By Nasra Bishumba
Rwanda Women’s Network (RWN) Founder and Director, Mary Balikungeri has been awarded with the Commonwealth Points of Light Award for her dedication to improving the welfare and rehabilitation of women.
Barikungeri is one of the 53 inspirational volunteers who were awarded by Her Majesty The Queen, as Head of the Commonwealth, for the difference they are making in their communities and beyond.
The winners will be recognized during the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) later this month in the United Kingdom.
Barikungeri founded RWN in 1997 to promote and improve the socio-economic welfare of women in the country.
Since then, the organization has dedicated the bulk of their support to survivors of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, victims and survivors of sexual and gender-based violence and other vulnerable groups, including poor and vulnerable women, children and people living with HIV/AIDS.
Commenting on the recognition, Barikungeri said that she was humbled and dedicated the award to the vulnerable women who had trusted her with their stories.
“I therefore dedicate this award to the many women of Rwanda who have trusted me with their vulnerability to help rebuild their lives; funding partners and the ‘Rwanda Women’s Network (RWN)’ staff for working tirelessly to support our vision and transform the lives of women and communities. I hope that our work continues to inspire people from different walks of life to make a difference in their respective communities,” she said.
The UK High Commissioner in Rwanda; Jo Lomas, said in a statement that Barikungeri’s outstanding volunteer work and dedication to helping vulnerable women following the Genocide was immeasurable.
“Her Majesty the Queen is recognising Mary’s devotion to helping over 50 grassroots associations across Rwanda, catering for over 4,000 people. Her efforts have also contributed to the establishment of 20 Women’s Safe Spaces around Rwanda which provide for over 500 women per week, including victims of gender based violence. The British High Commission in Rwanda is proud to present this award for her tireless and noble work,” she said.
RWN works with over 52 grassroots associations across 13 districts of the country to support 4,000 women.
The organization supports the psychological, social and medical needs of over 500 female survivors of sexual violence each week and raises awareness of gender-based violence through community initiatives which have been replicated in four centres around Rwanda, impacting over 11,000 people.
First established by President George H. W. Bush in 1990, over 5,000 US Points of Light have been recognised in the US.
UK Points of Light was developed in partnership with the US programme and launched in April 2014.
RWN is the recipient of two international awards, namely, the 2007 UN-Habitat Dubai International Award in “recognition of best practices to improve the living environment” for child-headed households and Genocide widows and their families.
The second award is the 2006 UNDP/UNAIDS Red Ribbon Award themed; “Celebrating Community Leadership and Action on Aids”.
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