How music and drama is supporting the development of girls and boys in Rwanda  

Malik Shaffy, Senior Manager of Marketing and Digital at Ni Nyampinga explains why Girl Effect’s longest running youth brand is taking creative inspiration from sister brands.

I remember the first conversation I had about making a drama and music video for Ni Nyampinga.  It was five years ago right after the launch of Ni Nyampinga magazine when we had finished our very first nation-wide roadshow. We were talking about what could be next for the brand.

I had just joined the Ni Nyampinga team and was new to the world of branded media but not new to the challenges girls were facing in Rwanda.  I grew up in a household mainly with my mum and other girls - sometimes there was as many as eight of us, between me, my sisters and my female cousins. It was impossible not to see the difficulties they faced, the differences between their lives and mine and the taboos that meant as a boy there were things that we never talked about.

But then came Ni Nyampinga. Ni Nyampinga is always talked about as being a movement and that’s the memory I have since the beginning. This was a time when Rwanda was a teenager - only 17 years-old after the genocide. The country was rebuilding itself and moving forward and Ni Nyampinga came at the right time to help make sure girls moved forward too.  

It’s my favourite thing about Ni Nyampinga -  as a movement, we keep evolving and changing to make sure we’re always doing everything we can to change the lives of girls. That’s why I’m so excited about the Ni Nyampinga drama Sakwe, that launched in September, as well as our first ever song and music video ‘Uri njye’ that came out last week.

-Malik, (pictured, first left), believes in the power of music and drama in supporting girls and boys in Rwanda. 

For the launch of Uri njye we’ve been doing lots of interviews on radio and TV and one of the DJs put it so well: “You can never get used to Ni Nyampinga, they always bring something new.” I liked that a lot. As a youth brand I think it’s so important to keep our youth credentials relevant and I knew music in particular was going to be an important way for us to do this, positioning ourselves as a creative media brand.

Music in Rwanda has changed a lot in recent years. I’ve followed young people who have listened more to Western music and are now really starting to embrace East African and Rwandan music. I’ve also been to the events where 1000’s of people come out to watch local artists, so I knew that our approach of rooting Ni Nyampinga products in the culture of Rwanda; combined with the best of popular culture, could have a huge impact. Here in Rwanda people listen to the stories and messages in songs and telling good stories to young people is something we’ve had a lot of practise at.

We know that music and storytelling are ways to speak to everyone here - it’s a common language -  so that was key for us. The drama and now the music are our first products targeted jointly at boys and girls and ones where we wanted to show that girls and boys could be friends and support each other.

We’ve had some good feedback on how the drama is doing this: 

“I thought it was a drama for girls only, but to my surprise I found out that we were also considered in the drama, which made me so happy! I like that boys are also members of Ni Nyampinga, because at first Ni Nyampinga magazine was only for girls, but now it’s for all of us.”

Boy, 13-15, Musanze

“I find their friendship awesome! I would love to have a singing crew too!”

Boy, 16-19, Musanze

Our brand ambassadors have been running events all across the country, playing the music video to girls and boys. Uri njye is a song about the importance of valuing friendship and supporting each other. It was brilliant to hear the audience at the event in Kamonyi talking about how they loved that the girls supported each other so they could perform and are looking forward to seeing the boys join the band.

So, although it’s a little later than we had thought back in the early days, we now have our Ni Nyampinga drama and music. I think is been good to wait and get a chance to learn from our sister brands Yegna and Zathu.  In fact, Sakwe is very much based on the first series of Yegna and Uri njye was directed and filmed by the same people as Zathu’s first music video.

Back in the beginning every time I read Ni Nyampinga content or we had a conversation about what was next for the brand; I’d think about it in terms of my sisters and my cousins and what it could have done to change their lives. Six years later, I am so proud of where we are.  Through Ni Nyampinga Sakwe and Uri njye we are championing girls and boys talking to each other and supporting each other in a way that hasn’t been done before  And that’s pretty big.  A younger me,my sisters and cousins would have definitely loved it!

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