First Lady Mrs. Jeannette Kagame has told the Youth Connekt Summit 2022 participants to become agents of change in a world that is grappling with serious challenges that need urgent action to address.
Mrs. Kagame said youth are living in a decisive transitional period which makes it feel like the world itself is coming to an end after the global pandemic, political conflicts across the world, displacements, dehumanization, ever-deepening social and economic inequalities, and statements aimed at challenging African dignity on top of the food crisis and climate change.
Mrs. Kagame told the youth that the world is not coming to an end but an end is seen in the progress of African societies in an era where the world is selfish, self-centered, not promoting sustainable development, and where youth cannot take center stage in influencing science, technology, and education.
“May all that be replaced by a kinder, more equitable world, one where neither resource misallocation, political greed or disease that our systems are unprepared to tackle can lead to conflict and social fragmentation,” Mrs. Kagame said.
The First Lady was delivering opening remarks at a high-level panel discussion under the theme “Investing in young people’s health: Access to Sexual and Reproductive Health and Mental Health”, at Intare Conference Arena this Friday, 14 October 2022.
“May you the youth be granted by all our present efforts the drive, determination, and wellness to thrive and build this world we desire for youth and the generations beyond you,” she said.
Mrs. Kagame said that she acknowledges the problems youth face despite their vitality, optimism and energy but asked that they should not be victimized in any way but instead seek things that make them valuable in society – in body-mind, and spirit.
With these statements, the First Lady said that public figures like her among others, also have work to do to take care of the 1.8 billion youths on the content by bringing change in areas that specifically affect youth- especially access to reproductive and mental health services which she said were inseparable.
She said that many girls suffer from sexual abuse and about 100million Africans suffer from clinical depression- of these two-thirds are women of reproductive health age, while 1.1billion women across the world have an unmet need for family planning services- figures which are alarming.
The First Lady said these figures have an impact on the life cycle of anyone in areas of health and education thus a need to protect and prepare the youth by empowering them.
“I can honestly say that we are working hard to keep you empowered and you can help us by joining our nationwide and continental efforts including those of nongovernment organizations and institutions,” Mrs. Kagame said.
To prove this, Mrs. Kagame showed how her foundation- Imbuto Foundation started in 2001 as Protection and Care of Families against HIV/AIDS (PACFA)- a project to prevent mother-to-child HIV/Aids infection.
However, it has gradually evolved to include youth empowerment, providing education, and advocating for health services but also funding projects to enable its growth and remain relevant to sustainably impact the life cycle of the Rwandan society.
For instance, Imbuto foundation family planning campaigns have since managed to reach over 600,000 Rwandans, adolescent reproductive health, HIV care, and prevention catered for over 300,000, and 75.5% of pregnant teens counseled and provided with services to reintegration and reconcile with society.
In mental healthcare, the foundation has gone beyond science (hormonal imbalance or trauma) to address structural aspects and thus the First Lady said the foundation has chosen to invest in this and so far 11 startups have received seed funding for addressing mental and reproductive health.
Mrs. Kagame used the opportunity to ask about 1,000 African youth at the event to extend a helping hand and be keepers of their brethren but also agents of progress in their respective communities during these hardest times.