Inflammation and stories on Rwanda

Rwanda is Growing Its Knowledge-Based EconomyRwanda is growing its knowledge-based economy. The country has produced substantial developmental gains since the genocide and civil war in 1994. It has reduced its poverty by about 12 percent, achieved food security and produced more results towards its goal of becoming a knowledge-based economy. Rwanda’s Government focus has been on developing the economy and reform in the financial and business sectors. Foreign aid focus, from groups such as the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the World Bank, has been in improving trade, productivity and investments in their agriculture sector.

The World Bank Programs

Currently, there is a lot of on-the-ground investment in irrigation in Rwanda. Agriculture accounts for 33 percent for Rwanda’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), represents almost 80 percent its labor force and generates almost half of its export revenues. However, according to the World Bank, the population density, hilly terrain and soil erosion have inhibited progress in this pillar of its economy. The Rural Sector Support Project (RSSP) and the Land Husbandry, Water Harvesting and Hillside Irrigation Project (LWH) have allowed the World Bank to increase the productivity and commercialization of hillside agriculture.

The RSSP project will consist of a 14-year period that will unfold in three phases. The phases mainly consist of strengthening Rwanda’s institutional, technical, local, agricultural research and infrastructure capacities. The LWH uses a reformed watershed approach that works to improve soil health. Rwanda’s uneven rainfall puts limitations on its agricultural productivity, so the project will also develop new water-harvesting infrastructure, such as valley dams and reservoirs among other benefits for more effective crop production.

The World Bank has also been the leading financier for initiatives to expand Rwanda’s electricity and energy sectors. The World Bank has been actively supporting the government with these initiatives through the Rwanda Energy Sector Development Project (ESDP). It has provided Rwanda with $125 million and $95 million for the Rwanda Electricity Sector Strengthening Project (RESSP). A few overarching goals of these projects are containing fiscal impact within the electricity sector and the overall improvement of electricity service.

USAID Programs

USAID works closely with the Government of Rwanda to increase and promote its trade through several programs. Through the East Africa Trade Investment Hub (EATIH) programs, Rwanda has been building its trade capacity, improving the private sector and creating better market access and opportunities for trade facilitation.

In 2016, USAID was able to create the Rwanda African Growth Opportunity Act (AGOA). The AGOA has emphasized regional and bilateral efforts to strengthen Africa’s economic competitiveness and aid countries to leverage trade opportunities.

All of these benefits support the ways that Rwanda is growing its knowledge-based economy. These program strategies, initiatives and results represent the “small steps” of turning a country around from poverty. The interdependency between Rwanda’s government and foreign aid shows the relentless efforts being made to downsize global poverty. It has also formed a strategic collaboration that is breeding progressive results.

Niya Monè
Photo: Flickr

Women’s Representation in RwandaRwanda has a higher percentage of representation of women in government than any country in the world. In 2017, there were 49 women in the lower house of parliament, which is more than half of its 80 seats, and 10 women in the upper house of parliament consisting of 26 seats. The high proportion of women in government came after the devastating Rwandan genocide of 1994, and the country has made significant strides since then.

A Shift in Gender Representation

The genocide in Rwanda marked a change in gender representation because, after the violence had subsided, 70 percent of the surviving population was women. This was a result of the practice of killing men and allowing women to survive as sex slaves during the genocide. However, it was not only the new gender disparity that caused an increase in women’s roles in government, but the country also introduced quotas requiring 30 percent of candidates for public office to be women.

It is important to note that the Rwandan government decided to increase the representation of women in government through candidate quotas in political parties rather than seat reservations in parliament. According to a study by Mala Htun published in Perspective on Politics, “Women and men belong to all political parties; members of ethnic groups, by contrast, frequently belong to one only.” By using quotas, the Rwandan government is acknowledging the bipartisan nature of women in government.

Therefore, the most efficient way to establish a higher representation of women in government is to promote their representation within political parties because they are a cross-cutting group, meaning that women have an active political presence across the political spectrum. This thoughtful approach to increasing women’s representation in the Rwandan government has resulted in record-breaking numbers of women becoming involved in political life in Rwanda and setting positive examples for young girls throughout the country.

