In November 2017, Women on a Mission, a charity that champions women survivors of war around the world, visited our programme in Rwanda
Two decades after the 1994 genocide that killed an estimated 800,000 people in 100 days, the great untold story of Rwanda’s rise is how women rebuilt the nation. On a recent visit to this tiny (26,338 square kilometres) land-locked country in the heart of Africa, I discovered a nation that has risen from the ashes of a civil war, to become one of the fastest growing economies in the African continent.
“After the genocide, Rwanda lay in ruins. Hundreds of thousands of cadavers were piled up on roadsides. Churches and schools were destroyed; offices and businesses plundered. Above all, the nation was traumatised by the horrific crimes that had decimated the population. Because most of those killed were men and because many male perpetrators fled to bordering nations, approximately 70% of Rwanda’s post-genocide population was female. Faced with ensuring their families’ very survival, women stepped up and Women for Women International played an important part in the country’s reconstruction.”
Since 1997, Women for Women International has helped more than 75,000 Rwandan women move from crisis and poverty to stability and economic self-sufficiency. Thanks to their one year programme, women progressed from cleaning buildings to reconstructing them. They started businesses throughout the country, creating stability in the aftermath of unspeakable violence.
During our journey across Rwanda as we visited the Women for Women International programme, we saw with our own eyes how the participants and graduates had blossomed as they acquired new practical skills such as basket-weaving, yogurt-making, beauty-care, jewellery-designing, brick-making, hospitality-management and so much more. It was overwhelmingly moving to hear their personal stories of survival and their hopes and dreams for the future.
As one proud graduate told us:
These women are courageous, determined, hardworking survivors of a decimated generation. They told us their stories through songs, dance and with tears in their eyes.
Clearly, stronger women build stronger nations. And if one looks at the state of the world today, with over twenty brutal armed conflicts taking place at any given time and unprecedented levels of violence against women, there has never been a greater need to support such initiatives that change the world, one woman at a time.
Women on a Mission
In November 2017, 12 women embarked on a two-week Mountain Biking Expedition across the Danakil Depression of Ethiopia, to raise funds for our work with women in countries affected by conflict.
This International Women’s Day, one of our Rwanda programme graduates, Clarisse, shares her inspiring story of beating the odds to become a successful businesswoman.
In November 2017, Laurence Greening, Women for Women International - UK's Sponsorship and Database Coordinator, visited our programme in Rwanda.