Community action helping to end poverty in Rwanda

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Poverty is a significant problem in Rwanda, with approximately 16 per cent of all households and almost 1.5 million people living in extreme poverty. While a variety of strategies have been implemented to solve the poverty crisis, the Rwandan government has recently found success in looking towards ancient practices and traditions.

After a two-year rollout period, the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning is officially approving the traditional practice of Ubudehe for the 2016-17 fiscal year as a means of collective action.

Ubudehe is the Rwandan term for the long-standing culture of community development and support that was prevalent in small villages throughout the nation. It dictates that those in a given community identify their socioeconomic status to provide community leaders with the data to improve their livelihoods.

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As per Rwandan tradition, Ubudehe uses a local self-governing structure instead of an autocratic approach typically used in government aid techniques. In this way, community members have significant input in the amount and type of government aid they receive.

Through a survey, citizens inform government officials as to their socioeconomic in one of four categories. This allows specific benefits to be given to communities in need, as many individuals cannot afford proper housing or hygienic necessities and often go without food. The categories range from those who do not own a house and cannot afford basic needs to those who own large-scale businesses, work with international organizations and industries or are public servants.

But this concept is not limited to Rwanda — Canadian charity Beautiful World is using Ubudehe methods in their work. The organization works with local organizations to provide post-secondary scholarships to women in Uganda, Rwanda, and Sierra Leone. With the help of generous Canadians, this organization has been able to send hundreds of young women to college and university; providing them with a fulfilling and prosperous life in the process.

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