American diplomat publishes book about Rwandan women


Gender and Family Promotion minister Esperance Nyirasafari (L) and Rosemary Mbabazi, the permanent secretary at the Ministry of Trade, Industry and EAC Affairs, skim through American diplomat Swanee Hunt's book, "Rwandan Women Rising", at the launch in Kigali on Friday. In the book, Amb. Hunt (inset) tells of Rwanda's transformation through heartbreaks and the victories of women preaching equality, justice, and opportunity through the darkest moments. / Steven Muvunyi

American author Swanee Hunt launched a book entitled, “Rwandan Women Rising”, documenting the story of transformation of Rwandan women.

Hunt, a former US Ambassador to Austria (1993-97), is currently a lecturer at John Kennedy School of Governance at Harvard University.

The launch, in Kigali on Friday, was attended by various women featured in the book, as well as other women leaders.

“Rwandan Women Rising” tells the story of Rwanda’s transformation through the stories of the heartbreaks and the victories of women preaching equality, justice, and opportunity organised in a movement that grew from one of the darkest moments in modern history.

Rwandan Women Rising.

The 392-page book, which has a foreword by former US President Jimmy Carter, comprises stories of 70 women who overcame brutality, loss, and challenges to rebuild Rwandan society.

They organised themselves to address issues such as rape, equality in marriage, entrepreneurship, reproductive rights, education for girls, and mental health, the author says.

Copies of the book were distributed for free at the launch.

Amb. Hunt signs copies of her book for Senator Gakuba during the launch last week. / Steven Muvunyi

Hunt said she was inspired by the accomplishments of Rwandan women after the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.

“There is something about Rwanda that needs to be known worldwide because it’s a model for many countries. This is the story of what Rwandan women have accomplished, how they did it and the difference it has made in Rwanda and the lesson for the world,” she said.

Hunt said the accomplishments of the women provide important lessons for policy makers and activists who are working toward equality elsewhere in Africa and other post-conflict societies.

Senate vice-president Jeanne d’Arc Gakuba who features in the book, expressed gratitude to Hunt for being a true friend of Rwandan women and for her interesting book she worked on for 17 years, which required “a loving heart and resources.”

Gakuba urged women to write because there is a lot to tell.

“I encourage my fellow women to write about the tremendous progress women have made politically, socially and economically,” she said.

Some women who featured in the book giving a gift to Amb. Hunt. / Steven Muvunyi
A lady checks in the book.
Minister Nyirasafari delivers her remarks at the event. / Steven Muvunyi

Gender and Family Promotion minister Esperance Nyirasafari thanked Hunt for her interest and efforts in documenting Rwanda’s success stories in women empowerment and leadership.

“Gender equality and women empowerment is a cornerstone of the government of Rwanda’s development agenda. Women have been empowered from being desperate victims to leading actors in the reconstruction of the country,” she said.

Immaculee Ingabire, journalist and activist, said the book will show the world what happened to women in Rwanda.

“I appreciate the fact that it is not about women politicians, women in civil society or women in media but the story of all women in Rwanda,” Ingabire said.

Dr Christopher Kayumba, a lecturer at University of Rwanda, said the book is a good record, a good example and motivation to young women who will read it.

“It documents stories of women, how they access positions of power and explain reasons why we have more women in positions of power. It talks about leadership, political will, the support women have and their strength,” he said.