Mediatrice Gahongayire believes every smile has a story. As a rebellious teenager, Gahongayire had conflicts with her parents, she resented school and eventually dropped out- something that affected her already strenuous relationship with her family.
She narrates how life transpired for her, and how Haguruka changed it for the better:
Some smiles are expressions of joy, some affirmations of hope and others a cover up of pain. For a long time, I used to smile like everybody else yet suffering inside. I had very low self-esteem and also lacked vision for my life. I eventually dropped out of school and started indulging in destructive behaviours including drug abuse.
My family was so disappointed in me and because of that, I was always in conflict with them.
One day, I was invited to Haguruka’s community dialogue. A dialogue is a forum organised by Haguruka that draws participants from as many parts of the community as possible to exchange information face-to-face, share personal stories and experiences, honestly express perspectives, clarify viewpoints, and develop solutions to community concerns.
Since I did not have any occupation, I decided to attend it just to pass time. Discussions around gender equality and self-development resonated with me. As I learnt about the different types of gender-based violence, it dawned on me that I had experienced some of them. Through these discussions, I understood the importance of having a vision and clear goals for my life. It was a truly eye-opening experience for me. So, I continued attending Haguruka’s community dialogues.
Haguruka changed my life tremendously, starting with my mind-set. Through its discussions, I learnt how to constructively deal with my pain and also encouraged me to pursue economic development. I began valuing myself and wanting good for my future and this helped me to stop the negative lifestyle of using drugs.
The story behind my smile is no longer a cover up. Haguruka is the story behind my smile. It restored my hope for the future and therein inspired me to get back on the right path.