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Peace Ruzage returned to Rwanda and an informal gathering of women in her house birthed Aspire Rwanda, a not for profit organization which inspires and trains less privileged women in post-genocide Rwanda.
Peace Ruzage was born in Rwanda in 1954. With her family, she fled to Kenya, where she was a refugee for more than 44 years. In 1994, she returned to Rwanda to assist her country in the aftermath of the genocide. She settled in Gisozi, a suburb of Kigali, where she opened up her verandah as a meeting place for women to share ideas. Many of the women were widows, single mothers, illiterate, HIV-positive or otherwise from a more vulnerable group.
Very quickly more than 300 women were socializing at Ms. Ruzage’s home every day. Her mother taught the women reading and writing and Peace Ruzage showed them how to make beads and necklaces from waste paper for sale. In 2009, when Peace Ruzage met Sophie McCann from the UK-based charity Network for Africa, the two partnered to more formally develop an organization that would support women. Their organization, Aspire Rwanda, was founded on the notion that women in a post-genocide environment needed inspiration to aspire to achieve something.
Since its creation Aspire Rwanda has trained approximately 150 poor women from the Kigali area annually with various skills from cooking foreign cuisines (like Chinese), to agriculture, handicraft creation, hairdressing, health and hygiene, English literacy, numeracy, and business skills. To make it convenient for the women to obtain their three to twelve months of training, Aspire Rwanda offers free child care services. In 2010 Aspire Rwanda created a cooperative called Tujembere which supports over 130 women with a range of skills. It is currently working to create a beekeeping project for the husbands of the women involved in the cooperative.
Aspire Rwanda also works with the Rwanda Men’s Resource Centre to train couples to embrace gender equality through “positive masculinity.” Positive masculinity involves encouraging men to be present and involved in raising their children, avoiding drinking to excess, and not expressing their anger with their fists. Ms. Ruzage found that after including male partners in training sessions that 67 percent of the women involved were able to discuss birth control with their husbands for the first time and 53 percent of the women experienced less domestic violence.
Adventurous travelers can support Aspire Rwanda through the Stuff Your Rucksack charitable organization. Stuff Your Rucksack provides information online on how to make a practical difference in the lives of others by carrying a few extra items in your bag when you travel to certain locations with which they are associated. The Clean Water Ambassadors Foundation has supported Aspire Rwanda with 24 water filters, which they report have helped over 150 women and children have access to purer water.
In 2013, Peace Ruzage was nominated for The Guardian’s International Development Achievement Award and in 2014 her good deeds were featured in the New Times, Rwanda’s Leading English language daily paper. In 2015, an organization that educates Canadians about African issues called INSPIRE!africa announced that it will be providing financial support to Aspire Rwanda.
Based on the literature on international development and personal success, why has Peace Ruzage and Aspire Rwanda been so successful?
Some key characteristics come to mind:
Ms. Ruzage is committed to human dignity, equality and a peaceful future and thereby has helped women to gain an understanding of their rights. She has empowered and SUPPORTED WOMEN REGARDLESS OF THEIR BACKGROUND through education, training, cooperation and reconciliation.
Ms. Ruzage’s good deeds have INSPIRED OTHERS to give of their time and funds to support Aspire Rwanda or begin their own projects. In 2011, after meeting Peace Ruzage, Maria Russo and her husband founded The Culture-ist, a media platform designed to inspire others to see all the good in the world. In 2015, they launched Humanity Unified to help empower women in Rwanda. They couple had met many leaders of non-governmental organizations, but Ms. Ruzage’s Aspire Rwanda, stood out; it spoke directly to their hearts and encouraged them to act.