Women in the fight against genocide ideology

We are in the second week of 100 days of mourning. During this time we reflect on the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi through different commemoration activities and also in our communities during community discussions (Ibiganiro).

Such are important to ensure that genocide does not happen again, as President Paul Kagame reminded us during his commemoration address to the nation on April 7.

I, personally, have been reflecting on the challenge we have as a country in fighting genocide denial in general and the role of the family in this fight.

In the reconstruction process of our country after the ruins of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, our society relied heavily on mothers. Women were called upon to deliver.

They abandoned duties that were traditionally identified with women and girls, and stepped up to take on duties in the public arena unavoidably.

It is documented that war and conflict affect women differently than it does men.

During the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, there was a double down of these effects: women and girls were systematically targeted in the most brutal and inhumane manner imaginable. 

The violence meted towards women and girls was more savage in methods than is known to be the case in war and conflict: disembowelment and intrusion of private parts with sharp objects, for instance.

Despite these and more effects, women stepped up after the Genocide.

For instance, a significant size of households were headed by young women in their teens; others were single mothers. In other words, women not only took up the entire household responsibilities to protect the Rwandan family, but also held leadership roles in the public and private sector.

Women empowerment

It was only possible for women to hold society together due to the empowerment from the leadership of the country.

Rwanda’s leadership, championed by President Paul Kagame, was able to create a conducive environment for women to affirm their abilities beyond the traditional roles and to empower them to drive the social and economic transformation that was at stake.

Similarly, it is now taken for granted that Rwanda has for almost a decade been among countries with the highest number of women in parliament and in other important organs of the state such as the judiciary where almost half of the top leadership consists of women.

Few people know that the women of Rwanda mobilised to add gender based violence as a weapon of war due to the testimonies they were able to give at the International Criminal Court for Rwanda (ICTR) in Arusha.

In other words, women’s impact beyond the household has been felt in reconstructing Rwandan society as well as in shaping how the world thinks about women.

Significantly, women have been rebuilding the country while doing the thing that only they are capable of: multitasking.

Women could not rebuild the country while neglecting the home. In short, they did everything: the “hard” skills of the workplace and the “soft” skills of parenting.

The mother’s touch:

Ironically, our society has reached a point where the “soft” skills are urgently needed in order to provide the parental care and guidance to a generation of young men and women.

One of the areas where these skills are needed is in the existential threat of genocide minimisation and genocide denial.

Like the saying goes, “Charity begins at home”. The basis of the genocide ideology is learned from the home, and therefore this creates the paramount need for responsible leadership through parenting that protects young people from the toxic ideology.

No one is more attuned to this task than the mother who once again must rise to the occasion to secure our homeland from the recurrence of catastrophe.

The author is a mother and a business analyst.

The views expressed in this article are of the author.

 

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