The Difficulties Women in Government Face

The presence of women in such politically powerful positions in Rwanda has not come without difficulties. Many women face backlash from their families or husbands for sacrificing domestic work in order to become political leaders. In fact, Berthilde Muruta, Executive Secretary in the Rubavu District noted that “there are people who think that we come to meet men, or for other business, which makes it hard to be trusted by our husbands.” Additionally, female politicians in Rwanda are oftentimes not seen as equals to the men in similar positions.

According to Claudette Mukamana, a District Vice Mayor, “When people see you holding any of those [elected] positions as women, the very first question asked by everyone is: Will she be able to perform her duties? Is she capable of holding such a position?” Despite these difficulties, the presence of so many women in the Rwandan government has resulted in the passing of several key pieces of legislation to improve the lives of women and girls throughout the country.

These reforms include legislation to alter the Civil Code to allow women to have equal inheritance rights as men, equal pay, consequences for gender discrimination and harassment in the workplace and further prevention and consequences for violence against women and children. In addition, with 7 of the 14 supreme court justices in Rwanda now being women, new laws were passed requiring that both boys and girls must attend primary and secondary school.

Areas to Improve

A lot still needs to change in regards to the perception of women’s roles in society. Furthermore, there is still more progress to be made, especially in terms of violence against women. The Rwandan government performed a study that showed that two out of every five women ages 15 and older had been physically abused at least one time in their lives. As more women are elected to office, hopefully, more people will change their perspective in these areas and these statistics will represent that improvement.

The representation of women in the Rwandan government has led to significant advancements for the rights of women and girls throughout the country. Globally women only hold 21.9 percent of all elected seats in government. Promoting the equality of men and women in political positions in Rwanda and around the world is integral to solving many of the issues governments face. Although the system is not yet perfected, the world could learn a lot about the importance of women in government from Rwanda.

Alina Patrick
Photo: Flickr

Top 10 Facts About Rwanda Child Soldiers
Rwanda is an African country whose history is marred by colonialism, civil war, political turmoil and genocide. Since the 1994 genocide that killed nearly one million Tutsi and moderate Hutu, the country continues to deal with the aftermath of this suffering.

One of the central issues during the genocide and even today in the post-genocide environment has been the role of child soldiers. Here are the top 10 facts about Rwanda child soldiers.

Top 10 Facts About Rwanda Child Soldiers

  1. Post-genocide, many Rwandan survivors fled to the Democratic Republic of the Congo. However, as violence surged in the Congo and a genocide of its own erupted there, Congolese rebels forced Rwandan boys to become soldiers for their cause.
  2. Children are a vulnerable population that are more susceptible to be forced or recruited into child armies. This vulnerability is structural according to Human Rights Watch: “Government officials have done little to protect these children’s rights…traditional societal networks have been severely eroded by poverty, the HIV/AIDS epidemic, and, not least, the consequences of the genocide and war.”
  3. According to Michael Wessels, author of Child Soldiers: From Violence to Protection, children are more likely to be recruited as soldiers because “They can be psychologically manipulated through a deliberate programme of starvation, thirst, fatigue, voodoo, indoctrination, beatings, the use of drugs and alcohol, and even sexual abuse to render them compliant to the new norms of child soldiering.”
  4. More than 50 percent of Rwanda’s population is 19 years old or younger and orphans account for 10 percent of this demographic. With limited access to money, shelter, education and other necessities, many of these vulnerable children fall prey to child armies.
  5. In the neighboring country of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the rebel military group M23 worked with the Rwandan Defense Force to train child soldiers.
  6. With promises of money, education and jobs, children—many of them orphaned or living in extreme poverty—fell prey to the Rwandan Defense Force which falsely claimed children would be trained for the Rwandan army, not for M23.
  7. Romeo Dallaire witnessed the Rwandan genocide firsthand as a U.N. peacekeeper. According to Dallaire, one of the reasons for employing child soldiers is that “they are viewed as expendable, replaceable.”
  8. For the past 20 years, Rwanda has been working to demobilize Rwandan child soldiers and reintegrate them into Rwandan society. As of 2013, the Rwandan government demobilized about 3,000 child soldiers.
  9. Although the Rwandan government made successful moves to reduce the number of child soldiers, some reports suggest that simultaneously, the Rwandan government recruited some of those same children as soldiers. Following these accusations, the United States denied military funding to the Rwandan Army.
  10. In efforts to help reintegrate former child soldiers, the Lake Muhazi Centre is just one of many places that runs a three-month course that offers counseling, recreational activities, and job training to help facilitate assimilation back into Rwandan society.

