Empowering Rwandan women and youth to become visual storytellers

Empowering Rwandan women and youth to become visual storytellers

#DOTYouth Street Team member Phabiola Mukundente was in secondary school when she recognized both a passion and a problem. Her passion was for photography—she loved snapping photos of her friends. The problem? A lack of female photographers in Rwanda. 

Obtaining a certificate in photography and videography from Kigali Films and Television in 2015 and enrolling in a journalism program, Phabiola has the desire to support other women in pursuing her same passion. 

Phabiola is the founder of Women TV Studio, a social enterprise that trains young women and girls to become photographers, videographers, graphic designers, and audio-visual producers. That mission is supported through the for-profit arm of the company: the stunning commercial, wedding, and event photos and video that Phabiola shoots for clients across Kigali. 

“My beneficiaries are girls and women who love this work but have sometimes no means to afford what it needs to be educated in this career,” explains Phabiola of the hands-on Women TV Studio training. “Our work has seen many youth gain not only knowledge but also confidence and self-esteem, and has allowed them to gain employment.”

Women TV Studio has reached more than 10 women so far, working with each of them one-on-one. Phabiola used the seed funding from the #DOTYouth Street Team to secure a classroom space to continue the training. A significant challenge, however, remains the expensive cost of equipment—digital cameras, computers, and other technology that would enable the initiative to reach more women and girls.

As well as supporting women, Phabiola wants to inspire other young entrepreneurs using the power of storytelling. “We try to reach out to entrepreneurs who can share their stories to our young generation and encourage them to keep working hard and to not quit easily,” says Phabiola. Those stories are uploaded to the Women TV Studio YouTube channel where Phabiola has hosted dozens of segments.

Eventually, Phabiola would like to empower other youth with the skills to share their own story. As part of that goal, there are plans to establish a series of multimedia clubs in schools. 

“We aim to ignite a passion for photography, videography, and the media by engaging students in interesting workshops and competitions that allow them to fully showcase their potential to peers and the whole nation,” explains Phabiola. 

COVID-19 challenges and post-pandemic aspirations

The COVID-19 pandemic greatly affected Phabiola and Women’s TV Studio. The creation of school clubs had to be put on hold during the lockdown, and the company was unable to continue offering many of its services due to the in-person nature of photography and videography. 

Throughout the #DOTYouth Street Team, Phabiola committed herself to learn new things. Despite the pandemic-related letdowns, the program staff and other Street Team members encouraged her to keep working on the business. 

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