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Goal! Messages on child development reach rural Rwanda during the World Cup

UNICEF Rwanda/2018/Mugwiza
© UNICEF Rwanda/2018/Mugwiza
Thousands of enthusiastic football fans gather for the World Cup in My Village road show, where World Cup matches are screened alongside education entertainment on child development.

By Veronica Houser

20 June 2018, Rwanda – Football fans are some of the most enthusiastic in the world. Attend a match or a community screening, and you will feel the camaraderie and solidarity that is unmatched elsewhere. As it brings people together for each match, the 2018 World Cup offers a unique opportunity to unify communities through shared interests and the international language of sport.

Recognizing the opportunity to reach thousands of people across Rwanda, UNICEF developed the “World Cup in My Village” project with the Ministry of Health and the National Early Child Development Programme (NECDP), partnering with Rwanda Broadcasting Agency to bring World Cup matches to the rural corners of Rwanda.

© UNICEF Rwanda/2018/Mugwiza
A troupe from Kigali use modern music and hip-hop dance routines to attract residents of Nyagatare District to the World Cup in My Village road show.

Before and after the match screenings, and during half time, trained community mobilizers harness the energy and passion of the gathered crowds to deliver important messages on maternal and child health, early childhood development, family planning, HIV, violence prevention, and reducing malnutrition.

"This is an incredible idea,” says Nicole Mutimukeye, UNICEF Rwanda volunteer. “There are so many people, and everything is so energetic and vibrant. The MC is doing a fantastic job of engaging the crowds; they are really participating and learning a lot.”

Rwanda Broadcasting Agency has also captured the voices of several respected Rwandan parents who understand good child development. These videos capture testimonies from influencers such as renowned singer and UNICEF champion Butera Knowless, and accomplished cyclist and Super Dad Abraham Ruhumuriza.

“I especially loved to see Knowless perform at the road shows,” says Nicole. “She has great rapport with the crowds. She is able to deliver several important messages by connecting with their love of her and her music.”

© UNICEF Rwanda/2018/Mugwiza
UNICEF champion and popular singer Butera Knowless interacts with parents during the World Cup in My Village road show. Knowless quizzes the audience on topics such as child care and nutrition, awarding prizes for correct answers.

“It takes a village to raise a child,” says Malick Kayumba, Head of the Rwanda Health Communication Center. “That is why it is so important for us to reach communities with these messages on safe, healthy and attentive maternal and child health care. Even if radio is the best channel to reach a bigger number of the population, people need to meet and interact with peers and role models who demonstrate these good behaviours.”

At each World Cup in My Village event, these videos are broadcast to the captive audience during half time. Event activities also include community participation sessions, where parents have an opportunity to answer questions on child development for a small prize, and theatre or comedy which weaves in messaging on proper child care. 

UNICEF Rwanda/2018/Mugwiza
© UNICEF Rwanda/2018/Mugwiza
he World Cup in My Village road show is expected to reach over five million Rwandans through public events, radio and television segments.

Young men at the road shows were especially receptive to messages from Eric Rutanga, one of Rwanda’s top footballers and future fathers.

“The reason why I am a successful footballer is because may parents took care of me during my first 1,000 days of life,” says Rutanga. “I continue to take care of myself by using condoms to prevent the spread of HIV.”

“Okay guys,” affirmed one young man at the Gicumbi District road show. “Even our Rutanga is doing that.”

© UNICEF Rwanda/2018/Mugwiza
Renowned Rwandan comedian Seburikoko weaves humour with messages on child development to captivate and educate the thousands gathered for the World Cup in My Village road show.

“We are especially targeting parents of young children under five,” says Justin Rutayisire, UNICEF Communication for Development Specialist. “We have developed our messages to be engaging, so they resonate with the target audience and leave a lasting impression. This is an important step in behaviour change.”

With up to 10,000 people in attendance at each World Cup in My Village road show, over 4,000,000 people reached daily through radio and over 1,200,000 through television, UNICEF and the Government of Rwanda expect to reach over five million people across the country by the end of the World Cup in July.

“I hope everyone has an enjoyable World Cup season,” says Rutanga. “Parents – and especially my fellow men – let’s combine our efforts to ensure mothers and their children are healthy.”



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