PHOTOS: First Lady urges diaspora to uphold Rwandan values

The First Lady Jeannette Kagame has called on Rwandan women and youth in the diaspora to uphold Rwandan values--a stance she believes will help them shape their own lives and the future of their motherland.
First Lady addresses the Rwandan Women and Youth Empowerment Conference in London yesterday. / Courtesy
First Lady addresses the Rwandan Women and Youth Empowerment Conference in London yesterday. / Courtesy

The First Lady Jeannette Kagame has called on Rwandan women and youth in the diaspora to uphold Rwandan values—a stance she believes will help them shape their own lives and the future of their motherland.

Mrs Kagame was addressing hundreds of Rwandans living in Europe, who turned up for the first Rwandan Women and Youth Empowerment Conference held in the United Kingdom (UK), yesterday. Several government officials, Rwandan diplomats and leaders of the host country, among others, attended the conference.


"Conferences such as this one, afford us the chance to share, and communicate our dreams and hopes for our beloved Rwanda. May today’s discussions help us take conscious steps to establish the strong Rwanda, we know we deserve to live in," Mrs Kagame told participants.

First Lady Mrs Jeannette Kagame delivering remarks at the 20th anniversary of the Loomba Foundation on the International Widows Day. / Courtesy

She challenged participants that despite the fact that they live in a different country, they still have much to do in finding best possible solutions for the continued transformation of Rwanda.


"I urge you to realise that although you live in another part of the world, you still have so much to gain by holding on to our culture. Learn to take pride and value your Rwandan-ness," Mrs Kagame said.

She added, "Reflect on how you will shape yourselves, and your country, into the Rwanda we want. Take pride in who you are, and carry this strong sense of self in all the things that you pursue in life."

The conference, which was the first of its kind held in the U.K. also hosted a panel discussion, upon which several panelists shared their views on how Rwandans in the Diaspora can best contribute to the development of Rwanda.

Soraya Hakuziyaremye, a panelist during the conference, told participants that to successfully navigate the cross-cultural world as Rwandan women, they must “set goals, be consistent and lean on your roots.”

Another panelist, Dr Justine Uvuza said that, "be the best you can be, in order to build the best community and best Rwanda that we can."


Widows need protection

First Lady Jeannette Kagame also attended the International Widows Day recognition and 20th anniversary of the Loomba Foundation, prior to the Rwandan Women and Youth Empowerment Conference.

The Loomba Foundation was founded ten years ago, by Lord Raj Loomba CBE and his life Veena, Lady Loomba and has sister charities registered in India and the USA. This Foundation, whose current president is Mrs Cherie Blair, QC, was inspired by Lord Raj's late mother, Shrimati Pushpa Wati Loomba, who became a widow at the early age of 37 and succeeded in educating her seven young children single-handed.

This gala dinner included a silent auction of various items - including tourism packages across the world - to help fundraise for the cause of widows worldwide, as the Loomba Foundation has economic empowerment projects in different countries around the world, including Rwanda.

This dinner also included the signing of the partnership between the Loomba Foundation and the Rotary India Literacy Mission, for the programme called Swabhimaan' - which means 'Dignity' - which will empower 30,000 widows - aged between 20 to 45 years old, living across 30 Indian States - and educate 2,000 children of vulnerable widows in India...

In her remarks, Mrs Kagame said that it is every global citizen’s responsibility to make sure that widows are protected and empowered, in so doing the vulnerable women will fully unlock their potential.

“Today more than ever, it is essential that our commitment to widows does not falter, and that, instead, it helps them remove the barriers that still prevent women from playing a leading role in economic development,” First Lady said.

She added, “We are all uncomfortably aware that injustice has too often become a familiar experience for grieving widows across the world.

It is often assumed that the uncertainty of their future is caused by the passing away of the family’s main breadwinner. But the reality is that these women, have to redefine themselves in a world in which the man they were building a future with, is no longer. Let us be relentless in our determination to empower these women and support their right to, and dream for a better quality of life, for themselves and their children,” she told participants.

Figures from the United Nations indicates that out of 258 million widows worldwide, more than 115 million live in extreme poverty; some face ostracism, violence, deprivation of their homes, disease or legal and social discrimination. 81 million have been sexually abused, while 1.5 million of their children die before their fifth birthday.

In 2011, an expert report commissioned by the Foundation of the First Lady of Gabon, Sylvia Bongo Ondimba Foundation for the Family, on the specific situation of widows in Gabon, confirmed that 47 percent of them were victims of abuse and spoliation, while only 21 percent could exercise their rights.

Mrs Kagame and Mrs Bongo released a joint commitment, last year to mark the International Widows Day, urging the International community to protect and empower widows that are more often unjustly dispossessed and driven from their home by their in-laws.

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