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How Do Rwanda’s Streets Stay So Clean?

The horrors of the 1994 genocide might still linger in the minds of most people when they think of the African nation of Rwanda, but a quarter of a century later, the now-peaceful country is doing its best to present a new image to the world: cleanliness. That's why on one Saturday morning every month, you'll see an entire population working side-by-side in the streets, picking up litter and tidying entire cities. Cars remain stationary, businesses are closed, and the police keep an eye out for loafers. Known as Umuganda, which means "coming together in common purpose," the nationwide effort has had astonishing results, with Rwanda shining as a bright example of what can be done when people work together. This mandatory community service for every able-bodied Rwandan from 18 to 65 years of age is not condoned by everyone, and some view it as a form of repression. However, there is no denying its results, as the economy improves and citizens bond, making Rwanda stand out as one of the safest African nations. Its capital, Kigali, is often lauded as the continent's cleanest city. In fact, the work has been so successful that there's often not enough litter to keep people busy, so they turn to other community projects, like growing vegetables in community gardens and repairing roads and homes.

Re-evaluating Rwanda:

  • Rwanda has the highest percentage of female parliament members of any country, at approximately 64 percent.

  • In 2007, Rwanda became the first country in the world to ban plastic bags.

  • Rwanda is called "the Land of a Thousand Hills," as it mainly consists of grassy hills -- and five volcanoes.

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More Info: NPR

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