Deep in east-central Africa lies Rwanda, a country left devastated by the ethnic conflict between the Tutsi and Hutu which claimed the lives of nearly 800,000 Rwandans through systematic genocide in 1994. The country, starting on April 7th, commemorate this tragic loss of life through a 100-day mourning period known as Kwibuka – a process that is hoped will promote the process of recovery and reconciliation. Throughout this period, Rwandans visit memorial sites known as urwibutso where the genocide victims have been buried and engage in a cultural practice of mourning. One such site is that of Kigali Genocide Memorial, a resting place for “more than 250,000 victims of the genocide against the Tutsi.” With its designated burial place along with the ‘Gardens of Reflection,’ it promotes an atmosphere of remembrance and education; bringing dignity to those who died, solace to those who lost their loved ones and a reminder that murder is destructive whilst peace is empowering.
The process of commemoration for Rwandans is painful yet through the grit and determination exhibited by civilians, they successfully triumph against past terror to a brighter and more peaceful future. Rwandan women play a significant role in the countries process of recovery, reconstruction and reconciliation. The genocide of 1994 left them to defend for themselves as their fathers, husbands and brothers perished in the ethnic-fuelled bloodbath. Determined and with extraordinary initiative these women became economically and socially independent and redefined the traditional viewpoint of what constituted as ‘the role of a woman’- strong, resourceful and symbols of reconciliation. Indeed, through Beauty of Rwanda, we continue to allow these women to express and support themselves independently through their creative artistry with a sustainable business initiative. Their products exemplify not only the empowerment of women in rural Rwanda but also how this country and the survivors of the genocide have risen from the ashes of its bleak past and into a future of peace, co-operation and eventual gender equality.