Dear President Paul Kagame
October 19, 2018 Jonathan Stack
Signed version below
October 18, 2018
Dear President Paul Kagame,
It is an honor to write to you, to thank the hard-working members of the government and to acknowledge the extraordinary advances of your nation. Rwanda’s success is a testament to the indomitable spirit and resilience of its people.
As a filmmaker with experience in over 50 countries, including portraits of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s first year in office, and President Charles Taylor during the last days of Liberia’s Civil War, as well as two Academy award-nominated and four Emmy winning documentaries about the tragic legacy of slavery in the US, I know that what has been accomplished here in less than a quarter century is without precedent. While tragedy strikes all nations, very few rise up from the ashes to re-imagine and re-build itself on a foundation of limitless hope and possibility.
Mugire ubukire (Abundance is Destiny)
Although in my work I have seen the horrors of misery and mayhem, I always chose to tell stories that reflect the best in people. When given compelling reasons and a sense of collective purpose, humanity inevitably rises up to do right by that which we love the most.
It was in 2012, while making a documentary about an American urologist that I observed that on the day a man voluntarily chooses a vasectomy he expresses a tenderness I had never witnessed before. I asked myself, “what might be achieved if, on a single day, in every country in the world, tens of thousands of men – regardless of culture, class or creed – chose to get a vasectomy as a collective act of love? And what if I could aggregate these individual acts of generosity into a movement for social good? From that simple idea, World Vasectomy Day launched on May 9, 2012.
Tubukoreye (Work Hard)
Today, six years later, with over 1,200 providers in 50+ countries doing upwards of 25,000 vasectomies, WVD has emerged as the largest-ever male-focused family planning event. Beginning in 2013 in Australia, the US in 2014, Indonesia in 2015, Kenya in 2016 and Mexico in 2017, WVD has been headquartered on four continents and its messaging has reached millions of people worldwide. This year, to acknowledge the advances of your own family planning programs and to coincide with the International Conference on Family Planning, I thought to bring the event to Kigali.
Dufatanyije (Work Together)
What one man fears to do, 1,000-strong never hesitate.
In Rwanda, as is the case with men everywhere, the first courageous acceptors of vasectomy are our champions and leaders. They are not only conscientious partners, but hardworking and responsible citizens. For them, manhood is not determined by how many children they have, but how they care for those already here.
Kandi Vuba (Work Fast)
Time is precious, and in less than six weeks in your country, our team of Colombians, Americans, Ugandans and our brilliant Rwandan counterparts have lived by the words of anthropologist Margaret Mead, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world”.
In this short time, I have been inspired by the dedication to excellence and commitment to hard work of your people. And under the guidance of the RBC and MoH, WVD was able to organize an ambitious training program for 15 Rwanda physicians led by eight of the most skilled vasectomy doctors in the world. The event was scheduled for November 9-13th. These same doctors were also prepared to teach an all-day symposium on November 8th that would be filmed and later launched as the only accredited online course of its nature. I signed letters of cooperation with every medical, nursing and midwife council and association and agreed to collaborate with your most dedicated health oriented NGOs. Dedicated to the notion that nothing is more important than sharing knowledge WVD committed to lead a two week-long filmmaking workshop to teach 20 young women funded by the Imbuto Foundation. Then, to ensure that the success of our event would reverberate for future generations, plans were being developed to launch in Kigali the only Center of Excellence for Vasectomy and Male Engagement in Family Planning in the world. This idea was born out extensive conversations with the Rwanda Medical and Dental Council and the Rwanda Medical Association.
Finally, all of this hard work, passion and effort by your doctors, midwives and nurses, not to mention the courage of your men, was to be celebrated on November 14, 2018 at the Kigali Convention Center. As we have done every year since our inception, this celebration would be shared in a day-long event that connects the world to Rwanda and Rwanda to the world. While most of the activities planned at ICFP are about accomplishments around the world WVD’s focus was on what we would have accomplished in Rwanda.
This past weekend, be it a factor of timing or simply a limit of time and resources, a decision was made that, for now, the activities cannot come to fruition as originally planned. Though it is disappointing, both for my team and for the doctors who were committed to teach here, I remain hopeful that I may find another time or another avenue to support Rwanda to rise as leaders in positive masculinity through ICT and access to family planning. I too believe in many of Rwanda’s priorities and aspirations – community-driven storytelling, purpose driven positive messaging, male responsibility and cutting-edge ICT.
What I will take with me as I travel home to New York now to continue the work is more confidence than ever that a movement rooted in truth and love will never disappear and that Rwanda is destined to rise as leaders of positive masculinity, not just in Africa but around the world. WVD is ready to do our part – if not today, if not at this most historic conference in November, then sometime in what I hope is the not so distant future.
Thank you President Kagame and thank you Rwanda.
Jonathan Stack, Co Founder and Executive Director
World Vasectomy Day, Inc.