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Using music to bridge divides, connect communities,
and heal the wounds of war and conflict.

“People in need often experience challenges to their dignity, as when a sick person finds that his freedom is restricted by the regime of an institution or a poor person finds that her access to resources in society is hindered. Many social and cultural rights, such as the right to education, adequate health care and cultural participation in society, cannot be achieved by laws and regulations alone. They must be actively sought. It is therefore important that we [music therapists] as professionals see our obligations not only in relation to the needs of individuals but also in relation to human rights in a broader context.”

(Bunt & Stige, 2014, p.122)

Music Therapy in Rwanda

In 2013, Musicians without Borders was invited to partner with Rwandan healthcare organization WE-ACTx for Hope to support the establishment of the country’s first professional Music Therapy position. Since then, in small groups and in 1-1 sessions, over 100 young people living with HIV have attended and benefitted from music therapy sessions with a UK qualified and registered music therapist. In evaluation, 100% of interviewed participants reported positive impact.

Counselors, nurses and medical staff refer young patients for music therapy when they see indicators of risk that have included treatment failure resulting from poor adherence to medication; isolating behaviors; changes to mood; non-attendance at school; young motherhood; and a lack of appropriate caregivers at home.

Young people living with HIV face profound vulnerability. While rates of HIV-related deaths worldwide fell by 30% worldwide between 2005 and 2012 (Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS, 2013), for adolescents this figure rose by 50% (World Health Organization, 2013). Disengagement from clinical care for young people is a high risk, and the incorporation of music therapy into clinical services is a response to that risk.

To allow greater reach of music therapy approaches in Rwanda, musicians have been trained to run therapeutic music groups, and a training course has been developed in Music & Health, accredited within the University of Rwanda’s forthcoming BA Music.