Although Rwanda made great strides to demobilize the child soldiers that its own army produced, many child soldiers remain in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. It was not until 2013 that the Rwandan government acknowledged its role in the production of child soldiers and has, since then, made great efforts to combat this atrocity.

– Morgan Everman
Photo: Pixabay

Gender Equality and Female Empowerment in Rwanda
Although Rwanda is considered an impoverished nation, it ranks number four in gender equality. On the same scale, The United States ranks number 49. Interestingly, this shift towards gender equality in Rwanda came as a result of the 1994 genocide.

Before that tragic event, women were usually caretakers and were rarely financially independent or in a position of power. During the genocide, more than 800,000 people died in just 100 days, and most of these individuals were men. This shifted the population to be 60 – 70 percent female and as a result, women were forced into formerly male-dominated jobs.

Government Support of Women

President Kagame led this movement, realizing women were necessary for the country’s recovery because there simply were not enough men to rebuild. The government rewrote the constitution in 2003, encouraging female education and requiring at least 30 percent of positions in parliament to be held by women.

In the first election following this change, the requirement was exceeded with 48 percent of seats going to women. The following election saw an even greater increase with 64 percent of parliamentary seats being held by females. This makes Rwanda number one in a global ranking of countries with the most women in legislature. For comparison, The United States ranks 96 with only 19 percent of seats going to women.

Social Inequality as a Mindset

Despite these great strides towards gender equality in Rwanda, women’s perception at home does not seem to line up with that of their public lives. Girls are still raised to be submissive both in school at home, believing that something as simple as becoming president of a club is reserved only for men.

While they are holding positions of power and becoming economically independent, women still fear speaking out against their husbands and are expected to continue to be the only one to take care of housework and childcare. Many Rwandan women see the term “feminism” as a negative, Western concept.

Unlike most social movements, this change in gender equality did not come from the oppressed group, but from President Paul Kagame. Rwandan women were ushered into positions of power before they truly believed in the movement, and now, they must play catch up with their mindset.

Working to Change Preconceived Ideas

Many organizations are helping to change that perception, starting with female education. Women to Women International has a one-year foundation training program, enabling women to become financially self-sufficient and, subsequently, build the confidence to fight for their rights and equality at home. This organization has helped 76,000 women in the ten years it has been operating.

The Akilah Institute for Women is an all-female college that fosters a more positive learning environment for women, enhancing the skills needed to launch careers in many different fields. The Institute has an 88 percent success rate for graduates. Fawe’s Girls’ School encourages young girls to take STEM courses to overcome the stigma that these classes are generally for men. They work to empower girls to understand their importance and to defend their rights. They also work to train teachers to be more gender inclusive.

Gender equality in Rwanda is far ahead of most of the world, but women must truly believe in their rights for this to be effective. With the next generation being raised in a world where gender does not restrict women from a job and schools encourage female participation and confidence; hopefully, Rwandan women will embrace their newfound power and continue to lead the world in gender equality.

Georgia Orenstein
Photo: Flickr

poverty and dictatorship
Among the 10 dictatorship countries profiled, poverty is endemic. Poverty alleviation in these 10 dictatorship countries is in some cases associated with human rights abuses, violent crackdowns on the political opposition and indigenous people. In the last two decades, however, some of these countries have moved towards embracing democracy, which has brought an influx of government institutions, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and foreign investment working to promulgate poverty alleviation.

