On 8 February 2016, at around 9am, in the vast flat field on the top of Buhambe hill in Rwanda, a big crowd assembled.
They were there to take part in the elections of local representatives and youth representatives for my village and a collection of local villages we call a cell. Young people between 16 and 30 were also gearing up to elect their representatives for the National Youth Council and I was one of the candidates.
My name is Ntakiyimana Mbabazi Odile. I am 21 years old. I was born and raised in a rural area and completed both primary and secondary school. My mother is an ordinary farmer who raised six children on her own. While I continued my studies I helped her cultivate the land. At school I was given the responsibility to represent my peers as the students voted for me to be their class leader – this gave me hope that I would grow up to have a successful life. I have always been confident, but my confidence grew even more when I was chosen to be a Ni Nyampinga journalist.
Fulfilling my potential thanks to Ni Nyampinga
When the elections of youth representatives for our village began, I was ready to give my speech and convince the crowd to vote for me. I believed I was the perfect candidate, but now I needed to show them. Luckily everyone in my village knows me – and many value what I have to say because they hear me on the radio and read my stories in Ni Nyampinga magazine.
Although I was nervous, I stood up firmly in front of the crowd. As soon as I reached the stage, I heard murmurs accompanied by voices shouting: “We want that one, Ni Nyampinga radio show!” It’s official, my village knows me as the girl from the Ni Nyampinga radio show!
Being a Ni Nyampinga journalist is the main reason I won the village election. It didn’t take much effort to persuade the crowd to vote for me because everybody trusted me before I even said a single word. I am now the village youth coordinator.
The journey didn’t end there. All elected village representatives had to come together to choose a youth coordinator for our cell of villages. At the cell level there were 28 girl and 21 boy candidates, but only seven of us would be elected.
We were each given time to give a speech. I was nervous but very excited by the success I’d had in the village elections so I wanted to do my best. After mentioning that I am a Ni Nyampinga journalist, I could hear many voices in the crowd yelling: “We want Ni Nyampinga magazine!” This lifted my mood and confidence.
All the candidates continued to talk about themselves and, surprisingly, I learnt that I was the only one to have graduated from university! Others were still at school.
Then came the results: “The youth coordinator in Nyamabuye cell is… Ntakiyimana Mbabazi Odile!” the elections regulator announced. I couldn’t believe it! The other girls hugged me enthusiastically saying: “We are excited to have you, Ni Nyampinga radio show as our representative!”
The elections reinforced my self-esteem and passion to be the voice of girls in my community. I also realised that being a Ni Nyampinga journalist is a great responsibility. All girls in the country look up to us and believe we are role models.
My leadership journey continues. All elected candidates will be able to run for the next level of administration, called Sector. After that is the district level and finally the province level. It’s the first time in Rwanda that youth committees have been elected starting from the village level. This new law was recently approved along with the new age bracket for youth, which will be 16 to 30, instead of the current 14 to 35 years.
My goal now is to sit within the District National Youth Council, but I have ambitions to go even further.
Learn more about Ni Nyampinga.