Ni Nyampinga journalist Rahmat Umuhoza: empowering girls in Rwanda to take up life-saving vaccines

Rahmat Umuhoza (middle in photo) is a 23-year-old advocate for young girls and one of six girl journalists at Ni Nyampinga. Rahmat will play an important role in creating new Ni Nyampinga content as Gavi, Girl Effect and the Government of Rwanda partner to reduce gender barriers to immunisation and improve vaccine coverage in Rwanda. Here, she discusses some of her experiences as a Ni Nyampinga journalist and her role in launching this new partnership at the ICPD Nairobi Summit.

Ni Nyampinga is made by girls for girls and comes to life through traditional and digital media including a magazine, radio drama and talk show, a network of clubs and digital platforms (interactive voice response technology, SMS and social media). With 79% of Rwandans - 6.6million people - aware of Ni Nyampinga and 42% consuming Ni Nyampinga content regularly, the brand translates to mass engagement amongst girls, parents and communities across Rwanda.

Rahmat travels across the 30 districts of Rwanda to gather powerful stories of girls that are featured in Ni Nyampinga content and presents the Ni Nyampinga radio show. Through her role, Rahmat has been close to the work that Girl Effect and Gavi have partnered on since 2016 to break down negative attitudes and behaviours that prevent girls accessing the HPV vaccine. 

“In my capacity as a Ni Nyampinga journalist I have been close to the production of the Girl Effect and Gavi content focused around the HPV vaccine. Working to tell stories of girls who managed to take up this vaccine was a hugely rewarding experience, and had a significant impact on me as well: I got the chance to interact with the myths, rumours and fears many people have about vaccines and work out what kind of support they need to be able to make an informed decision.

“One story which I always remember was a letter written to our Ni Nyampingas (girls who read our magazine) by a young mom who had received the HPV vaccine when it was first introduced in 2012. She wrote to other girls, telling them not to fear misinformation, and above all not to worry about the myth that it causes infertility. This letter created a lot of awareness about this particular fear and inspired girls to follow in her path and ensure that they are vaccinated.  

“As a young mother I am not new to the world of routine vaccinations. From these experiences, I’ve realised that both adolescent girls and young mothers lack information related to their health and that they often fear talking about their concerns or don't know who to ask about health services. There are a lot of gender barriers which mean they might not access healthcare services or take up vaccines. Sometimes women might not have the confidence to take decisions about their health or think that these decisions are for their partner or parents. Their mothers might not have immunised them when they were young, and that is why through our Ni Nyampinga platforms we tell positive stories of women and girls who have been able to take care of their health.

“As part of this new partnership, I am very excited that I will also be learning through the journey of making stories around nutrition, routine immunisation and health services for young people: it will be fun to encourage my generation to make informed decisions. 

“Having been a part of the partnership launch by Gavi, Girl Effect and Rwanda’s Ministry of Health held in Kenya, I’ve seen that this partnership is an answer to many challenges as well as an opportunity for girls and young mothers in Rwanda to experience, talk about their concerns and know the benefits of vaccinations. I personally do know the importance of this, as a young mother raising a healthy 2 year old baby girl.

“This will lead to the increase of adolescent girls and young women speaking about health concerns including vaccination and nutrition to their peers and those around them; adolescent girls and young women accessing health services when they need to, and developing the intention to vaccinate their children if they have them. As Dr Patrick Ndimubanzi, Minister of State in charge of Public Health and Primary Healthcare in Rwanda, said at an event in Nairobi to launch the partnership: “We, as a ministry, create an environment to support adolescent and young mothers, but we want them to take charge of their own health.”

“Seeing girls empowered to make decisions that impact their lives will be my success.” 

Rahmat Umuhoza is a Ni Nyampinga journalist, Rwanda’s first multi-platform youth brand created by girls for girls.

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Rahmat at ICPD Nairobi Summit

Gavi bridge

Pictured from left to right: Jessica Posner Odede (CEO of Girl Effect), Dr Patrick Ndimubanzi (Minister of State in charge of Public Health and Primary Healthcare in Rwanda), Anuradha Gupta (Deputy CEO of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance) and Rahmat Umuhoza (Ni Nyampinga journalist).