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Rwanda Rebuilding after Genocide

On April 6, 1994, a plane carrying Rwandan President Habyarimana was shot down, sparking the swiftest and one of the most brutal genocides the world has ever seen. After a mere one hundred days, an estimated one million people were brutally murdered. As the world watched in horror, the UN estimates that 250,000 - 500,000 women and girls were raped, while countless children witnessed the slaughter of their parents, often times by people they had previously known as friends and neighbors. When the last machete was wielded, the country was left destroyed.

At the end of the genocide, the government estimated women made up nearly 70 percent of the population, left to assume the traditional roles of men in heading households and rebuilding lives, while taking care of their own children and even the orphans of their neighbors. Focused on daily survival, they were largely unable to attend to their own emotional and physical rehabilitation needs. The hardships that these women already faced: poverty, hunger, economic vulnerability and gender inequality were only compounded by the devastating ramifications of the genocide: rape, HIV/AIDS, loss of family, discrimination, homelessness and grief.

In the eighteen years after the genocide, initial efforts to rebuild the country have been fruitful and the international community currently considers Rwanda a stable country. It has a democratic system of government, boasts the largest percentage of female lawmakers of any nation in the world, and is rapidly becoming a technological hub for central Africa. Given the numerous advances Rwanda has made in its social and government structures over the past fifteen years, humanitarian efforts have moved from post-conflict emergency assistance to long-term economic development programs. Nevertheless, opportunity for growth and social change remain. Average annual income in 2009 was still only US$370, women at the grassroots level continue to struggle to claim the rights guaranteed by their constitution, and evidence of post-traumatic stress is widespread.

Educational Resources:
See Grassroots Issues for more information and briefing papers on specific issues facing Rwanda's vulnerable women, including:

  • Water Access
  • Domestic Violence
  • Sexual Violence
  • Sexual Exploitation
  • Illiteracy
  • Legal Rights
  • Deforestation
  • Trauma

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