Challenging the Status Quo: Nkwasibwe Ivan’s Fight for Transparency and Accountability
Nkwasibwe Ivan hails from Buhanyura village, only a few minutes away from the Rwandan border. A small-scale farmer and poultry keeper, Nkwasibwe describes himself as deeply involved and committed to his change agent role in their village.
He believes fellow community members chose him for the role because he is a hard worker, trustworthy, and disciplined. The village has about 300 residents.
Nkwasibwe has a very strict timetable to balance his farm activities and his change agent role. He sets at least two hours a week to visit a village and speak with members
As much as he takes pride in serving his village, Nkwasibwe says being a change agent is not always easy, particularly when villagers do not respond to calls for meetings or don’t participate seriously in village activities.
Villagers only attend meetings when they know there is someone from town who would come and give them money or Bushera – a type of local porridge which when fermented becomes alcohol.
“I have been challenging them with the question ‘when a parent sends their child to school, is it the school that pays the child or is it the parent who pays the school?” says Nkwasibwe
At times, some local leaders don’t make it easier for him either. A local chairman, for instance, has occasionally intimidated him and attempted to discredit his role. Nkwasibwe says villagers’ support has helped him stand firm
“One day I was kicked out of the meeting which was discussing the budget for construction of important roads in the village, including one going to the Rwandan border. I believe it was because the leaders didn’t want me to question or challenge the budget proposals presented in that meeting. The budget was later approved though, thankfully it didn’t have significant discrepancies” says Nkwasibwe
Buhanyura village has had water challenges for a long time, says Nkwasibwe. The villagers have had to rely on sources from nearby villages on the Rwandan side. But the challenge became particularly bigger during the COVID-19 pandemic because the borders were closed, preventing villagers from crossing over.
Now the village is determined to have enough local sources of water to prevent a similar experience from happening again in the future.
As well as working on the water challenge, Nkwasibwe says is proud of successfully mobilizing his community in digging trenches that have helped tackle soil erosion, which is one of the village’s big problems.