The State of Poverty in 10 Dictatorship Countries

  1. Cambodia – In June of 2018, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen was officially qualified as a military dictator by Human Rights Watch. Through an environment of fear, Cambodia has been littered with human rights abuses, crackdowns on the opposition, coercion and repression of the media. In September of 2018, the United Nations Development Program stated that 35 percent of all Cambodians are still poor regardless of the decline in the Multidimensional Poverty Index. In 2006, the Ministry of Planning established the IDPoor Programme to guide government services and NGOs to provide target services and assistance to the poorest households. As of December 2017, The IDPoor Programme has assisted 13 million people and has covered 90 percent of Cambodians.
  2. Cameroon – Current Prime Minister, Paul Biya, seized control of Cameroon from his fellow despotic predecessor in 1982. Biya has since ruled the central African country with an iron fist. In 2014, 37.5 percent of the people were living in poverty. However, a development NGO called Heifer Cameroon has been playing a positive role in alleviating the strains of poverty for Cameroon’s most poor and vulnerable communities. Heifer Cameroon has assisted 30,000 families by spurring job creation among the rural poor through focusing on the dairy industry along with other livestock.
  3. Eritrea – Eritrea gained its independence from Ethiopia in 1993. The President of Eritrea, Isaias Afwerki, took power after its independence and has since entrapped his citizens in a cloud of fear. Furthermore, the nation was rocked by internal war, drought and famine. According to estimates of The World Bank, 69 percent of Eritrea’s population lives below the poverty line. Despite these conditions, Eritrea has drastically improved its public health conditions. Indeed since its liberation, life expectancy has increased by 14 years to 63 years. And over 70 percent of the population now has access to clean water, compared to just 15 percent in 1993.
  4. Ethiopia – In 2000, Ethiopia had one of the highest rates of poverty in the world, but by 2011, the poverty rate had fallen by 14 percent. In 2018, Ethiopia became Africa’s fastest growing economy in the sub-Saharan African region. However, some of the country’s development schemes have been wildly unpopular, such as the mass land-grab that is displacing Ethiopians so the government can lease out the land to foreign investors. On the other hand, some developments have actually made improvements in average household health, education and living standards.
  5. Madagascar – Madagascar has experienced a long period of political instability since its independence in the 1960s. Current President Hery Rajaonarimampianina was democratically elected in 2014. Rajaonarimampianina has prioritized recovering Madagascar’s relationship with foreign investment agencies, like The World Bank, IMF and The African Union. Unfortunately, in 2018, 75 percent of Madagascar’s population are still living under the poverty line.
  6. Myanmar – From 1966 to 2016, Myanmar existed under a military dictatorship that bore multiple wars spurred out of hatred and persecution of Rohingya Muslims and Christians. The crackdown and ethnic cleansing created a major refugee crisis. Today, Myanmar is reportedly inching towards democracy, but the military, headed by Gen. Than Shwe, still has major sway. In 2015, 35 percent of the population of Myanmar lived in poverty.
  7. Rwanda – Rwandan President Paul Kagame’s regime is often associated with maintaining peace and stability since the Rwandan genocide in 1994. However, critics of Kagame cite numerous human rights abuses and fear that the President is leading the country towards dictatorship. Still, Rwanda has taken major strides in addressing and decreasing the poverty rate. Between 2000 and 2010, the poverty rate declined by 23.8 percent. Recent economic growth within the country has been evenly distributed and pro-poor, with the majority of the Rwandan population benefiting from this economic growth.
  8. Sudan – President al-Bashir came to power in 1989 and reigned with a brutal dictatorship in Sudan until his exile in 2015. Poverty in Sudan is endemic. In 2018, 2.8 million were in need of humanitarian aid and 4.8 million were food insecure. Such high rates of poverty engender low literacy levels, crumbling infrastructure, little to no access to health services and high rates of food insecurity.
  9. Tunisia – President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali headed Tunisia’s dictatorship until 2011 when he was ousted by a people’s revolution. However, that stability was maintained by the military, which performed countless human rights abuses. However, poverty reduction strategies have rung successful as the poverty rate in Tunisia fell by 10 percent from 2000 to 2015.
  10. Zimbabwe – Robert Mugabe, who was the President of Zimbabwe for 37 years until 2017, had long been seen as a dictator and is attributed by The Economist as “ruining” Zimbabwe. Mugabe’s policies led to hyperinflation and an infrastructure system in disrepair. Build Zimbabwe Alliance claims that 72 percent of the population still lives under the poverty line. The main causes of poverty in Zimbabwe are the economic recession of 2008 and global warming’s impact on agriculture.

