences in leadership.

They urged the youths to remain focused on their goals and to never shy away from working hard in order to achieve them.

Sponsors and supporters of the first German-Rwandan Youth Meeting include the German Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development, the Rhineland-Palatinate Ministry of Interior, Sports and Infrastructure, the Embassy of the Republic of Rwanda, the Institute for Cultural Diplomacy and Brussels Airlines.

Cooperation partners are among others the Rwandan student association of Kaiserslautern, Isaro Foundation, Igihe Limited and Ejo-Connect. Rwandan youths who contributed to the event’s campaign are Akaliza Keza Gara (Rwanda), Meilleur Murindabigwi (Rwanda), Jean Leon Iragena (USA) and Sangwa Rwabuhihi (Germany).