On April 7, 1994, the genocide against the Tutsi people, an ethnic minority in Rwanda, began. The slaughter was swift and brutal: at the hands of the country’s Hutu majority, more than 800,000 Tutsi were killed over just 100 days. Further, more than 250,000 women and children became victims of sexual violence. The violence that took place during Rwanda’s civil war was well documented and stories from the genocide are now well known throughout the world. Each year April 7 is marked as the International Day of Reflection on the Genocide in Rwanda. It is meant to honor the lives lost and the brave people who risked their own lives to save the lives of their friends and neighbors. (You can read more about the history of the Hutu-Tutsi conflict in Rwanda, which culminated in civil war and genocide, here.)
In the 20+ years since the genocide, something interesting has happened in Rwanda - the nation’s women have taken the lead in helping their country heal from the past. As the post-civil war government sought to rebuild their country, they focused on gender equality and women’s empowerment as a way to bring peace and reconciliation to the country. Rwanda remains one of the poorest nations in the world, but by focusing on educating and empowering girls and women, they’ve successfully increased their rates of school attendance and literacy among young women and women now hold more than 60% of the seats in the nation’s legislature - that’s the highest rate of female lawmakers in the world! Many of the perpetrators of the genocide remain free and the nation’s wounds are still healing, but women are proudly leading the way to a more peaceful and equitable Rwanda.
By supporting fair trade producers in Rwanda, you can actively assist in these peace building efforts. Global Handmade Hope is proud to work with producer groups that work with women to help them rebuild their lives, economically support their families, and build community among their neighbors. You can see all of our products made in Rwanda here. Two of our favorite items are pictured below.