These 10 dictatorship countries have taken strides in increasing access to education, healthcare and economic growth. Such programs have been most successful in regards to pro-poor poverty reduction. The political outlook of some of these countries is improving, but there is still a lot of work needed to improve poverty in all of the countries listed.

– Sasha Kramer

Photo: Flickr

Using the Internet for DevelopmentIf you are reading this, you are lucky enough to have something that 4.1 billion people go without every day- internet access. And while the internet may be used for a variety of frivolous and silly things like cat videos, memes and gifs, it has also become an indispensable part of daily life in the developed world. The internet also has the potential to drastically improve life for the world’s extreme poor. One study estimated that guaranteeing internet access for everyone would lift 500 million people out of poverty and add over $6 trillion to the global economy. Some people are already taking action. Here are six countries that are using the internet as the most important mean for development.

  1. Colombia.  Thirty-nine percent of Colombia’s citizens live under the poverty line, with the poorest living on under $2 a day. In response, the government has taken steps in using the internet for development by ensuring internet access for 96 percent of this tropical nation’s population. In three years, this infrastructure development raised at least 2.5 million people out of poverty. As the Minister for Technology, Diego Molano, said in an interview with The Guardian: “When we connect, for example, a rural school to Internet, when we connect a small school in the middle of the jungle to Internet, those kids in the middle of nowhere have effectively the same opportunity to access the whole of information society — just like any kid in New York, London or Paris.”
  2. China. While crowdfunding is common in the United States, it is usually not used on a such a wide scale as in China. The Chinese government has recently released an online program called Social Participation in Poverty Alleviation and Development, designed to lift at least 47 million people out of extreme poverty. Essentially, it uses social media platforms such as WeChat to allow normal citizens to help struggling families. At least $3.45 million has been raised for various projects that cover education, agriculture and more important social and economic issues, using the internet as the basis for development.
  3. Kenya. Private industry can make a difference as well. In Kenya, online banking systems such as M-PESA have helped to lift citizens out of poverty. Tavneet Suri, an economist at MIT decided to study the impacts of this phenomenon. She found that for 10 percent of families living on less than $1.25 a day using a mobile banking system was enough to lift them out of extreme poverty. The effect was even more marked amongst women. The mobile system allowed female-led families to save 22 percent more money than before.
  4. Bhutan. The small country of Bhutan located high in the Himalayan mountains has been isolated from the outside world for most of its history. The onset of the digital age changed that. The government has actively encouraged its citizens’ adoption of the internet by moving bureaucratic processes. With the support of the World Bank, information communications technology will continue to expand. In 15 years alone, the number of internet users in Bhutan grew by over 300 thousand.
  5. Rwanda. Though Rwanda may still be known in the international community for its horrific ethnic genocide, in recent years, the country has taken multiple steps towards development. The government has launched an effort called Vision2020 to cultivate an entrepreneurial, tech-savvy middle class. Internet connections are widespread throughout the country and are used for innovative purposes. One philanthropist started the Incike Initiative, an annual crowdfund that provides health care for the survivors of the genocide. Another entrepreneur started a platform called Girl Hub that allows women to give their opinions to local news sources. Rwanda fully utilizes the internet for development.
  6. Peru. With support from the international community, the Peruvian government is making efforts to connect more than 300 thousand people in rural areas to the national electric grid and, through this, to the internet as well. This connection has wider implications, especially for education. Students in these isolated areas can now be exposed to ideas in the wider world. This encourages engagement. A teacher in one of these villages, Teresa Uribe says that the kids now want to learn more, thanks to the technology.

These stories show the power of the internet to enact positive change in the developing world. If you too are interested in using the internet for development, take this opportunity to email your representatives about anti-poverty legislation. The internet’s potential should not go wasted.

