Story of Courage
“Education is a step towards freedom ”
My name is Nikuze Stella, I am a 23 years old young woman from Rwanda and the co-founder of the Hodari foundation which is based in the Kyaka II refugee settlement. I am also a student at Wilfrid Laurier University Canada, currently pursuing a bachelor’s degree in social work and social administration to transform the lives of my fellow younger women, girls, and youth within the refugee settlement who are back in Africa and the entire world. While in Uganda I volunteered with a local organization where I worked with the Sexual and Gender Based Violence department which enabled me to acquire the knowledge and skills to transform my community thus forming the Hodari foundation which is a refugee-led initiative by fellow younger youth so that we can better support our fellow refugees within the community.
I came to Canada in 2022 after living in Kyaka II for 23 years. I got a scholarship from the World University Service of Canada. I had waited for two years to be able to get this scholarship. As a young woman it wasn’t easy for me because of the high competition among refugee youth who are struggling for the same opportunity which is limited, Inadequate provision of scholarship and Illiteracy in using technology in searching and applying for the scholarship but through hard work and commitment I was able to achieve my goals as a girl.
When I got to Canada life wasn’t easy. I have always been very passionate about the community. When I got to Canada identifying people who shared the same passion with me was very hard. The living expenses were also too high and I needed to get a job to be able to cope with the different costs, however it was also hard for me. I needed to have connections to be able to get a job, develop my skills, as well as provide support to my community and my family at large.
My family consists of 8 members, so our resources were quite low. My father had mental health needs due to the various challenges he had encountered in his home country Rwanda. This made him not be in a position to support the entire family thus making me the breadwinner of my family. During my vacation from high school while I was in Uganda, I had the good fortune to work as a volunteer with Humanity and Inclusion (HI), where I was provided with a monthly allowance. In addition, the grant from the World Food Program (WFP) was equally supportive. I had to carefully balance this monthly allowance to cover my basic needs and send some help to my family.
This suffering and the hard work to support my family motivated the creation of the she is empowered project of the Hodari foundation, together with the Vision group, as a way to create a positive change for single mothers, girls and women in my community through vocational training, as there are other girls and women who are going through the same challenges as me.
Being born in a refugee settlement represented for me going through many difficulties, at the same time, I was able to visualize how other members of the community were facing problems related to poverty, lack of a balanced diet, lack of access to education and high cases of sexual and gender based violence (SGBV) affecting many women and girls in the community. Young women and girls are experiencing these challenges, while all they need is compassion and attention to work on how to solve all the problems affecting the community.
Being a witness to the problems suffered by the community during my volunteering with this organization in Uganda was an eye opener for me. It made me really think about how I can help my fellow refugees to get decent services.
This led me to establish HODARI FOUNDATION, whose aim is to protect, educate, and empower the women and young girls in the community through vocational training. Our aim is to work with the marginalized community members like the elderly, children, orphans, albinos and the youth to enable them to live meaningful lives within the refugee settlement and in Africa.
Through my work in the community I have encountered many GBV survivors who had not received the right support needed to work through the trauma they experienced. It’s important for us to support the community because we have to be the change we want to see. the HODARI foundation a refugee led organization has been working as well to transform the community by analyzing the challenges of women, and youth and how they can be solved at the community level.
However, running this organization is also not as easy as I thought, you need grants, mentoring and connection to humanitarian aid, which is not easy and makes it difficult for the work to receive support from the community. For example, the Hodari foundation, in collaboration with the Vision group, supports mothers, women and girls through the “She has power” project, through which they teach them vocational training, which is a great idea, but they do not have enough resources to buy sewing machines, which contributes to not being able to help people who need to acquire this training.
I believe that what the community needs is the construction of infrastructure, which can act as a support center for women and children, the community is very diverse and such a space motivates them to continue fighting. The purchase of machinery to promote commercial activity. Mental health support is very necessary because most mothers of children and women have gone through very difficult situations and need this support.
With all this I would like to say that supporting mothers, girls and women to improve their skills through vocational training can improve their mental well-being and income, resulting in self-sufficiency.
My passion is to be a role model for young women and my fellow refugee women. I want to work for the transformation of women, girls and the marginalized who are in refugee settlements and need the support of different humanitarian agencies. For example, at the Hodari Foundation, we not only provide vocational training, but also leadership training as part of developing self-confidence as a way of discovering one’s own identity. In addition, participating in community dialogue and taking ownership of their
In addition, participation in community dialogue and ownership of their decisions promotes gender equality for both women and girls. Promoting the inclusion of marginalized people is a way of respecting their dignity, regardless of their origin. These Sustainable Development Goals (SDG4) ensure inclusive and equitable quality education that promotes lifelong learning opportunities for all, which can be achieved by contributing to the realization of universal health coverage.
I am currently studying at Wilfrid Laurier University for a Bachelor’s degree in Social Work and Human Rights and Diversity.
social work and human rights and diversity. However, I have set goals on how to finish my degree in the social work program, and the formation of Hodari foundation with its main goal and vision “To create positive impact to transform the lives of people in the community.”
Supporting the empowerment of other women inspires me.