Once a month all citizens of Rwanda must do 3 hours of labour together in their community or face a fine. People weren't initially thrilled to participate, after all it is forced labour, but it was so helpful in building and cleaning up the country that public perception improved. In umuganda, community leaders decide on a project that everyone can work on together to improve the community. On the day that I was there, citizens were reshaping the beach in Gisenyi to make a safe area for small kids to swim in Lake Kivu. Another month, they could be rebuilding a community members' home that was damaged in a flood. The leader had clearly asked just men to work at this particular site, as it was a job that required a lot of strength, but as I know men and women are normally working together on the same projects.
After reading Pierre Lepidi's article on the subject in Le Monde I knew I wanted to shoot this, because I really love the concept. I have often thought that some sort of mandatory civil service would be healthy for society as it would keep people from becoming terribly out of touch with one another. Working together builds solidarity in a healthy, non-nationalistic way. Most importantly, it would be great because of what we could accomplish during that service, like helping the poor and beautifying our communities.