October 1990 ushered in a period of war, death and devastation in Rwanda. Civil war ravaged the country and ultimately culminated in the 1994 genocide of 500,000 to 1 million people in a period of a little over three months.
Only 25 years since the Rwandan Genocide, many women in Rwanda are still recovering from loss, hardship and trauma. Militants raped between 250,000 to 500,000 women during the genocide and many who survived lost friends, family and community. Determined to raise up their communities after a period of national devastation, here are five resilient women in Rwanda who inspire and create change for the present and the future of Rwanda.
Five Resilient Women in Rwanda
- Christelle Kwizera
Christelle Kwizera graduated magna cum laude from Oklahoma Christian University, where she researched purifying water via ozone. Now Christelle is the managing director of Water Access Rwanda, whose mission is to provide clean, affordable and reliable water sources to combat water security. Operating since 2014, Water Access Rwanda provided access to clean water to more than 132,000 people, schools, businesses and farms throughout not only Rwanda but also within the Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi and Uganda.
- Elise Rida Musomandera
Elise Rida Musomandera lost both of her parents at an early age. This dramatically shaped her life and fed her determination to combat hunger, empower women and youth and support survivors of genocide and individuals with AIDS. In 2014, Elise founded Isano Women and Youth Empowerment. Elise is the CEO of her nonprofit organization and leads the fight against poverty, promotes peace, protects the environment and empowers others through education.
- Safi Umukundwa
At only 8 years old, Safi Umukundwa became a survivor and orphan of genocide. On account of her resiliency and dedication, she excelled in secondary school. She ultimately received funding for university education and inspired the name of the nonprofit, Safi Life, where she serves as the county director of Rwanda. Safi Life works to promote female advancement in Africa through awarding university scholarships and funding education for women, which additionally combats domestic abuse and poverty. As a result, Safi works to build up and inspire the next generation of strong and resilient women in Rwanda.
- Salaama Numukobwa
Salaama Numukobwa is a mother, activist and inspiration. Since 2011, she served her community through volunteer work. Salaama is now the community facilitator of Mind Leaps in Rwanda. Mind Leaps is a nonprofit organization that works with vulnerable and at-risk youth through dance, increasing cognitive and social-emotional development. Seventy percent of students who completed Mind Leaps’ dance program in Rwanda performed within the top 20 percent of their classes in 2017.
- Solange Impanoyimana
Solange Impanoyimana was only 11 years old when the Rwandan genocide left her to provide for herself. Committed to furthering her education, she achieved her bachelor’s degree and went on to co-found Resonate. Resonate is a nonprofit that provides girls and women leadership workshops to cultivate skills and increase confidence through storytelling, professional development and action leadership programs. In 2017, 36 percent of participants started businesses, 60 percent fill leadership roles and 43 percent have secured employment, promotions or academic opportunities.
Only a quarter-decade after the dark stain of hatred and genocide affected Rwanda, Christelle, Elise, Safi, Salaama and Solange shine their light on the future of their country. These courageous women are the epitome of strength and represent millions of resilient women in Rwanda.
– Keeley Griego