– Lydia Cardwell
Photo: Flickr

Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in RwandaNicknamed the “Land of a Thousand Hills” for its many green and grassy hills, Rwanda is a landlocked, East African country with a population of 12.5 million people.

Rwanda is well-known for genocide in 1994 that killed as many as 800,000 people in the course of three months. Eventually, this tragic event caused extreme poverty and forced the country to start over from scratch since 70 percent of the population decreased. Although this was and is still a major setback for the country, these top 10 facts about living conditions in Rwanda will give you an idea of the hardships and improvements Rwanda faces daily.

Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in Rwanda

  1. Rwanda is one of the most rural countries in the entire world. According to Land Links, 75 percent of Rwanda’s land is agricultural. This explains why the majority of the people live in houses that are surrounded by banana groves and large areas of land.
  2. Clearly, the agricultural sector is significant in Rwanda; thus, agriculture accounts for 80 percent of employment. Agriculture work is divided between the men and women; men do the heavy field work and care for the livestock while the women take care of the day-to-day farming activities such as planting and weeding. This goes for housework as well; men do the construction and heavy work while the women’s responsibilities are to maintain the household and raise the children.
  3. The food staples in Rwanda include bananas, beans, white and sweet potatoes, cassava and corn, which are all grown in the surrounding fields. Only those who can afford to buy meat will eat it.
  4. Although Rwanda has made a significant improvement in the number of people living below the poverty line, there is still a lot of room for progress. Specifically, The World Economic Forum states that in 2005, 57 percent of people lived below the general poverty line; however, that amount reduced to 45 percent in 2010. Regardless, 63 percent of the population still live in extreme poverty, living on less than $1.25 a day
  5. Living conditions in Rwanda vary tremendously depending on social class and location. Wealthy Rwandans may live in brick houses with full access to living essentials and necessities such as electricity, running water, plumbing and phone service. On the other hand, poorer people living in the rural areas live in small houses with mud walls and little to no access to many living essentials and necessities.
  6. In Rwanda, 25 percent of the population lack access to safe drinking water, and 26 percent of the population lack access to proper sanitation facilities. In order for families to have water, women and girls, the primary water carriers of the family, have to retrieve water from the local streams, which put them at risk for waterborne diseases. UNICEF has been working with the government in Rwanda to improve access to water and sanitation as well as improve hygiene in order to reduce disease and deaths related to water and sanitation.
  7. Unfortunately, 90 percent of Rwandans are at risk for malaria, a potentially fatal disease caused by infected mosquitoes. Malaria is the primary cause of death in Rwanda. In 2006, malaria caused 41 percent of hospital deaths, of which 42 percent of were children under the age of five.
  8. Most Rwandans buy their clothes from used clothing stores; however, some wealthy Rwandans can afford to buy new clothing made in Rwanda. The typical dressing style is typically semi-formal or business wear. Women usually wear long dresses and skirts that go past the knee with a nice fitted shirt and sandals while men wear dress pants with a dress shirt and tie. A lot of clothing in Rwanda consists of bright colors and patterns. Dressing down or casual can be considered disrespectful in Rwanda.
  9. Access to education in Rwanda is better than in most countries in Africa. The government provides everyone in Rwanda with free education for nine years; six years in primary school and three years in secondary school; however, after nine years, schooling comes with fees. Despite free education for nine years, InterNations reported that most children do not finish the required schooling and spend an average of only 3.3 years in school. Part of this is due to the fees for uniforms and supplies that still come with “free” education.
  10. Fortunately, besides free access to education, Rwanda also provides universal healthcare and operates one of the highest-quality health systems in Africa. Addressing the topic of health in Rwanda has resulted in major accomplishments such as reducing the mortality rate for children from 182 per 1,000 children to 52. Furthermore, due to access to vaccinations and improved healthcare, the life expectancy rate has doubled in the last 20 years.

These top 10 facts about living conditions in Rwanda highlight that the country has still managed to achieve success through its healthcare and educational system, proving that change requires more humanitarian aid and government contribution. Although there is still a good deal of work to be done to alleviate poverty in Rwanda, the country has come a long way to overcome the shadows of its past. 

