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How Rwandan Children Influence District Budgets

by Daniel Sabiiti
2:39 pm

Children take part in the budgeting process in Nyarugenge and Rutsiro districts

Life seemed a tough journey when Jeremie Byiringiro was growing up in remote Buhogo village, Rutsiro district.

Byiringiro now aged 12, recounted his daily routine to KTPress saying he walked 10km to fetch water from a swamp – the only nearest source of water before going to Groupe Scolaire Butamwa.

“I would reach at school late and my performance was not impressive, and there was no way I could refuse to do home chores,” Byiringiro said.  

Although Byiringiro believed he was bright, he always performed poorly.

In December 2016, the district officials organised a budget preparation meeting with children, including Byiringiro, as part of the new recommended budget planning module which involves citizens in budget planning processes and decision making.

During the meeting, Byiringiro raised a concern of lack of clean water in his village. The district officials took note of it as one of the most urgent concerns.

“We listened to the children and to our surprise their ideas where very specific, detailed and tangible, which is quite different from what adults had thought of earlier, said Etienne Havugimana, the chief budget officer in Rutsiro district.

Considering the children’s views, Rutsiro district started implementing the proposed project ideas budgeted at over Rwf800m out of the Rwf14billion total district budget for fiscal year 2017/18.

Among the lined-up projects is to supply water for the Buhogo village and construction of a health post in Buhogo (now at 80%)- all to be implemented in this year’s budget at a tune of Rwf250million.

“We have already conducted a feasibility study for potential water sources in the area. What is left is to put out a tender bid,” said Havugimana.

Today, Byiringiro is proud of his idea which he says was as a result of being involved in a three year (2016-2018) pilot project- ‘Accountability for Children’s Rights in Rwanda’ which aims at making children visible in the budgeting process in only Nyarugenge and Rutsiro districts.

Once implemented Byiringiro’s water project, the district will improve Buhogo community’s social welfare especially on access to clean water, a target that government desperately wants to meet.

Rwanda government intends to implement a 7-year development program of 100% access to clean water for all Rwandans by 2024, from at 85% in 2017 by increasing water sources from 182.120 m3 to 303.120 m3.

Through a child-led forum, children have pushed local leaders to build more playing fields in the community and schools.

So far, three fields were built in 2016 and nine more under construction this year.

Marcel Sibomana, the Child Rights Governance Program Manager said that the budget planning can be more effective with emphasis on profound education for children and parents involvement.

“Children rights can become effectively implemented if the education budget is increased from 14% to required 20% target. This way children can learn to address issues around them without necessary looking at money,” Sibomana said.

By end of 2018, the ‘Accountability for Children’s Rights in Rwanda’, implemented by Save The Children Rwanda and funded by European Union at a tune of €800,000 will close.

However, November 15th, children benefiting from this project told donors during a consultative meeting to scale up the project to all districts.

“We have a bigger burden of ensuring our fellow children attend school. Many still don’t go to school today. This is why we want the project expanded,” Patience Byiringiro said.

However, EU official, Caitline Porther said, “We cannot commit on this for now, but the project implementing organisations will be in position to determine what next.”