Africa-Press – Rwanda. The collaborative project ‘Baho Neza’, under the guidance of the Imbuto Foundation, Rwanda Biomedical Centre (RBC), and Ministry of Gender and Family Promotion (MIGEPROF), completed its pilot phase on November 28, aiming to address persistent mental health issues among Rwandans.
The three month-long campaign saw approximately 2,400 individuals actively participate, culminating in a closing event in Jali sector, Gasabo District. The campaign’s aim was to establish ‘safe spaces’ for mental health support to individuals within communities.
The Alumni of Genocide Survivors’ Students Association (GAERG), among various organisations involved, played a big role in spearheading the initiative. Notably, in Gasabo and Bugesera districts — specifically in Jali and Nduba sectors in Gasabo, and Rweru and Musenyi sectors in Bugesera—‘Baho Neza’ created safe spaces for mental health discussions and support.
The campaign’s aim was to establish ‘safe spaces’ for mental health support to individuals within communities.
The ‘Baho Neza’ project aimed to create safe spaces led by ‘Abahumurizamitima’ – Community-Based Counsellors (CBC). This team provided guidance and support to groups, helping them begin a transformative mental health journey.
Jean-Paul Nyiribakwe, Director of the Healing and Resilience Programme of GAERG said, “The programme involves safe space group sessions facilitated by trained CBC individuals, focusing on mental health care, listening, recognising signs of distress, and weekly discussions spanning up to 15 weeks.”
“The initiative also includes a campaign engaging citizens’ councils to promote regular attendance at these safe spaces. The initiative currently oversees 21 safe spaces,” he said.
He noted: “The campaign emphasises the importance of mental health care and encourages participation in the CBC-facilitated sessions, particularly for those in four key categories: individuals with mental health issues, teenage mothers, survivors of the Genocide against the Tutsi in 1994, and individuals affected by substance abuse.”
Beneficiaries pose for a group photo after meeting with specialists. The three month-long campaign saw approximately 2,400 individuals actively participate, culminating in a closing event in Jali sector, Gasabo District
Nyiribakwe also mentioned that participants were encouraged to voluntarily attend the safe space sessions for training, and discussions, and to receive assistance in being referred to a doctor if necessary.
“Collaboration with RBC and local health centres ensures the presence of mental health workers in each sector. Notably, two individuals actively support these activities within the sector,” he said.
The programme has seen positive outcomes, with testimonies highlighting improvements in severe depression, chronic headaches, and family conflicts.
Diane Abaribato, a resident of Nyabuliba cell, Jali sector in Gasabo District, was just 17 years old and still a student when she became a mother, and she faced immense challenges.
“The thought of quitting school overwhelmed me, worsened by my family’s initial rejection, leaving me feeling isolated and deeply depressed,” she said.
“However, amidst these struggles, I found solace in Baho Neza. Their counselling showed me I wasn’t alone. They taught resilience and confidence, guiding me to confront life’s challenges, enabling me to build a foundation for myself.”
The collaborative project ‘Baho Neza’, under the guidance of the Imbuto Foundation, Rwanda Biomedical Centre (RBC), and Ministry of Gender and Family Promotion (MIGEPROF), completed its pilot phase on November 28.
She added: “Before finding this supportive space, I battled depression, feeling isolated from classmates while raising a child. Their support uplifted me, making me realise that I hold the power to rebuild my life and fight depression.”
“As of now, I have learned hairstyling, and I’m employed at a women’s salon, and I’m thriving, and my son is in school too,” she said.
Francoise Mukangenzi, a resident of Muko cell, Jali sector, said, “During the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, my father was killed. Life after that got tough — my mother had another child, which my siblings didn’t accept, leading to endless conflict at home.
“Later, I got married but faced domestic violence, leading me to return home. Despite difficulties and family resistance, I found support from CBC people. Connecting with others in similar situations helped me find solace and rebuild myself. I now work at an Early Childhood Development Centre (ECDC) while raising my child who’s currently in school,” she said.
“Through sharing experiences with others, I learned that everyone has their struggles. I have realised I shouldn’t let these challenges define me and began offering advice to others, believing that persecution doesn’t define who I am,” she added.
The first phase successfully gathered 124 groups in Gasabo and Bugesera districts, where GAERG operates, with plans to expand this local project to other regions. The project’s second phase was launched recently, aiming to further expand the reach and impact of mental health services within these communities.
Baho Neza wareness aimed to address persistent mental health issues among Rwandans.