– Kristen Uedoi
Photo: Unsplash

Human Rights in RwandaIt’s been over 20 years since the Rwandan Genocide and, while this event is how most know of the small African nation, a reexamination of human rights in Rwanda is well past overdue. In 1994, over the course of a hundred days, nearly a million Rwandans were executed in an ethnic conflict. However, over the next two decades an exemplary justice and reconciliation process unfolded. Due to these efforts, Rwanda’s reputation for human rights violations no longer fits the reality of human rights in Rwanda today. Here are some important facts regarding human rights in Rwanda:

Seven Facts About Human Rights in Rwanda

  1. The 1994 genocide was largely drawn on ethnic lines. Following the overthrow of the Tutsi Monarchy in 1959, the Hutus (who had an 85 percent majority in the country) ruled for the next three decades. In April of 1994, however, the Hutu president was killed in a plane crash prompting Hutu extremists and ruling party officials to begin the systematic execution of the Tutsis. One hundred days later, between 800,000 and 1 million Tutsis were killed and 250,000 women had been raped by militia forces.
  2. By the close of 1994, following the genocide, the U.N. Security Council established The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR). Over the next decade and a half, The ICTR oversaw the sentencing of 61 people and received thousands of hours of witness testimony. The ICTR is now regarded as one of the preeminent mass violence tribunals and has been used as a model for similar events since. Seeing as The ICTR was so widely and successfully implemented across Rwanda, it is not surprising to learn the attitudes of those leading Rwanda still reflect the lessons learned from The ICTR. Today, human rights in Rwanda is treated with the utmost efficiency with a serious consideration for truth-seeking.
  3. In order to ensure the remaining fugitives were held accountable following the completion of The ICTR, The U.N. Security Council established The Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals (MICT). MICT oversaw what remained of both the Rwandan and Yugoslavian criminal tribunals. One of those sentenced by MICT was former Prime Minister Jean Kambanda – the first head of government to be convicted of genocide. This was a clear signal sent that human rights in Rwanda were now being taken extremely seriously by the international and Rwandan community.
  4. The ICTR and MICT have not been the only judicial bodies present in Rwanda. The Rwandan National Court System has tried over 10,000 suspects accused of violating human rights relating to the genocide and has remained committed to trying human rights abusers. Interestingly, in the midst of these genocide trials, Rwanda abolished the death penalty, which reflects the growing divide between the former Rwanda, ravaged by genocide, and the Rwanda of today. The Rwandan national court system today strikes this balance well. While they no longer utilize the death penalty, judges continue to strike harsh sentences against human rights abusers to set the precedent that such actions will not be tolerated in contemporary Rwanda.
  5. An essential factor in restoring peace and reconciliation in Rwanda to avoid further human rights troubles was the need to rectify the fates of low-level participants in the genocide. To accomplish this task, the national government reestablished traditional Gacaca Courts. There, community members were tasked with hearing the confessions of those involved in the human rights violations. Confessions were important to the community as they allowed many families to learn of the fates of many of their missing loved ones. While the Gacaca courts held thousands of trials, some of the confessing suspects were permitted to return home with mandated community service, others were sentenced to hard labor. Gacaca courts today continue to play an integral role in maintaining a free and fair Rwanda. Contrary to popular belief, human rights violations seldom begin as a national level conspiracy, but rather those in the communities feel drawn to participate through local influences. Gacaca courts fight this by addressing and prosecuting the instigators at the local level – before it becomes a national crisis.
  6. During the Rwandan genocide, human rights violations spread to Burundi and The Democratic Republic of Congo. This spread was largely due to the influx of fleeing Tutsi refugees across the Great Lakes region and the subsequent pursuit of those attempting to execute the Tutsis. Those intending harm to the Tutsis took advantage of Burundi and DRC’s own internal strife to sew chaos across the region. Today, however, Rwanda works closely with its neighbors, playing an active role in monitoring for and preventing human rights violations. This is one of the biggest lessons learned from the genocide. Rwanda, while a small inland country, is nevertheless an integral regional partner. As such, human rights abuses within the country can spread outward and external abuses can spread inward. Seeing as this is the case, Rwanda has put forth an incredible effort to stymie human rights abuses in its neighboring countries.
  7. While in 1994, the Rwandan government was the sponsor of the genocide, the government today is not only one of the freest and fairest governments but also the most diverse in the region. In fact, women make up a majority of the legislature in Rwanda with 49 out of 80 seats in the lower house and 10 of 26 in the upper house.

