The First Lady Jeannette Kagame has encouraged young women who survived the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi to have the courage to heal from the tragic scars of the slaughter and strive for a better life and a bright future for their country.
Sharing a personal story with the attendees, the First Lady told the young women that their mother’s milk that brought them to life can be compared to a fountain, from which they are meant to draw the strength to carry on their family legacy.
She made the call yesterday while speaking at a “Kwibuka Conversation,” a Mentorship Meet organised by Imbuto Foundation in Kigali, as part of their Mentorship Programme for young women survivors.
This gathering also served as a motivational session for the girls as they interacted with their mentors and the First Lady, who is also the Chairperson of Imbuto Foundation.
“Always strive to live a good life and build a dignified country,” Mrs. Kagame told some 300 young women Genocide survivors.
While acknowledging how difficult their life has been without many of their parents and relatives who died during the Genocide, the First Lady told them that they have the responsibility to make their lost ones proud by working hard to live a dignified life and helping others.
“We have trust in you to build our country and protect it from the same tragedy that it faced in the past,” she said, also describing the girls as “the pride of those we lost”.
By pairing the young women survivors with mentors, often successful women and other people who agreed to regularly talk to the girls and advise them through the various challenges of life, Imbuto Foundation’s Mentorship Programme which was initiated in 2013 has helped many of the young survivors learn to cope with the wounds of the Genocide, and become resilient.
The young women testified how their mentors had to encourage them when courage to study was fading, how they sought help about organising their weddings and how they got someone to call mum or aunt at different occasions.
“My mentor was a great parent for me. She supported me very much whenever things were difficult. She filled the gap where my family was not around to support me,” said Cecile Musaniwabo, a mentee who is now a varsity student at the University of Rwanda’s College of Education.
Through an interactive session, mentees and mentors shared the benefits of this programme, which helped create new families, that care for all its members and grow together. While sharing personal testimonies, mentees also explained that they now feel empowered to seek new professional opportunities, and are not afraid to pursue degrees in fields dominated by men.
Referring to the Holocaust, mentee Rachel Ingabire Umutoni, requested the support of Imbuto Foundation to help them share their stories through various written platforms so their memory will live on, long after them.
Yesterday’s commemorative and mentorship occasion in Kigali also featured guest speaker Sister Immaculée Uwamariya, a nun from the Rwamagana School of Nursing and Midwifery, who encouraged the young survivors to remember the Genocide, while striving for a brighter future for themselves.
“Despite the challenges, your outlook on life is what will determine how you live it. Life had to continue after the Genocide. Even if it’s hard, we will handle it and we will thrive,” she told the young survivors.
A genocide survivor herself, Sister Uwamariya told the young survivors that they must strive to love and help others as they also strive to live a better and fulfilling life.
“We are the ones to make a choice. We cannot choose to cry forever,” she said, explaining that life goes on despite the Genocide. “You should decide to live a good life because it’s possible; life is a dream and when you decide to live you live. We have a responsibility to make our life productive”.
Following her address, the young mentees reached out to Sister Immaculée, asking for more counselling advice they could share with their peers, who could not hear her on this day.
The event was organised in line with the Youth Empowerment and Mentorship Programme of Imbuto Foundation, initiated in 2007, and through which annual events and activities are organised every year to empower the Rwandan youth.
The gathering, which was part of the various events held under the 15th Anniversary of Imbuto Foundation, also provided a setting for mentors and their mentees to strengthen their relationship and also advise on how to further empower young mentees through the mentorship programme.