Rising From Ashes (Part 1)
Rwanda gained international prominence during the 1994 genocide, where close to one million Tutsi and politically moderate Hutu were killed in the span of 100 days. Since the end of the 1994 Rwandan genocide against the Tutsi, Rwanda has seen an increase of women participating in different sectors of leadership in the country. Women in Rwanda are no longer confined to the kitchen or their homes; they now own and run businesses, head companies and are members of parliament. As an illustration, Rwanda has had the highest number of female parliamentarians in the world since 2003 (UN-Rwanda). It is important to realise that there are at least two factors that have led to this change of status in Rwandan women: (1) President Paul Kagame’s government, which has made great strides in the promotion of female empowerment and gender equality throughout the country, and (2) The sheer resilience of the Rwandan women.
In the immediate aftermath of the genocide, the population of Rwanda was 70 percent female. It is reported that in 1999, 70 percent of the Rwandan population was also living under the poverty line and at 60 percent, widows were the majority of the female headed households. Women had little choice but to recreate their lives from scratch. Until recently, there was a clear sexual division of labour in Rwanda. Women were expected to do ‘women’s work’ and this was limited to domestic and agricultural labour. Post Rwandan genocide saw, ‘women survivors of the Rwandan genocide take up positions that were normally meant for the men’.
Today, Rwanda has become one of the highest emerging economies in Africa and the rest of the world. The 1994 genocide was a clear act of evil, however, out of the ashes of this tragedy, women and girls have become more empowered, and ultimately creating a more unified Rwanda.