While Rwanda is internationally known for the horrific 1994 genocide, this picture does not clearly paint the reality of human rights in Rwanda today. Following the genocide incredible strides were made to bring not only justice but reconciliation to Rwandans. While no reconciliation process is perfect, Rwanda was successful in not only starting to heal the wounds of the past but also ensuring that human rights in Rwanda are taken seriously, so that there is no chance of such tragedies happening again.

– Sam Kennedy
Photo: Flickr

Working Towards Gender Equality in RwandaFounded in 1945, the United Nations (U.N.) is an international organization made up of 193 member states. The U.N. takes on many issues, including food production and gender equality. Four of its branches, the World Food Programme (WFP), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the U.N. Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (U.N. Women), are working together to implement the Rural Women Economic Empowerment Project (Project). The Project works toward gender equality in Rwanda by empowering women through agriculture.

Rwanda has the highest population density in Africa, but the country is largely rural. Overall, about a quarter of Rwandans live in extreme poverty. However, in rural communities, the percentage of people living in extreme poverty rises to almost half. Because of Rwanda’s limited natural resources, its citizens depend on its agriculture economy. Read more

In recent years, doctors and staff at hospitals in Northern Rwanda have been having trouble providing adequate care to children with cancer. It was proving to be difficult to maintain connections with the children and provide follow-up care. Children and their families are largely uneducated about long-term care when it comes to cancer, in addition to other important information such as the effects of chemotherapy. There wasn’t a nursing initiative in Rwanda to address this issue. 

Emmanuel Dushimimana, a doctor working in Rwanda with Partners in Health (a non-profit focused on providing healthcare to third-world countries) came up with a solution to start a program called the PIH Nightingale Fellowship that trains nurses to provide better patient care overall and to teach families how to provide long-term care to their children with cancer. This nursing initiative also created informational pamphlets that families were able to take home.

The program began in September 2017 and doctors reported that they quickly began seeing more children becoming involved in follow-up care. The children were returning to PIH’s medical campus in Rwanda to receive additional checkups on the long-term dangers of cancer.

Programs such as the PIH Nightingale Fellowship are essential in countries with a significant impoverished population. For instance, in Rwanda, families that are uneducated do not understand the importance of follow-up care for cancer and an educational program such as the aforementioned can save the lives of children.

The nursing initiative in Rwanda is carried out via conference calls, online webinars, mentorship and individual leadership projects to train the staff. Nurses from Boston, where PIH’s headquarters is located, have been doing rotational shifts for three months at a time in Rwanda to train their staff in handling long-term care for cancer.

The survival rate for children with cancer in developing countries is astoundingly low compared to first-world countries. It is estimated to be 25 percent in developing nations in comparison to 85 percent in developed countries. This low survival rate is largely due to the lack of awareness that prevents families from seeking medical help early on or from seeking it at all.

This new nursing initiative in Rwanda has the potential to close this survival rate gap and save the lives of numerous children with cancer.

The program has already begun to clear up scheduling issues in their operating room at the University Hospital in Rwanda. Previously, there had been no schedule which led to patients showing up and waiting for hours, not knowing when their procedure was going to happen. The operating room also had a great number of cancellations and that has dropped since the program went into effect.

The program receives necessary supplies and medical tools from the Rwanda Ministry of Health and also survives off of individual donations and foundation grants.

Patients facing poverty in addition to sickness are in the greatest need of professional health care services such as the ones PIH provides with the Nightingale Program. Thanks to the hard work and efforts of caregivers in Rwanda, children with cancer there are in much more knowledgeable hands.

– Amelia Merchant
Photo: Flickr