Today, April 7th, 2017, marks the 23rd commemoration of the Rwandan genocide in which more than 800,000 people were killed over the course of 100 days. In honor of this day, we want to take a moment to reflect and pay tribute to those who continue to endure the effects of those tragic events.
On this day of remembrance, we also want to recognize the incredible progress that Rwanda has made over the past two decades.
Before the genocide, women in Rwanda did not have equal rights as men—they could not inherit land, open a bank account, or work outside the home without their husband’s permission.
However, when the genocide ended, Rwanda was 70% female—women were left to rebuild their country. They cared for children on their own and took in orphans; they paved roads and repaired buildings; they sowed fields and collected the harvest. They tried as best they could to piece their lives back together.
Today, Indego Africa is honored to share the powerful story of one of our dedicated artisan partners who is not only building a new life for herself, but also creating a brighter future for her country.
I was a child during the genocide, but I remember being separated from my parents, and my mom asking my sister to take care of me before they left. I never saw them again.
In the years since, I have learned about the genocide and always wondered why friends, neighbors, and other family members did not help my parents.
Before the genocide, I remember being a happy child and drinking a lot of milk. My family had a lot of cows and that meant that we were not poor. Our parents took care of us and provided us with what we needed.
After the genocide, this was no longer the case. I survived with my siblings and we had nothing. Our cows were slaughtered and our parents were no longer with us. We had to learn how to manage on our own and live a new kind of life, because the comfortable one we were used to had stopped so abruptly.
I grew up hating everyone, thinking that they were bad. I hated my life and everything that came with it. I hated school even though I knew it was supposed to help me gain the skills and knowledge I needed to improve my life.
I failed out of my high school and life became even worse, but one day I managed to find some training in sewing and my life slowly began to improve. When I heard about Cocoki, I joined the cooperative and started working closely with other women.
When Cocoki partnered with Indego Africa, we started improving our skills and working on brand new designs, which brought excitement and joy into my life.
The more time I spent at Cocoki, the easier it became to make friends and open up to some of my colleagues. I started making decisions that helped improve my life.
Now I have my own bank account, driving license, and a piece of shared land with my siblings. Our goal is to build a house, just like the home we used to have with our parents. I now provide for myself and help raise my little nephew, but I know even more is coming; I just have to work hard and continue to make my parents proud.
I have found a new home at Cocoki, and I know I have a great future ahead of me.